Coulter touts Ferndale’s strategic plan in State of the City speech

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 29, 2019

 Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter delivers his State of the City address Tuesday, April 16, at the Rust Belt Market, where, among many topics, he announced that he will not seek reelection later this year.

Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter delivers his State of the City address Tuesday, April 16, at the Rust Belt Market, where, among many topics, he announced that he will not seek reelection later this year.

Photo by Mike Koury

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FERNDALE — In front of a crowd at the Rust Belt Market, Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter delivered his eighth and final State of the City address Tuesday, April 16.

Coulter announced at the end of his speech that he will not seek reelection for mayor at the end of the year.

Change was a theme in the mayor’s address, as he began his speech talking about recent changes in the city, such as new businesses downtown and a new business corridor with the Iron Ridge district, some of the parks getting new play equipment and the construction of the mixed-use parking garage known as the Development on Troy, or “The dot.”

“Other changes aren’t seen at all, but they can be felt through what I would call a ripple effect,” he said. “Like, you may not know that we now have a fully staffed Police Department committed to the modern philosophy of community policing, but you probably feel it when you walk downtown, or in your neighborhoods, and you feel safe. And you might not have studied our sustainability plan … but you’ve probably seen that we’ve changed most of our streetlights to LED, which is environmentally safer and will save considerable money down the line.”

Coulter then delved into highlighting Ferndale’s strategic plan and the factors that have helped the city get to the point where it is today. The first factor was “economic prosperity” and how the city was able to come out of the Great Recession with multiyear budgeting, which helped the city make slow budget increases over several years, as well as small cuts from other areas, so it could avoid an unexpected spike in financial requests.

“Despite the challenging years after the recession, the city of Ferndale has seen an incredible $67 million in private investment over the last nine years,” he said.

The second factor that Coulter discussed was “supported infrastructure” and the ongoing maintenance of said infrastructure throughout the city, including clean water, snow and ice removal, street repavement, and drain scoping.

The third factor was a “safe, protected, engaged community.” Coulter said residents are able to enjoy a safe community thanks to the efforts of both its Police and Fire departments.

Coulter first thanked former Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan, who recently retired after nine years as chief. Coulter then applauded the Fire Department for bringing back car seat safety inspections and holding a breast cancer awareness fundraiser that brought in $1,200 for the Shades of Pink Foundation.

On the police side, Coulter touted how Chief Vincent Palazzolo oversaw an assessment of the department’s policies and practices by KRW Associates, introduced Jacob’s Kits to every classroom in the Ferndale School District, helped the department seek accreditation by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, and implemented a new Leadership Advisory Council.

“It’s easy to talk about the successes and heartwarming stories, but the true character of a team is revealed when they’re faced with opportunities to learn about themselves and to make changes to their policies or their culture,” he said. “This is the kind of attitude I’ve come to expect from our Police Department, and I really couldn’t be more proud.”

The fourth and fifth factors were “accessible transportation options” and “strong regional partnerships,” respectively. Coulter said that the city has to think beyond its borders to the larger communities that Ferndale is in.

“I’ve always said that our issues don’t end at our city limits,” he said. “We’ve worked closely with the cities of Oak Park and Detroit, the Eight Mile Boulevard Association, and the Woodward (Avenue) Action Association — to name a few — on multimodal street developments that go beyond Ferndale’s city limits, connecting our business communities and creating partner destinations for residents and visitors alike.”

One program mentioned in the speech that looks to connect all of these cities and others, including Berkley and Royal Oak, is the MoGo bike sharing program, which allows patrons to rent bicycles using an app and then return the bicycles to any kiosk. Coulter also referenced The dot and how proud he is of how the city took its time in developing the project.

“Healthy, connected and invested neighborhoods” were the next factor. Coulter highlighted the variety of housing options in the city for people of all ages and incomes. Part of that, he said, is helped by the city’s new housing policy that encourages affordable housing.

The last factor that Coulter outlined was “organizational excellence,” which he said involves the city government recognizing that leading a modern community requires a commitment to internal quality and financial prudence. He also thanked former City Manager April Lynch for her years of service in Ferndale.

“Sometimes, after a length of time of working for an organization and serving a community of people, it dawns on you that you really have achieved organizational excellence beyond what you originally thought,” he said. “I feel like that’s where we are now. Our team is capable. The culture at City Hall is strong. I’m confident in our group’s ability to move forward and face a new set of challenges and opportunities under new leadership.”

Reflecting on the address after it ended, resident Tyler Beltz said he thought the speech went well.

“I think Ferndale has a lot of exciting things going on, and I think their main focus is to keep it, obviously, local,” he said. “(The city is) really active and engaged online, like all the different forums. They really, genuinely care about the opinions of residents and business owners. They’re really integrated with the community.”

Beltz said he is excited about the installation of a splash pad at Martin Road Park. He also is looking forward to MoGo coming to Ferndale.

“How they’re interacting (with) Oak Park and Detroit, they’re really trying to not just make it a Ferndale thing, but make it (for) everybody,” he said of connecting the communities. “They want to open it and make it welcoming to all types of different people.”

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