Madison Heights, Hazel Park aim for steady progress in 2021

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 8, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — With the new year in full swing, communities across the country are hoping to see a return to normalcy as the vaccine rollout continues and society slowly becomes safe enough to fully reopen.

Leaders at the local level are bracing for more challenges, but at the same time they see abundant opportunity for meaningful progress.

In a series of emails, officials from Hazel Park and Madison Heights shared their goals, hopes and concerns for 2021.   

Mark Bliss
Madison Heights City Council

“In some ways, 2021 will be no different than 2020,” Bliss predicted. “At least to start. We still must keep taxes and fees as low as possible, as our residents work to recover from this economic downturn. We also must continue to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and citizens.

“However, I also believe that as much as 2020 allowed us to try new things, 2021 will be the year we formalize those into the fabric of our city,” he said. “The Arts Board and I are excitedly looking forward to making the Trail Tunes music festival bigger and better this year. I expect the same from the other outstanding programs our Library (board), Environmental Board, and Arts Board came up with last year that all brought some positivity to our community.

“Additionally, I’m looking forward to finalizing our first economic development master plan in two decades,” he said. “Not only is the plan much more flexible than before, but it will also modernize our planning efforts and allow us to build the city that our citizens deserve. It won’t be perfect, but I believe that like 2020, we’ll find creative ways to move our city forward this year.”

Alissa Sullivan
Hazel Park City Council

“I hope that with the appointment of a new council member to fill the vacancy left by Amy Aubry’s move, we will have a solidified team effort to face any challenges that come our way,” Sullivan said. “I see revenue losses due to the pandemic as an area that will need increased attention and support. I do have faith that with the cooperation and experience of our City Council, city manager and economic development team, we will be able to explore and secure all resources available to us to protect our staff and meet our needs to continue uninterrupted services.

“I see an ability to further increase online access to city groups for residents. As a council we have discussed the uptick in attendance at board and commission meetings as one small benefit due to the increased accessibility via Zoom and online meetings during the pandemic. We plan to continue this even as we return to in-person meetings. We are developing new policies for our boards and commissions, including new training — secured via a motion I made last year — for all of our current and future commissioners coming up this month.

“Personally, during this past year I had the honored opportunity to support legislation at both the House and Senate level. I currently have an initiative started with new State Rep. Regina Weiss that will hopefully bring some child/dog safety education legislation to pass, as well.

“Additional goals for this year include the planning of the 2021 Hazel Park Arts Fair — if all goes well — and the further development of community art projects, including more murals,” she said.

Sullivan expressed a desire for more holiday programming as public health allows, such as a Halloween decorating contest, a trick-or-treating map, the possible return of the Zombie Walk, a holiday lights contest and lights map, a tour of Santa appearances around town, and more.

“I was able to create and participate in some alternative activities this past year, and I think this pandemic really opened all our eyes to our ability to work together and discover alternate ways to achieve our goals,” Sullivan said. “I hope we all continue to seek out creative solutions, both for ourselves and our community. Overall, I see the city’s goals as similar to mine: seeking continued growth, development and success.”

Robert Corbett
Madison Heights City Council

“Looking forward, I think there are several initiatives the community should pursue,” Corbett said. “First and foremost, I think we need to expand and enhance recreational programs and events that are free or low cost in nature. The music and art programs in the parks were well received.

“On a side note, I would observe that the revision and updating of the recreation master plan is something the council is overseeing. I am very excited by the input from our members and residents, and ideas that are being talked about,” he said.

“Beyond that, we need to pursue cost-effective and strategically smart upgrades to our infrastructure. High on our list of priorities must be road maintenance, recreation equipment upgrades and facility modernization.”

He said this could possibly include selling off the property where the Active Adult Center is currently located, and reinvesting the proceeds to enhance the library and City Hall facilities over at Civic Center Plaza. The council has discussed the idea of relocating the Active Adult Center there.

“Finally I think major emphasis needs to be placed on the library, its budget and overall offerings to the community,” Corbett said. “I think it’s terrific that a revitalized Friends of the Library is supporting the library and its programs.

“In the last few years, there have been demands on the library to enhance its programming and media collection including books, electronic devices and audio books,” Corbett said. “Since we don’t expect the pandemic-induced trend towards in home entertaining and learning to change soon, we must find a way to massively increase support and funding for the library.”

Andy LeCureaux
Hazel Park City Council

“Many folks, including myself, hope to see the construction on I-75 in Hazel Park completed in 2021,” LeCureaux said.

In addition, he said Hazel Park will see work begin on the construction of a new high-rise building on John R Road, as well as other residential housing projects around town.

“We also wait anxiously to see how operating revenues will be affected by the shutdown,” he said. “I just want to see life get back to as normal as possible. I miss the live music events, art fairs and restaurant dinning.

“One of the challenges for the city during this pandemic is that when one employee tests positive for the virus, they aren’t the only that is affected. The employees they have had close contact with may have to also miss work while quarantined for two weeks. Some employees will choose to stay home from work for fear of catching the virus. This can have a serious effect on our ability to provide the normal services.

“Every department in the city has been affected by fewer people to staff the schedule,” he said. “I commend our employees in Hazel Park for their perseverance to provide outstanding services to residents and businesses during this unusually difficult time.”

Roslyn Grafstein
Madison Heights City Council

“My top priorities are threefold,” the mayor said. “First, to stabilize and grow our local economy to lessen the tax burden for our existing residents and businesses. Secondly, we need to take steps to improve social equity. The systematic inequalities we see didn’t happen overnight, and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but what we can do today is take steps for a positive change. And thirdly, we need to continue keeping our residents safe and healthy.

“For the city to function and provide needed and ancillary services, we need consistent funding,” she said. “Before we can move forward with any new projects, we need to ensure we are economically stable. We must remain financially solvent to retain our bond rating, pay our employees and maintain our infrastructure. Most importantly, we need to work together.

“Since the spring, we have seen individuals step up to help with the city-sponsored tree planting and Trail Tunes, along with an active involvement with the Food Pantry, Goodfellows and other independent charitable organizations,” Grafstein said. “This year will see more opportunities for businesses and residents to again volunteer with groups, as well as the many city boards and commissions. I encourage everyone to apply to help with these city boards either as a member, or as a regular volunteer for a specific project or event.

“Last year, with the help of Environmental Citizens Committee members, Men’s Club, ReLeaf, corporate sponsors and other volunteers, we planted over 100 trees, and I’m hoping to plant even more in 2021,” Grafstein said.

“We are still looking for sponsors for the traditional Memorial Day Parade, (Pre-Fourth of July) Festival in the Park, and (Holiday) Tree Lighting, along with the newly successful Trail Tunes and Pumpkin Walk,” she continued. “As well, the newly formed (Human Relations Equity Commission) has plans to host new events to highlight the diversity of our city, spotlighting the various races, faiths and cultures of our residents. Sponsorship is also needed for the Bloom Project pollinator gardens to be planted throughout the city.

“Nationally, we are a fractured country, and the protests we have seen across the nation shows the frustrations many feel,” the mayor said. “Rather than focusing on our differences, I find that up close, most people share more in common than the media often portrays. Instead of creating anxiety and dwelling on fear of the unknown, I am looking towards the future as we plan more murals, gardens and community activities for all our residents to enjoy.”