Performances and Points of Pride Pepper Annual Oak Park Speech
(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 21, 2019)
Oak Park, MI – Oak Park’s award-winning drumline rat-a-tat-tatted their way into the OPHS auditorium on May 1 to warm up the audience for the annual State of the City Address.
Though the city is only 5.16 square miles, Oak Park residents are divided among three school districts – Oak Park, Berkley, and Ferndale. “We are proud to include all of them tonight,” said Mayor Marian McClellan.
In addition to the Oak Park drumline, guests enjoyed a special performance by the Ferndale High School dance team, and the singning of the National Anthem by Berkley HS senior Destiny Madkin.
“Watching these students from all three of our districts is giving me hope for the future,” the Mayor said.
Oak Park Schools Superintendent Dr. Daveda Colbert has been working to uplift students and the city for the past eight years. She announced at the event she would be moving on to work at Wayne Regional Educational Services Agency.
While the school districts are distinct governmental bodies separate from the city, Oak Park’s leaders are proud of the relationships built between them.
Collaboration has been the key to many of the city’s successes. “We recognize that we are not an island,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “Every challenging circumstance overcome in the past few years, we have succeeded by working with each other – our neighbors, between districts.” He also recognized the various departments and volunteers that help “make sure everyone who is living here is living their best life while they are here.”
Part of this spirit is seen in the passion of city officials for placemaking and public transit.
Among the successes has been rezoning 11 Mile to attract new businesses including River Rouge Brewery, plans to add bike lanes to 9 Mile, decorative signage on an 696 overpass, and the construction of Jefferson Oaks affordable housing.
Throughout the city, rental inspections have increased. The city sent 6,900 code notices over the past year. They also conducted 2,800 rental inspections and 3,900 building inspections.
In addition to the visual changes, the city has grown their community-focused events to give residents more opportunities to meet their neighbors. The pool now has some hours that are restricted to only men and to only women to meet the needs of the Jewish community. There is a farmers market that began recently, as well as a summer concert series. McClellan also mentioned the new Lorraine Faber Children’s Play Area inside the library that opened earlier this year.
The bike lanes on 9 Mile will also help with public transit, as will the launching of the MOGO bike rental service that is launching regionally with stations in Oak Park.
To demonstrate their love of transit, Oak Park officials opened their part of the program with a video showing council members, the mayor, and the city manager taking advantage of ways to walk, bike, scooter, and bus to the event.
The improvements through the city have also come along with the fifth straight year of a budget surplus. City Manager Tungate credits cost-cutting, refinancing of bonds, and strategic investing with the economic strides the community has made. The city now has a $3.7 million balance, which better positions the city should some emergency arise.
Mayor McClellan complemented Tungate and his team with a “This crew seems to pinch a nickel until the buffalo screams.”
Thankfully there were no screams in the audience, only lots of clapping and a few whistles, as the city celebrated its ongoing success. Learn more about the City of Oak Park at http://www.oakparkmi.gov/.