State of the City remains optimistic in tough times

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 18, 2012

 After lunch, Judge Carl Gerds of the 37th District Court swears in the newest members of the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce.

After lunch, Judge Carl Gerds of the 37th District Court swears in the newest members of the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Sara Kandel

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe held its annual State of the City address during a luncheon sponsored by the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce Jan 9 at Eastpointe Manor.

Despite tough economic times, speakers at the luncheon remained optimistic about the city’s future while telling the story of its struggles.

Mayor Suzanne Pixley spoke first.

“Many of you have heard the story of ‘who moved our cheese?’ It’s a story that bankers and anybody in management is well aware of. It’s a parable about little, tiny mice who each year go to the same place to get their cheese and supplies, but one year there is less there, and each year it diminishes more until finally it is gone, and there isn’t any cheese left and the mice don’t know where to go. Well, that’s what the cities of Eastpointe and Roseville are facing.”

In Eastpointe, taxable revenue was stable until about five years ago, when it began to drop. In the past five years, Eastpointe lost 55 percent of its taxable revenue. The conservative forecast for this year suggests another 14 percent. With the forecast taken into account, in 2012 taxable revenue in Eastpointe will be down 69 percent.

“Everything the local municipalities are saying is true,” said Democratic state Rep. Harold Haugh, who was in attendance at the luncheon. “We keep slashing their funding and telling them to do more with less. It’s the same dialogue all across the board. And now they’re talking about the elimination of personal property tax, and without a replacement of that money, how are these communities supposed to survive? It’s nothing I could ever support.”

Pixley didn’t end on a down note though — she devoted the second half of her speech to what’s positive in Eastpointe.

“Just because revenue is down, it doesn’t mean that we just give up or shut down services.”

She offered kudos to Police Chief Mike Lauretti and the Friends of the Eastpointe Memorial Library for doing more with less and talked about some of the exciting things the city has done in the last year — the building of a skate park and pickle ball courts, purchasing closed school buildings from the district to convert them to senior housing, road construction and work on the sewers that was made possible through grants.

Judge Carl Gerds of the 38th District Court detailed the court’s cost-saving initiatives in the speech that followed Pixley’s. He said the court was streamlining certain processes to save both time and money, and it was paying off.

“In 2011, our revenues are up,” Gerds said. “In 2011, the court paid over to our funding unit, that’s the city of Eastpointe, $2.1 million, and that’s up 4 percent from the year before. Filings are down, and revenues are up. In 2011, we had 19,512 new filings; that’s 19,512 new cases that came into my court. That’s down almost 10 percent from 2010. We’re able to do that because of the employees we have and the systems we’ve installed.”

Gerds also said the court’s work with University of Detroit Mercy Law students continued to save the city money in 2011 and might be expanded to include civil cases in 2012.

East Detroit Public Schools Superintendent JoAnne Lelekatch also spoke at the event.

“We are on target to have the deficit paid off by June 30, 2014,” she said before filling the crowd in on East Detroit’s partnership with United Way and the grant the district received from GM in 2011 that will help the school implement a success academy, professional learning communities and early education programs.

Lelekatch’s speech focused on the positive, offering an upbeat end to the address, which as a whole seemed much more focused in that direction.

“This was awesome,” said Christina Lazzana, a new business owner in the city and a first-time attendee at the event. “It’s so refreshing to come from Oakland County to Macomb County. It’s so family-oriented here. That’s what I love about being here.”

 

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