(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 30, 2013)
The year 2013 was a busy one in Ferndale, and for The 115. Here are the stories that touched us most as we grew from The Ferndale One-Fifteen News, to our exciting new venture The Oakland County One-Fifteen News Hub (oc115.com). To learn more about any of the items mentioned below, click on the blue, underlined letters to go to the original story.
Growth has been a consistent story through 2013, with multiple new businesses and projects for Ferndalians to be proud of. Among many new businesses are Public House, Winezilla, Agora Aerial Arts, Blue Water Financial and Comedy Sportz. Both of the city’s beloved Taco Bells got remodeled, as did The Rust Belt. Remodeling is in the works for the Courthouse and Police Station, and a major project has added multiple features to West Nine Mile Road. New construction is happening at Woodward and Cambourne as a new shopping center is being built. In April Mayor Dave Coulter reported a 35% increase in nonresidential investment in Ferndale, which grew on reports of low vacancy rates in the industrial areas at the end of 2012. Many Ferndalians also celebrated the opening of shopping plaza, including a Meijer store, at the long-vacant corner of 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit this spring.
The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) took home a bunch of Main Street USA Awards, and made public art a priority through the year as they raised money towards purchasing a sculpture or two from the ARTWN project. The Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce was recognized as a top Chamber in the State. And the Kulick Center gained a new partnership as The Boys and Girls Club opened an extension there.
The most talked-about story for 2013 was the new parking system, whose roll out did not go as smoothly as planned. The old quarter-fed meters were replaced with multi-space meters that accept credit cards and cash, in hopes of modernizing the system. Higher parking rates, lines at the machines, and general confusion marred the rollout, and since the initial launch, the city has had to make multiple changes to get it right. The system is now bringing in revenue and regulars are no longer confused, though some are still unhappy with it.
Another big story for Ferndale was the epic showdown over the Mayor’s seat – with Former Mayor Craig Covey challenging sitting Mayor Dave Coulter. Both men came to the ballot box with a history of political and social activism. Both had careers in AIDS prevention. Both had also served as County Commissioner. Both are openly gay. And both shared friends, supporters and social circles. They also faced two other Mayoral candidates, Linda Parton and Sherry Wells. The race caused rifts in the community, but it also gave the public an opportunity to hear multiple perspectives on issues like parking, investment in development, spending, and solutions to rising water costs. In the end, Ferndale voters chose to keep Coulter in the Mayor’s seat, with Coulter earning 47.6% of the votes. (Covey got 33.17%, Parton got 9.77%, and Wells got 9.04%).
It was also an interesting year for City Council elections, since two candidates ran unopposed for two seats: newbie Greg Pawlica and incumbent Melanie Piana. The election also gave 115 readers the chance to learn more about the Library Board, even though those candidates also ran unopposed.
Proposal A, an initiative to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana at the local level was also passed by voters. By ordinance persons 21 and older can possess up to an ounce on private property. However, they could still be prosecuted under State and Federal Law. Advocates for Proposal A hope that city-by-city decriminalization will encourage lawmakers in Lansing and Washington DC to lift bans on the restricted plant.
In addition to Proposal A’s passage, Ferndale was home to a number of significant pot-related stories in 2013. Tied closely to Prop A. was the arrest of Andrew Cissell, the man who gathered most of the signatures to put Prop. A on the ballot. Cissell faces several marijuana sales related charges, and charges of voter fraud because of using his father’s address on his voter ID and on the petitions he turned in. Those cases remain ongoing.
Another Ferndale-based case remains ongoing, even though a Judge dismissed the charges. The Oakland County Prosecutor has filed an appeal against the defendants in the Clinical Relief case. In this case the defendants opened up what they believed to be a legal marijuana dispensary in 2010, but they were raided after selling marijuana to an undercover agent with a fake medical marijuana card. The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal in September and the defendants will be re-tried.
Ferndale’s activism was not limited to the debate over marijuana decriminalization. In 2013, Ferndalians saw Mayor Coulter and Senator Sandy Levin take a stand against cutting food assistance to poor families, dozens of people turn out against fracking, and Rep. John Conyers preach about Jobs for Justice. There was a Guinness World Record breaking cloth diaper change to promote the ecological and healthy alternative to plastic diapers, and Transition Ferndale continued to host discussions on sustainability issues.
Mayor Coulter also took on the position of Vice Chair for the Michigan Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus. And when a spokesperson for the GOP said unsavory things about gay people Democratic Leaders from around the state, and at the national level came to Affirmations in Ferndale to stand together for equality.
Regardless of the political issue, one thing Ferndalians are good at is advocating for fairness and kindness. The annual Citizens for Fair Ferndale Good Neighbor Awards showcased a snippet of the community’s goodness, while their Civility Pledge project helped people think about what it means to be a good neighbor.
In 2013, Ferndale lost many dear community members. Among them was Former Mayor Pam McCullough, the “voice of the Eagles” Joe Mahan, beloved teacher Rob Wunderlich, and longtime community volunteers Dennis and Marty Hoeppner.
Among youth that lost their lives this year, was 16-year-old Mario Campbell who collapsed during track practice at Ferndale High School, 17-year-old University High School Senior Samuel Lee who was accidentally shot by a relative who was playing with a gun, and 22-year-old Melissa Sue Balogh who died from a suspected food allergy or asthma.
Ferndale also has said good byes over the past year to people in leadership positions who have given up their posts and moved on to other projects. After serving over 20 years on the Ferndale School Board, including at least 10 as president, Chuck Moeser announced his resignation to fully enjoy his retirement.
Councilperson Scott Galloway chose not to run again after serving 12 years on City Council. Galloway is the co-owner of Galloway and Collens Law Firm and father to an active toddler, so he will be quite busy in the coming years.
After being one of the founders of the annual LGBT celebration, Ferndale Pride Director Craig Covey handed off the leadership torch to Julia Music, who’ll be running the 2014 event. Affirmations LGBT Community Center is also saying goodbye to their current leader. Executive Director Dave Garcia announced his resignation and will be leaving at the end of January.
Even as things change, there are many traditions that keep Ferndale the community that it is. It seems there are always festivals and events going on, like The Ferndale Blues Festival, The DIY Fair, The Green Cruise, The Dream Cruise, Pig and Whiskey, Fido Does Ferndale, Ferndale Pride and many more. The annual tree planting in the Arbor Day Forest, the all-district Fall Festival, and the Extravaganza are also great annual events that celebrate the learning done by students in Ferndale Schools. And Clean the Ferndale Up was a great way to do just what the name says, except this year with the bonus of seeing Councilperson Dan Martin and event organizer Matt Nowaczok take pies to the face.
Informing, Inspiring and Uniting
Some of the best stories of 2013 come from the basic tasks of informing, inspiring and uniting readers. Working with guest columnists this year we were able to explore IRV voting, look at legal issues and crime issues, understand school funding, and learn more about efforts towards bike accessibility and transit issues.
We also shared educational experiences, like a history of Ferndale presentation by Garry Andrews, a story about the IMPI Robotics team, a demo on the benefits of indoor sprinkler systems, how the County is training for active shooter situations, how Ferndale Fire Marshall Brian Batten got a law changed in Lansing, and events at the library such as The Love of Reading, and Banned Books Week.
It’s been an exciting year for the 115 too. Most notably, we made the step from being The Ferndale 115 News to being the Oakland County 115 News Hub (oc115). This gives us the opportunity to share the idea of non-corporate local news with other communities. This year 115 Editor and Publisher won an award: The 2012 Excellence in Media Award Third Place for Online Investigative Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists Detroit Chapter. And this year Proxmire traveled to Denver for the National Conference for Media Reform, where she met with other experts and activists in the journalism profession.
These stories are just a sampling of the hundreds of stories done for the 115, and if there are others you’d like to remember please look back and share your favorite links on Facebook and Twitter. And if you value having a local online news site covering Ferndale, now is a great time to chip in towards making this a sustainable, community-supported project. Become a Business Sponsor or sign up to give Reader Support. Or simply go to any of the Pay Pal buttons on the website and give what you can.
Happy New Year!