Elected officials reflect on a year of challenges

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 26, 2022

MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — With 2021 now in the rearview mirror, local leaders are reflecting on what was achieved. The year was marked by ongoing struggles posed by COVID-19 — and an economy reeling from it — but council members in Madison Heights and Hazel Park say there is still plenty to celebrate, from successful community events to major projects set in motion. 

All of the council members were contacted via email. Madison Heights City Council members Emily Rohrbach and David Soltis did not reply by press time, nor did Hazel Park Mayor Mike Webb.

“2021 was better for Hazel Park than other communities,” said Hazel Park City Councilmember Mike McFall. “We didn’t lose any businesses to the pandemic shutdowns, and our business community was finally reopening and surviving. We had a lot of new homeowners move into Hazel Park in 2021 as our housing market was booming and continues to go strong. Many young first-time homebuyers chose our community, and we are happy to have them here!”

Mark Bliss, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, said 2021 was a challenging year — both personally with the death of his father, and for the city with the pandemic. But he feels that the council was able to find creative ways to move forward. 

“I’m proud to say that we completed our first economic master plan in decades. We got right to work creating new ordinances that made it easier to start and scale a business in Madison Heights,” Bliss said. “We also ended late fees and gave our library a much-needed facelift, with the KABOOM! grant adding yet another mural to the city. Additionally, we made huge strides in improving our parks by adding new playscapes and our brand new Fitness Court to our parks system. Finally, our pandemic-inspired music festival Trail Tunes came back bigger and better than our inaugural event, doubling attendance and bringing much-needed energy and excitement to our city.” 

Andy LeCureaux, the mayor pro tem of Hazel Park City Council, recalled how 2021 started with a council vacancy to fill.

“January 2021 found us interviewing candidates and then filling the vacancy with Luke Londo. We then ended the year weary from the second year of a pandemic,” LeCureaux said. “In between, we again didn’t hold our Memorial Day celebration with the parade and carnival (due to COVID-19), but we did have the return of the annual Art Fair. The 2021 Art Fair was the biggest ever!” 

Londo reflected on his partial term in 2021. He was elected to a full term in November.

“In my first year on council, I’m proud to have sponsored a human rights ordinance, as well as supported a ban on income discrimination in housing,” Londo said. “Since March, we have been able to host numerous vaccine clinics, as well as job fairs to help get our residents back to work. Unfortunately, we are still dealing with a significant population of people who are hesitant to receive the vaccine, and enduring the ongoing consequences of the pandemic. The past 12 months tell us how far we still have to go.” 

Robert Corbett, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, said the city has been moving forward with plans to renovate the Civic Center Complex and relocate the Active Adult Center there — what he sees as a “significant investment” in the future of our community.

“More broadly, we avoided the temptation to over-spend in the current fiscal year, and I believe we were wise to do so,” Corbett said. “Now looking forward, we can approach our quality of life and larger-scale infrastructure projects from a firmer and more responsible basis.” 

Sean Fleming and Quinn Wright, the latest additions to the Madison Heights City Council, shared their thoughts as well.

“I got on council in October 2021,” Fleming said. “In the short time of 2021, I was able to vote on changing some of our business license city codes, which had been an issue I was advocating for prior to being on council.”

“2021 was a year of hope and healing,” Wright said. “I look back on the many steps taken forward by Madison Heights, including making history with myself (as the council’s first Black man). I’m also impressed with our city staff for being proactive and adaptable to an ever-changing climate. How we pushed forward with city improvement and made plans for future projects will go far into helping our city progress along for many years to come.”

Alissa Sullivan, on the Hazel Park City Council, praised the community spirit she saw in 2021. 

“I think that our community really stuck together to help each other out and support our local businesses, our neighbors and our schools,” Sullivan said. “I’m proud of our retention of business, and look forward to new opportunities for more growth going forward.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said her city was able to use grants and private sponsorships to bolster the budget and upgrade parks, enhance recreation programs and host socially distant events, including the return of the Holiday Tree Lighting. She pointed to new additions like the Fitness Court at Huffman Park and the “Playful Tranquility” project at the library. She also noted ordinance updates incentivizing new development in the downtown area, the city’s success hosting a Juneteenth event, and the Arts Board’s continued success with Trail Tunes and the Pumpkin Walk.

“Finally, among the other challenges faced by the city, we mourned the loss of great contributors like (Fire) Capt. Jeffrey Brozich, Tony Bliss, Jack Scott and Councilman Bob Gettings,” Grafstein said. “They each touched our city in different ways, but their legacies will live on.”