Mayor’s speech hits on drugs, development and Zika virus

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 8, 2016

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WARREN — From a list of his administration’s accomplishments to the Zika virus, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts covered a lot of ground in the first State of the City speech of his third four-year term.

Speaking to a crowd of about 450 city employees, business leaders and elected officials from Warren and Macomb County on April 7 at Andiamo Warren, the mayor delivered a wide-ranging, hour-long lunchtime address in which he offered a summary of the work being done. He also highlighted several new initiatives, including a proposal to construct a combination police mini station, library and city office complex on Van Dyke, south of Nine Mile Road.

The proposed facility would include a 50-person multipurpose room, computers with Wi-Fi access, and a children’s area as part of a new branch library in south Warren. While similar projects have been floated in the past but failed to come to fruition, Fouts said he believes the time is right for a development he said “could be a catalyst for new development in the Nine Mile/Van Dyke area.”

“All too often people come to me and say, ‘What are you going to do about south Warren? What are you going to do about the forgotten area of Warren?’” Fouts said. “This is long overdue. I feel this could be the focal point of a renaissance of this area.”

The mayor said further details were unavailable, but he said a plan would eventually be sent to the Warren City Council for consideration. The site being looked at for development is a vacant city-owned lot on Van Dyke, just south of Nine Mile.

The mayor also announced a new initiative targeting dangerous prescription drugs. Fouts said that in just the last week ahead of the speech, the Warren Police Department had reported nearly a dozen heroin overdoses and two deaths.

As part of a more aggressive approach to combating heroin, synthetic drugs and prescription narcotics, he said he would urge the city’s health care providers to more closely monitor patient activity to prevent “doctor shopping.” Fouts also called for regional cooperation among leaders in metro Detroit, Warren’s school districts and law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels.

“One of the deaths from heroin in Warren was a 19-year-old female, and the other death was a man who still had the needle in his arm,” Fouts said. “This is a growing epidemic, not just in Warren, but also in the United States. This is a national catastrophe waiting to happen, if it hasn’t already happened.”

In addition to Warren’s war on drugs, Fouts also called for a “guerrilla war” against the Zika virus. As it did with the West Nile and chikungunya viruses previously, he said that would begin with diligent property maintenance inspection to eliminate standing water and potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the virus.

The Zika virus disease, while usually resulting in only mild symptoms for adults, can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus and has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect that affects brain development.

“All of these depend upon standing water. We can expect the Zika virus to make it to Michigan soon, likely this year,” Fouts said. “We will need to launch a guerilla war against this Zika virus.”

Fouts said the battle would include an executive order directing all property maintenance inspectors to have zero tolerance for any type of standing water, “whether it be a stagnant pool or a bottle cap.”

“Everybody must be on board. All hands on deck, because this is the worst of all viruses,” Fouts said. “The only way we’re going to stop this horrible virus from spreading is to insist that you either comply with the directives or face a fine.” 

Fouts went on to pledge that the city’s observance of the National Day of Prayer would continue, despite what could be looming legal action from an outside group.

The mayor also put past battles over everything from medical marijuana cultivation in residential neighborhoods, to flamethrowers, fireworks and used car lots back in the crosshairs, to the delight of those in attendance.

The crowd cheered when Fouts claimed the city would see an estimated $2.5 billion in private investments over the next two years. He cited ongoing projects at the General Motors Technical Center and the Tech Plaza shopping center, Prestige Cadillac on Van Dyke, and yet-to-be-determined  hotel and loft developments in the Civic Center, which he said were still in negotiations.

After the speech, City Councilman Pat Green said he liked what he heard about the proposed city facility on Van Dyke, south of Nine Mile.

“I was actually talking to a few people around me asking what their thoughts are. What popped in my head is, can we do a government/private development so we have some private lease space that will go toward preventative maintenance costs in the future?” Green said.

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, said he also supported the idea as a way of kickstarting development on the southern end of the Van Dyke corridor.

“I think it’s a good idea that’s been out there for a long time,” Bieda said. “When I’m walking in that area, people in that neighborhood would feel more comfortable knowing that there’s a (police) mini station there.

“I think there’s some interesting things that have gone on, but it’s a good way of helping spur some redevelopment in that area as well. It’s a win-win for both the community and the citizens.”

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