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Live reporting by Amy Senese
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City officials work to explain increased residential water rates. Councilmembers disagree on a new option to purchase process for developers. Councilmembers unanimously approve an almost $16K grant that Highland Park police will use to fund license plate reader technology

amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese
Hey Detroit AND Highland Park! Tonight at 7pm, I'll be live tweeting the Highland Park City Council for #DETdocumenters
@DetDocumenters media partners: @media_outlier @BridgeDet313 @freep @PlanetDetroit @wdet @metrotimes @chalkbeatDET @MichiganRadio @wxyzdetroit

03:50 PM Feb 5, 2024 CST

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The meeting will take place in person at 12050 Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, with a virtual meeting option, and broadcast on YouTube.
Click on this link for the virtual meeting link.…
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The agenda for tonight is pictured here and can be found at this link:…
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Here's some recent reporting out of Highland Park:
"Janice Taylor-Bibbs received a new federally funded house intended for lower-income residents"…
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#DETdocumenters began coverage of Highland Park City Council last year at this time when the council members had just been elected and were holding their first meetings.
Find all Highland Park coverage here:…
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More reporting from @media_outlier of Highland Park a year ago:…
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That's all for now, see you at 7pm!
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Walked into the meeting (in person) with a debate over approving the agenda. I believe they are speaking to issues around the Treasurer Janice Taylor-Bibbs. There is a resolution on the table. It hasn't been recieved and filed by the clerk.
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I believe Khursheed Ash-Shafii wanted a discussion.
Agenda approved with Item 7 removed.
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Looks like I posted an older agenda earlier. Here’s tonight’s agenda with item 7 removed.
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The Mayor of Highland Park is now speaking to a letter from the Highland Park Water Department. The water rates went up. I have a handout I'll share later. They are working to negotiate a legal settlement with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).
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Mayor McDonald says it will be a $50-$60 increase per month on the water department instead of a tax increase, according to the mayor. "We're trying to save your house." speaking directly to the audience.
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Call 313-252-0050 ext 240.
Call the Mayor's office with questions on the executive side. Mayor urging residents that they are not going to get answers on Facebook.
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If the deal falls through, the rates go down and residents will get reimbursed. They are mandated to charge this amount as they work out the deal with GLWA. GLWA has the right to go to court and put a levy back on residents' taxes.
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The Mayor is laying out this is a difference of a $50-60 increase on the water bill, versus a $5000 increase on taxes if there is a levy. Residents are asking why the deal could potentially not go through.
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A city official likely from the water department is apologizing for the rollout of the increase, saying that there should have been more PR around the increase. "People still don't understand the (water)bill."
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As part of this deal, they have to get meters in the ground, and other aspects of infrastructure that’s lacking.
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Now onto public comment on any agenda item.
Comment about lots being sold and then approved to sell by City Council. A majority approval is required.
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Asking what RFQs stands for, but that item is pulled off the agenda. RFQ means a request for funding. She is also asking about a flyer passed out. She didn't have an agenda question, so they are encouraging her to speak on general public comment.
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Encouraging the council to accept the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $15,919.48 from Wayne County.
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Here's the correct online agenda, I posted an older agenda earlier.…
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They are now discussing approval of the option to purchase lots at 13321 Hamilton, 18 W. Grand and 30 W. Grand. Ash-Shafii is pushing back over procedure. He's saying what's missing is financials, site plan reports, building, fire, police reports, DPW, traffic reports, etc.
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The option to purchase process is new.
Ash Shafii passed out this document for β€œsite plan submission process” that he wants developers and the City to follow.
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Ash-Shafii pulled this document from the Highland Park City website, but it may not be the most updated information. There's a back-and-forth on this.
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Manica is saying they don't lose anything by giving them an option to purchase. It's the chance for the developer to show them what he can do. She's saying they don't lose any money by doing so.
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Ash-Shafii is saying they shouldn't break this rule, because they're going to have to alter it for every developer that comes through.
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Thomas is bringing the attention back to the agenda items.
Motion carries, with Martin and Ash-Shafii voting no. Ash-Shafii is talking over Thomas, saying no, it does not carry. Option to Purchase is approved for A and B.
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This grant is up for approval now. The grant, for Highland Park Police, can be used for law enforcement programs, drug treatment, witness programs, mental health, veterans,
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The Highland Park police chief is saying they would use the grant for an existing program that installs cameras and helps to apprehend stolen vehicles and apprehend felons. He's saying if they have funds left, they will have a community event.
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Item 6 is approved.
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Now onto general public comment.
Asking about the water rate increase. She's telling the water department they could have included an explainer and more information when they send out the water bill.
A: It's going to be included in the next bill mailing.
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#2. Speaking to the site-control question. Agrees with President Thomas. Suggesting they have a workshop to explore new language and update the policies/ordinances so it will be easier for developers to come and get site plan approval.
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#3. Trying to find out what's happening with Mariuana buisnesses. There's a new one being opened without an ordinance in the city. There are a lot of illegal grow operations happening in the city.
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The Police Chief said they know where these operations are, but they can't legally go in. They have lost litigation in the past. "There's a process. We can't go kicking in people's doors, they have rights."
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#4. Commenter asked what Cathy Square, the City Administrator does for the city. The water department and agreement with GLWA will be an ongoing issue for the city. The Uniform Budget Act also informs her job. The city is supposed to come to her for advice.
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Cathy Square, "not here to manage politicians." Square, as City Administrator is here to manage the city's finances.
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#5. Asking if the council agrees 100% with the GLWA water agreement, asking if they feel positive enough to sign it. Residents don't want bills to go up, with rising costs everywhere.
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Cathy Square is answering.
A: Between now and next Thursday (Feb 15) we need to have a meeting. There are 5 agreements out there, the GLWA water agreement, the scheduled workshop for Jan 25 was canceled. The settlement that ties everything together by the 15th.
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They are trying to hammer out issues that the different parties agree on.
This agreement needs to be decided on by Feb. 15th, which was extended from Jan 15th.
When residents pay their water bill, it goes into an escrow trust until the agreement is final.
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Square said to look out for a special meeting notice before the 15th. She said this is a good thing for the City. Highland Park is fighting to defend their position. If they don't make this agreement, there will be a levy on the City of HP and potential bankruptcy.
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Comment #6. More questions to Cathy Square. Asking about a lawsuit against Mr. Blackwell.
A: These were not city lawsuits.
Cathy Square is speaking to the Highland Park lawsuit against the landbank.
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Q: Asking about accountability over structures that need to be torn down or could be fixed up. Why aren't they holding derelict property owners accountable?
she was encouraged to reach out to the water department.
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Comment #7. A developer offering services, speaking to challenges of the city to attract developers, etc.
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Comment #8: Still owns lots in the city, even though he doesn't live here. His family has a long history here. Worried about the water bill burden that will fall on residents. Also asking about employment, he's been waiting to hear from HR.
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Comment #9: Nathan Harvey. Asking if there are any questions for him since he was on the agenda. Thanked the council for approving the option to purchase back on items V a & b.
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Comment #10. Saying that when they voted on Items V a-b they didn't have a true majority.
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Now onto Council Affairs.
Ash-Shafii is up first. Saying that everytime they take 2 steps forward, they take 2 steps back. He's upset that the approval for Mr. Harvey's lots was not the correct process. He doesn't think Harvey will be back with any further info.
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Ash-Shafii is saying they could get sued at a later date if they vote down a development since they set a precedent with Harvey's option to purchase approval.
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Ash-Shafii is also saying they need to move quickly on replacing Janice Taylor-Bibbs.
"Every member up here works for you."
Has a quick question for Square. When did we get the extension to move the GLWA agreement to the Feb 15th?
A: that was done by the Attorney General.
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Square continued....There was a term sheet approved as a resolution by the Highland Park City council last October. The city has done everything expected of them during this process.
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Ash-Shafii is asking residents in the audience to "stand up and fight for this city."
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Council Member Kallela Martin, District 2 is speaking now. Surprised to hear about job postings.
Has a question and is unsure if the Treasurer position has been posted.
Appreciates the questions about GLWA.
Plans to be at the meeting w/ Chang at Nandi's Cafe on Friday at 10am.
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Council Member Temeko Manica, District 1 is speaking now. Speaking to arguments that should be dealt with outside of public meetings, when there are important issues like the GLWA agreement to discuss.
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Council President Pro Tem, Sharmaine Robinson is thanking residents for their prayers for a family member.
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Council President Jamal K. Thomas is asking people to look at the screen to see the "Development Tracker" for the City of Detroit. He said he's just been introduced to this website, put out by Detour Detroit.
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Thomas is now responding to the question about the water deal with GLWA, and if he agrees with it.
The prospect of people losing their homes over this is terrifying to him.
Speaking to sitting across the table with GLWA, he said "We were outgunned..."
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Thomas does agree with what's happening now with the GLWA contract because the alternative is much worse.
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The meeting adjourned at 9:01 pm.
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This concludes my coverage of the Highland Park City Council meeting on Feb 5th for #DetDocumenters
If you believe anything in this coverage today is inaccurate, please email w/ "Correction Request" in the subject line.
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