Mayor Explains How Ferndale is “Benchmark for…

Mayor Explains How Ferndale is “Benchmark for a Modern Community” in Annual Speech

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 16, 2018)

Ferndale, MI- “What makes a city an example to other communities? Why do some communities become destinations for great progress while others stay static? It’s something that I—and all of us at the City of Ferndale—have given a lot of thought this past year,” said Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter as he gave his State of the City Address at the Rust Belt Market last week.

He then gave lots of reasons why Ferndale is thriving.

Among them is the leadership of City Councilmembers. Mayor Coulter recognized Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pawlica for hosting meet-and-greets at local restaurants for those who may want to chat outside of City Council meetings. Councilperson Raylon Leaks-May is working on earning the city a “Community for a Lifetime” designation by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which demonstrates that Ferndale can “meet the needs of older adults, their families, and caregivers, today and in the future.”

Councilperson Melanie Piana’s success as Vice President of the Michigan Municipal League was also touted. “She’s representing Ferndale and advocating on behalf of our community for education, finance, smart transportation, and sustainability, in addition to a whole lot of other things,” Coulter said.

Within the staff there were people to celebrate as well. “This year we hired our city’s first-ever sustainability planner, Erin Quetell,” he said. “It’s pretty simple, really: she’s here to listen to our citizens’ vision for a sustainable community and then help us make that a reality. Already in her first few months she’s worked to expand recycling participation—which is cleaner for the environment, obviously, but also helps us save money on sanitation and keep our rates down. She’s also taking on our planned natural landscaping program…And probably most importantly, she’s helping with our tree canopy—making sure we maintain our inventory of trees so that, even as our city continues to grow, our greenspaces are preserved for years—and generations—to come.”

Mayor Coulter also talked about successes in the Parks and Recreation Department under the leadership of LaReina Wheeler who became Director last March, and Deputy Director Lisa Bryant who also came on board last year. “They have hit the ground running with a number of new and improved rec programs, and a continued focus on our parks,” Coulter said.

“If you’ve been to Garbutt Park recently, you’ve probably seen the cool new Safety Town course—a miniature version of a city, complete with blacktop lanes and traffic signs. Kids are able to learn about cycling, and vehicle and pedestrian rules, from the safety of a protected course. We’ve also got new ADA-accessible play equipment and walking paths in Harding Park, and work starting this summer to prepare for an amphitheater, new sledding hill, and a MUCH asked-for splash pad in Martin Road Park. The parks you invested in with the 2015 Streets and Parks Bond are becoming a reality, and I’m thrilled that we’re able to further our welcoming community initiatives by creating parks and programs for people of all ages and abilities.”

Coulter announced that DPW Director Loyd Cureton has moved on to Northville and that Police Chief Tim Collins has retired after 40 years with the department. Carlos Kennedy, who has been with the city for a dozen years, is serving as interim director of the DPW. And in the Police Department Captain Vinny Palazzolo is serving as interim chief.

Mayor Coulter spoke quite a bit about the Police Department, celebrating successes and acknowledging problems. “The Police Department has continued its focus on community policing as well, with awesome results to share from a number of their newer programs. Since its launch last January, the Hope Not Handcuffs program has helped nearly 70 individuals through the Ferndale Police Department, and more than 1,100 people total through departments across the metro area. These are individuals struggling in most cases with an opioid addiction, who are encouraged to enter one of the participating police departments—like Ferndale’s—and ask for help. Rather than facing punishment or jail time, people are given treatment. Not simply a bed for a night, but a place in a certified treatment facility—regardless of housing or insurance status,” he said.

“Also—and this is a bit of a weird one, because it’s not often that we applaud a financial loss—but our budget process shows that our 43rd District Court is seeing an annual decrease in revenue because of a reduction in tickets being written by Ferndale officers. And the decrease is large—several hundred thousand over the last year alone. Our Police Department’s shift to a community policing focus two years ago was made with the intent that officers would do more to educate and assist the community so that fewer punitive measures were needed—and it’s clear that this has happened. Rather than ticket someone for not using a child car seat correctly—or not even having a car seat—our department is finding it more effective to educate people about size requirements, or to connect people with resources for free safety seats when affordability is an issue. That’s people taking care of people, and I’m proud of that.

“Now—great cities, like great leaders, are not perfect. Our departments are made up of human beings, and human beings are fallible. When mistakes are made, what’s important is that they are honestly acknowledged and seriously addressed. In that spirit, I want to acknowledge that over the last few years there have been incidents where individual members of our Police Department have not lived up to the values we expect. And these incidents have the potential to affect the community trust that is so critical to effective law enforcement.

“That’s why the City Manager, with the full support of myself and City Council, will be leading a formal review of this department—of the policies and procedures currently in place, and even more fundamentally, asking the question: what new measures, training, and cultural shifts need to be addressed to help prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future?”

Other points in the speech included an update on the dot, which is the mixed use structure being built to increase parking capacity downtown, as well as the “Quiet Zone,” implementation which reduces the amount of train whistles heard in the city.

Mayor Coulter ended by discussing the City’s vision statement that was revealed a year ago.

It reads—Ferndale: The benchmark for a modern community that embraces the richness of diversity and brings inclusive hospitality to life.

Too often, a mission or vision statement is just a sentence trotted out on an organization’s letterhead or website. That’s not the case for us. Our vision has meaning because it’s not just a statement—it’s a plan for how we lead, and how we’ll continue to lead going forward.

Leadership doesn’t always look the way you think it will. It’s not necessarily about being the loudest voice in the room. Yes, sometimes it’s bold decision making, big innovation, and demands for change. But other times it’s the quiet care you show to a group of underserved people who haven’t before felt cared for. Or spaces—whether they be parks, homes, or businesses—that provide accessibility for all. Or the constant delivery of quality services, ensuring that people have access to clean water, safe streets, and quality education.

That, to me, is leadership. And that is Ferndale.”

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