Mayor takes stage for nostalgic annual address

Ellison highlights ‘outstanding’ city, says possible goodbye

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 13, 2016

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ROYAL OAK — A bit of nostalgia peppered the annual State of the City Address June 8 as Jim Ellison took the stage for what could be his last State of the City as mayor.

Before Ellison addressed a full crowd inside the Baldwin Theatre in downtown Royal Oak, his son, Bradley Ellison, took the stage for a surprise performance of “Beautiful City” from “Godspell.” He sang and played the keyboard after speaking about his father, offering heartfelt and comical opening remarks.

“I normally don’t like surprises, but this was good,” Ellison said. “My children always make me so very happy.”

The surprise performance prompted Ellison to begin his speech a bit teary-eyed as a result of the tribute and knowing that if he receives the most votes in November and is elected as state representative of the 26th district, his 12-year run as mayor will come to a close.

“I love being the mayor of the city of Royal Oak,” he said. “It’s been a passion for me.”

During his address, Ellison spoke of the growth during the past year in Royal Oak.

“It is with great pleasure that I report the state of our city is outstanding,” he said. “We are financially stable; our fiscal condition is constantly improving and Royal Oak continues to be a wonderful place to live, work and play.”

Ellison referenced a study conducted last fall that showed the majority of residents are satisfied with their quality of life in Royal Oak, rating it as high.

Ellison said the survey showed that residents feel safe, which he said they should, as the Royal Oak Police Department’s 2015 Annual Report shows crime rates have dropped steadily over the last two decades. Although there were increases in some types of crimes in 2015, the city reported new lows in assaults, motor vehicle thefts and robberies.

The mayor said the Fire Department continues to save lives. In 2015, the city’s firefighters made nearly 6,000 runs.

“Beginning on Jan. 1 of this year, the Fire Department began implementing an EMS survey,” Ellison said. “The first quarterly report shows a 95.28 percent out of 100 score. Our Royal Oak Fire Department ranks eighth out of the 114 agencies nationwide that are using this survey tool.”

Other notable successes that  Ellison discussed taking place in 2015 included a successful merger between the 44th District Court and Berkley’s 45-A District Court. The mayor said the merger, along with new measures implemented, resulted in a six-month revenue increase of more than $500,000 for the period of June to December 2015 over the same period of last year.

“Great public safety, wonderful neighborhood parks, an amazing collection of public art, a highly-rated library, and an endless list of activities and events and places to eat and shop are just some of the factors that have made Royal Oak one of the hottest cities in the region during the rebounding housing market,” Ellison said.

The mayor said that according to real estate agent Mike Ripinski, homes under $300,000 are on the market for less than 28 days, and many less than 15 days.

Ellison said that over the past five years, the Building Department has issued between 120 to 150 building permits each year for new houses.

“This past year shows no signs of slowing down, with 143 building permits issued for new residential construction,” he said.

Two large residential developments were announced in the past year, including a 10-acre project at the former Normandy Oaks golf course site and another project in the works at Interstate 696 and Main Street.

“The last year has seen a continued surge in development interest in our city, both with new, ground-up projects and vacant spaces finding new life in our downtown,” he said.

Ellison spoke about new restaurants, the anticipated fall groundbreaking of the Hyatt Place hotel, mixed-use development at the former Citizens Bank and the future Eagle Plaza smart park.

He also spoke of technological successes including Crowdrise, Ambassador and Tome all expanding in Royal Oak.

Ellison looked to the future, speaking of the goal to bring 180,000 square feet of new Class A office space into the downtown by 2020.

“As of today, new office projects that would bring 250,000 square feet of new space into the city are in advanced discussion,” he said. “Together, these projects position Royal Oak to compete with metro Detroit’s long-term office markets.”

Examples include Etkin’s proposal for a four-story luxury office center at 11 Mile Road and Main Street, and talks of the $100 million Royal Oak City Center project.

The mayor also referenced the road bond, increased attention to customer service and communication, and recycling initiatives.

“We have come very far since I first stood before you more than a dozen years ago,” Ellison said. “Thank you for the trust you have placed in me as your mayor.”

Before a standing ovation, Ellison concluded his speech by saying he doesn’t assume that he will win the nod for state representative, but if he does, he wanted to appreciate the moment and thank his wife, Jodie Ellison, for always being by his side.

“If God allows and I get elected in January, I’ll be serving you in Lansing,” he said.

Jodi Ellison watched her husband’s speech from the front row of the Baldwin Theatre, where the couple is heavily involved in Stagecrafters community theater.

“I’ve just been so proud of him and everything that has happened in the city. I know he doesn’t take responsibility for it all, and none of us do, but as a team the fight that they have waged for the last dozen years to make this city move forward through issues after issues after issues and the diligence and the fortitude, I’m just so proud of him and the commission and the whole city for the direction that it’s taken,” Jodi said. “And I love him, and I’m very proud of him.”

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