New city councilwoman talks transition to public service

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 2, 2018

 Roslyn Grafstein, pictured at the Red Oaks Nature Center last April, is learning on her feet after being elected to the Madison Heights City Council in November.

Roslyn Grafstein, pictured at the Red Oaks Nature Center last April, is learning on her feet after being elected to the Madison Heights City Council in November.

File photo by Deb Jacques

MADISON HEIGHTS — The shift from private citizen to public servant has been a learning process for Roslyn Grafstein.

Grafstein was sworn in as a Madison Heights city councilwoman Nov. 13, following her second-place finish in the Nov. 7 election. Incumbents Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss and City Councilman David Soltis won second terms, leaving Grafstein as the only newcomer to the council.

Since then, she has met with City Manager Ben Myers on a regular basis to review the issues.

“Much of what I’m learning are the administrative and organizational details of the city — who is responsible for what, and why things are done in certain ways,” Grafstein said. “Like any large organization, there is a lot of bureaucracy and proper protocol.”

The council has begun working on its goals for this year. One of Grafstein’s goals is to promote neighborhood block parties.

“Our street has had three since I moved here, and they’ve been a great way to get to know our neighbors. As I said during my campaign, this is a low-cost way to promote a sense of community and to increase safety,” Grafstein said.

“Another goal I have is to set up a formal process for the elderly and disabled to contact the city asking for help with leaf raking in the fall and snow shoveling in the winter. This list would be available to local volunteer groups in the city who want to help out,” she said.

Grafstein also wants to revitalize the city’s Environmental Committee so that it plays a bigger role in the city, looking at green alternatives and providing environmental education.

“I’d like to see more of our waste being diverted to recycling and composting streams instead of going to landfills,” Grafstein said. “Specifically, I would like city support for home composters.”

Looking even farther down the road, Grafstein wants the Crime Commission to be more active, starting with the promotion of Neighborhood Watch programs and other programs that improve safety by helping neighbors get to know each other. She’d also like more collaboration between the schools, finding ways to engage youths across the city.

In 2017, the council approved a plan to limit the number of trees removed during sewer and road replacement, with an option for the city to fund the cost of new replacement trees when requested if a tree is removed. But Grafstein also wants to find a way to replace trees that were lost in previous years.

“I’m still looking into options for this, and welcome suggestions the public may have,” she said.

Another interest of hers is the Little Free Library program. Stands are set up in the city, stocked with donated books, and people can add, take or borrow as they wish. The program promotes literacy in the community. There are already four in the city — in the playground at Lessenger Elementary, Huffman Park, Gravel Park and Red Oaks Soccer Park — with a fifth on private property. She wants to work with private groups to build even more.

Grafstein said she’s pleased by the city reinstating the holiday lights contest in 2017. She’d like to see similar contests in other seasons, such as a fall decorating contest.

“Again, it’s a low-cost activity that brings neighbors together,” Grafstein said.

Fighting blight will continue to be another goal of hers. This is important for stabilizing and improving property values.

Mayor Brian Hartwell said he’s impressed with how well Grafstein has taken to council.

“She has leadership skills and experience in charitable work. Her background in finance has prepared her for the rigors of balancing a $50 million budget. City staff and council members have known Roslyn for years through her advocacy on environmental issues. Plus, she has a family that is involved in school and charity events. All of this shows her potential to be a positive change to City Council,” Hartwell said.

“I was willing to give her one year to learn the ropes. In reality, she hit the ground running and will be helpful during the city budget process,” he said. “What I like about her style the most is that she is confident. Roslyn will not be a do-nothing politician. As the members of City Council regularly remind me, each of us is one member of a seven-member council. Her ambition and potential will be untapped unless she can build majorities on her ideas. I believe she will.”