Leaders chart Eastpointe’s course at 2019 State of the City luncheon

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 11, 2019

 Eastpointe Community Schools Superintendent Ryan McLeod shared accomplishments from 2018 and challenges that he believes the district will have to confront in 2019 at the Eastpointe State of the City luncheon.

Eastpointe Community Schools Superintendent Ryan McLeod shared accomplishments from 2018 and challenges that he believes the district will have to confront in 2019 at the Eastpointe State of the City luncheon.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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EASTPOINTE — The city of Eastpointe hosted its 2019 State of the City luncheon Feb. 7 at Eastpointe Manor. There, city leaders discussed the accomplishments of 2018 and looked forward to the challenges of the new year.

Three community leaders spoke to share their thoughts on the state of the community: Eastpointe Community Schools Superintendent Ryan McLeod, 38th District Court Judge Carl Gerds III and Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley.

McLeod highlighted several of the steps the school district has taken to climb out of the dire straits it was in only a few years ago. This included a strategic plan for improvement and a partnership with the Michigan Department of Education to meet academic goals; implementing an International Baccalaureate program at Eastpointe Middle School; more student engagement by the staff; and creating programs such as food drives to ensure students have what they need both in and out of the classroom.

A recurring theme in the superintendent’s speech was that “if you only judge us by where we’ve been, you’ll miss a lot.” He stressed to the community that the district is steadily improving and will continue to improve as time moves on.

“Some of the things in recent history that have shaped people’s opinions in a negative way included the $8.5 million deficit, which we emerged out of in 2015,” said McLeod. “We also dealt with the threat of a state takeover of the district and created an arrangement the state and the district could agree on in 2017. Community confidence in the district had deteriorated in previous years, and we have taken many steps to rebuild the school district by bringing back programs we had to cut, investing in a lot of small things to improve the student experience and focusing on delivering better student achievement.”

McLeod said his goals for the near future consist of ways to build upon the district’s progress.

“We’ve got to stabilize our staff. People stay in a district for teachers and staff that they love,” he said. “We want to continue to grow programs, and our high school’s new principal is working hard to bring as many opportunities as possible to students.”

Gerds gave a positive report of the 38th District Court and touted the relationship with Eastpointe’s new director of public safety, George Rouhib.

“The 38th District Court has had a great year in 2018,” reported Gerds. “We’re one of the busiest courts in the state, but we are keeping up.”

Gerds said the court processed 16,435 new filings in 2018, compared to 15,793 in 2017. He said the numbers of most types of cases remained approximately the same as the prior year; additional civil suits formed the majority of the increase in new filings.

In the new year, Gerds said, the court hopes to continue improvements in processing cases efficiently and properly. He said 2019 should see big improvements for lawyer availability for those who are in dire financial situations.

“Michigan has long had a poor record in providing attorneys for indigent defendants,” said Gerds. “New steps are being implemented to address that so they have attorneys sooner, so they can talk with their defendants sooner, be with them at arraignments and walk them through the justice system.”

Pixley said Eastpointe is continuing its long road out of financial ruin that hit the community following the 2008 housing crash. She said the economic state of the city is continuing to grow and new strides are being made.

Notably, she singled out the selections of new City Manager Joseph Sobota and Rouhib as significant improvements to the city’s management and services.

She also lauded the creation of both the Parks Commission and the Arts and Cultural Diversity Commission in 2018. She said steps like this are what improve the quality of life for residents.

Looking forward, Pixley said that among the most pressing issues in 2019 for Eastpointe are the issues of water and sewers.

“Water and sewer issues are going to be some of our biggest issues in 2019,” Pixley said. “The Great Lakes Water Authority is increasing rates, and there are new regulations about combining a city’s water and sewer services. We will be working closely with (Macomb County Public Works Commissioner) Candice Miller and the drainage district to address this.”

She also discussed some of the other pressing matters in the Eastpointe community.

“We also want to continue our efforts to improve business development in the city and find new ways to address the financial liability for our pension and other post-employment benefits costs,” Pixley added. “We went several years without any fire fatalities in the city but had eight in 2018. Our public safety services are working hard to improve our fire safety measures and offer free smoke detectors to residents.”

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