Warren Mayor Lori Stone, left, and City Council members Melody Magee, Gary Boike and Henry Newnan listen to residents and take notes at the first “listening tour” event Jan.10 at the Fitzgerald Public Schools Neigebaur Administration Building.

Warren Mayor Lori Stone, left, and City Council members Melody Magee, Gary Boike and Henry Newnan listen to residents and take notes at the first “listening tour” event Jan.10 at the Fitzgerald Public Schools Neigebaur Administration Building.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Mayor undertakes ‘listening tour’ to hear from residents

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published January 19, 2024


WARREN — Warren Mayor Lori Stone started her five-event “listening tour” Jan. 10 in City Council District 2 at the Fitzgerald Public Schools Neigebaur Administration Building where residents shared their comments, concerns and suggestions on that evening’s topic of economic development.

The first panel consisted of Stone, District 1 Warren City Councilwoman Melody Magee, District 4 City Councilman Gary Boike, and District 5 City Councilman Henry Newnan. They were joined by Warren Downtown Development Authority and Tax Increment Finance Authority Director Tom Bommarito, Dylan Clark of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, and Oscar Zamora of the city’s DDA board.

The panelists were given a legal pad, and many could be seen taking copious notes.

“I took five legal pages of notes,” Newnan said. “Our task was to stay quiet and just listen. I think some of the citizens stated they were not ready for that. They didn’t know what was being asked of them. They thought they were going to ask us questions. Instead, I listened.”

The mayor further explained.

“The purpose of it (the listening tour) is for residents’ voices to be heard by decision-makers,” Stone said.

The mayor continued.

“It’s very powerful for residents’ voices to be heard. Leaders can want to jump in and answer questions or contribute their thoughts but that can become a distraction or a disruption,” Stone said. “Residents expressed their pleasure for this opportunity to share their thoughts.”

The panel listened. Residents had a maximum of three minutes each to talk to the panel for the scheduled two-hour event. The speakers addressed a myriad of topics from blight, the master plan, small business growth, water treatment and a host of things that directly or indirectly related to economic development. The session lasted about an hour and then the meeting concluded.

At times, it was difficult to hear those addressing the panel. Some who came with comments and concerns were spoken to after the meeting to add clarity to what they said.

Among those who shared economic development ideas was former Warren City Councilman Garry Watts, who served a term from 2019 to 2023 representing District 4 and is a former member of the Warren Tax Increment Finance Authority’s board.

“No one wants to go to a five-star hotel and have to drive through blight and crime,” said Watts, addressing plans to build a proposed “town center.” “If you don’t fix the problems around it, you’re not going to be successful.”

According to Watts, economic development involves bringing in and recruiting new business to the city — manufacturing, dining, retail and others — in addition to marketing what the city already has.

Watts, along with others who spoke, said Warren needs more walkable dining, shopping, and retail.

Many of the sidewalks are in disrepair. The trees have not been trimmed and hang low, impeding walking on the sidewalks, said Watts.

Others expressed their ideas about economic development.

“I applaud the mayor for having a listening tour and really listening to what the residents have to say and their concerns and their thoughts regarding how to move the city forward,” said Jocelyn Howard, a former president of the Warren Planning Commission. “I still want to reiterate the fact that we do have a document in place called the master plan that does address some of the issues and some of the development paths forward that the city can take. I believe it is important we revisit that plan.”

Howard added, “The master plan is the blueprint by which any developer would come in and have to operate within that space.”

The plan covers historical landmarks, park improvements, land use, roadways and environmental issues, all of which have an effect on economic development.

“In larger developing cities, a lot of times they don’t try to recreate the wheel,” Howard said.

She said they look at cities that have had success and invite them to the table, and that they incorporate best practices for what was successful and mitigation strategies for what was problematic.

Howard and others in attendance referred to small businesses as the “heartbeat” of major cities and mentioned utilizing underused space on the south side of Warren.

“We have a lot of abandoned buildings and property where we can launch an entrepreneur space, where young and budding entrepreneurs can begin to show off their work and draw individuals and residents in that safe space,” Howard said.

According to the mayor, among the key takeaways that resonated with her from the event was being thoughtful and equitable in developing areas in Warren that haven’t gotten equitable amounts of development. She also mentioned growing Warren’s population, and tracking the reasons people choose to buy homes in Warren, including affordability, proximity to other places, green spaces and other metrics.

Although the listening event appeared to be well received by residents, some are looking for actions.

“I would love for us to start moving the conversation forward. I think that the Warren residents are really looking forward to movement. I think we’re doing a lot of discussion, which is great, but I think what is necessary now is the enactment of some of these discussions,” said Howard. “What are we going to do within the next 30 days, the next 60 days, the next 120 days, and what does that plan look like?”

‘Listening tour’ dates and topics


Monday, Jan. 22

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Van Dyke Public Schools/Lincoln High School Career and Technology Building 

22900 Federal Ave.

Topic: Public Safety

District 5


Wednesday, Jan. 31

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Warren Mott High School cafeteria

3131 12 Mile Road

Topic: Parks and Recreation

District 1


Saturday, Feb. 3

Noon to 2 p.m.

Macomb Community College John Lewis Student Event Center (Building K)

14500 12 Mile Road

Topic: Environmental Sustainability

District 4


Wednesday, Feb. 7

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Warren Woods Administrative Building Community Room

12900 Frazho Road

Topic: Roads and Infrastructure

District 3