Local woman announces run for Madison Heights City Council

Meet Roslyn Grafstein at Biggby Coffee on John R Road, 8-10 a.m. May 4

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 26, 2017


MADISON HEIGHTS — The mayor and three members of Madison Heights City Council are up for re-election this year. With the July filing deadline still on the horizon, it remains to be seen who will run for office. But one local woman is already throwing her hat in the ring.

Roslyn Grafstein is running on a platform that is equal parts fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of the Earth.

“You could say I’m a hippie with a finance degree,” she said with a laugh.

Her eco-friendly approach includes city-level support for community gardens — from green spaces for urban farming to potential gardening classes that would teach residents how to be self-sufficient growing their own food. Making the parks more accessible to seniors and the physically handicapped is another one of her goals. 

But she also has designs for another kind of growth, finding ways to attract specialty shops — niche health stores, for example — to the city’s downtown, drawing visitors from other communities. And she’d like to see more done to help the city’s military companies like Navistar Defense, as well as the veterans themselves, working with programs at the county, state and federal levels to get them the assistance they need.

She said she has a unique perspective, being originally from Toronto, Canada. 

“I have a different background from the bulk of people on council in that not only am I not from Madison Heights, but I actually wasn’t born in the U.S. — I’m a naturalized citizen. And there are many people in that situation here in Madison Heights,” Grafstein said. “To be clear, though, I want to preserve the character of Madison Heights. I don’t want to turn this into a mini-Toronto.”

When she first became a naturalized citizen eight years ago, Grafstein ran for City Council but didn’t make it at the time. She did learn a lot, however. Since then, she and her family have decided it’s time for her to run again.

As a retired charted financial analyst and former certified financial planner, Grafstein said she would bring fiscal responsibility to council, with an extensive work history in finance that includes budget planning and research.

She feels that big purchases need to be properly vetted, and the city should not spend beyond its means. Her philosophy is to look at expenditures as “investments,” evaluating them by their long-term value to the community.

Urban farming is a cause near to her to heart. In 2010, she worked on a team to petition the city to allow domestic hens, which resulted in an amendment to the animal control ordinance. In the same year, she was asked to join the newly formed Michigan Small Farm Council, serving as its treasurer. In 2012, she helped start a garden at Lessenger Elementary, a concept she’d like to pursue further in parks and vacant lots around the city.

More recently, in 2016, she was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board, in which she hopes to revitalize the city’s parks and boost resident participation. She also worked with the Police Department in recent years to set up a Neighborhood Watch.

Currently, Grafstein is finalizing a date with Home Depot when it will help the 20-plus girls in her scout troop to build Little Free Libraries, which would be donated to local parks and allow people to freely check out books.

In announcing her run for council, she’ll likely be running against incumbents David Soltis, Mark Bliss and Richard Clark this November, should they decide to run again themselves.

Kelly Cox, a Madison Heights resident and mother of four, has known Grafstein for seven years and believes she’d be great for the job. She noted Grafstein’s involvement in Girl Scouts and her volunteer work with the PTO at Lessenger Elementary, the same school where she established the community garden.

She noted that the garden there didn’t fully take off due to poor timing around summer break, but Grafstein was undeterred and brought the lessons into the classrooms, using worm bins to show kids how to make healthy soil bases for planting. She also contacted the police to secure a crossing guard for the parking lot at Lessenger when concerns were raised about student safety.

“Roslyn is always looking to initiate change to bring about a better community for our children to grow up in,” Cox said via email. “I stand behind her ideas to bring healthier choices to Madison Heights, be it food markets offering fresh food options, stores specializing in active living, or just helping to give our kids access to cleaner parks. I think Roslyn would be an asset to City Council.”

Those interested in meeting Roslyn Grafstein can attend her meet-and-greet at the Biggby Coffee in Madison Heights, 31055 John R Road, from 8 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 4.