DEARBORN — Dearborn City hall was packed with local leaders last Monday as Mayor Jack O’Reilly prepared to give his annual State of the City address. Speaking to a crowd which included Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and City Council president Suzanne Sareini, the mayor gave reasons to be optimistic towards the city’s future.
|O’Reilly argues that change is inevitable for Dearborn to remain a viable community.|
“Can anyone believe the millions of dollars spent on advertising and publicity? Here’s the irony. The more that’s spent, the more muddled the overall picture becomes,” the Mayor stated. “Misrepresenting people and their positions takes its toll, leaving us as voters to wonder if anyone can make a real difference.”
The mayor’s speech took a more optimistic turn however when he thanked voters for approving of the temporary millage increase last November. He stressed that the increase should be looked at as a five year plan, an investment on the city’s economic future.
He also tried to put a positive spin on some of the dramatic cutbacks the city made with jobs in the last year, and even stated that the city has reduced future costs by slashing retirement and benefit options for new employees. Part of the city’s goal is to cut off at least $4 million in personnel costs.
“We’ve reduced our non-public safety full time staff by as much as 35 percent, with some departments experiencing even greater cutbacks,” the mayor added. “That means our employees are working harder with fewer resources, and reductions in staff will continue this year, with as many as 20 more fulltime jobs lost through attrition.”
The mayor stated that the city was awarded more than $900,000 for environmental projects, more than $250,000 for recreation, $300,000 for cultural arts and more than $3.5 million for public safety.
The mayor went on to discuss crimes and public safety in the city. He cited the recent string of burglaries that hit the city hard late last year and early this year. According to the mayor, the city has been arresting more suspects when crimes are reported. He hopes the serious tone of the public safety department will amplify a core message: If you commit a crime in Dearborn, it is likely you will get caught.
The mayor also tackled sensitive issues like the closing of a few pools over the last year.
“We’re trying to preserve services residents have enjoyed in the past, while at the same time recognizing our new economic reality,” the mayor stated. “We must accept change as inevitable if we’re going to remain a viable community.’
The mayor cited some lavish initiatives which are expected to roll out this year in the city, including breaking ground on the new intermodal train station, which is expected to help the city’s economy and lure in people from as far as Chicago. The mayor says he believes it will open up the city to new markets all over the region.
Another initiative in planning phases is a convention center that will be located next to the Hyatt Regency in the Fairlane Town Center. The mayor says if the plan goes through, it could add as much as $137 million in new spending to the area.
Another major goal for the city is to have environmental sustainability, which the mayor says will help the quality of life. This summer, the city will be installing 300 new, high-efficiency LED streetlights. The new train station will also be LEED certified. According to the mayor, since July 2010, the city has increased its residential curbside recycling by 40 percent.
The mayor encouraged residents to remain positive even if times appeared tough, stating that the city has faced many previous challenges throughout its history.
“We can face the future with confidence knowing that Dearborn’s history is full of difficult challenges overcome by a community that has always pulled together,” the mayor stated. “There’s no reason to believe that we can’t do the same thing today. While we may be facing some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever faced, our commitment and our capacity has never been greater.”
You can catch the whole speech on the city’s website at www.cityofdearborn.org.