Taylor's City Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand reached out to The Arab American News to clarify some details about an apartment complex fire that occurred on the evening of Aug. 17th that left over seven families dismantled at Park Place, located off of Eureka Rd. Topics discussed also included his outreach to the Arab-American community, which involved the appointment of a Lebanese woman onto the city's recreation commission, as well as his career as a teacher at the Dearborn Heights Crestwood School District.
|Mayor Lamarand of Taylor. Lamarand |
was also a teacher at Crestwood High School from 1999-2009.
It wasn't until minutes after smoke detectors had gone off when a neighbor came to the children's home and removed them from the property while the fire was spreading. At that point, authorities were finally notified.
"We don't know the time lapse between when the fire started and when we were notified, which could've greatly contributed to the spreading," Mayor Lamarand stated.
While witnesses on the scene stated that city firefighters had allowed the fire to continue to spread even after arriving onto the scene, Mayor Lamarand says there were several minutes during the incident when the firefighters had been trying to locate the source of the fire.
"I had gotten a few calls from concerned residents saying that nobody was putting water on the fire...but the firefighters were already in attack mode, people just couldn't see them. They were looking for the point of where the fire had begun, and had to split up into two different groups to try and get it under control," Mayor Lamarand stated.
Mayor Lamarand says both the city and the community have been trying to assist the families who were left devastated by the fire. The American Red Cross has been assisting some of the families who did not have renters insurance, offering several hundred dollars in cash depending on the number of people in the family. Local donations were also made from both Wal-Mart and Meijer, as well as assistance from local churches, who gave out gas card money as well as gift cards from other businesses.
In the meantime the city is looking forward to re-instating the positions of 32 firefighters this month, after they were laid off last year due to budget cuts. The city was able to receive an $8.1 million federal grant that went directly to the city's fire department. The firefighters are expected to begin their training during the third week of September.
Taylor, a predominantly Caucasian city with a population of 63,000 according to the latest census, is still is the home to several hundred Arab American families. Mayor Lamarand says that one of the goals for his term was to open up to outside communities and diversify some of the city's workforce. This year, he appointed Nahia Rmeiti, a Lebanese American onto the city's recreation commission. A mother of three children who all attend Taylor's public schools, Rmeiti and her family have been residents in Taylor since 2001. She says working for the city as well as working closely with Mayor Lamarand has been a positive exprience for her.
"He is a responsible, passionate leader who cares deeply about his community and its future. He makes though decisions, but in order to maintain structure within any society we have to think through our choices. My experience with the mayor has been a positive learning experience," Rmeiti stated.
|Nahia Rmeiti, an Arab American from Taylor, was appointed by Mayor Lamarand to serve |
on the city’s Recreation Commission.
"Since coming in, we've been really adamant about trying to get new people involved. It appeals to me to try to reach out to other communities. Bringing this idea and concept into the city will open up people's minds about what's out there other than what they are familiar to," said Mayor Lamarand.
One question we asked the Mayor regarded some of the controversy surrounding the Crestwood School District. Lamarand was himself a faculty member at the district, where he served as a teacher at Crestwood High School from 1999-2009, before taking a leave of absence to run for Mayor in the city of Taylor. Lamarand commented on the recent complaints from local parents who feel the district is not equipped to handle the growing number of ESL students.
"During my time period, we did multiple multicultural and ethnicity workshops with faculty and teachers. The Arab population was drastically on the increase. One of the key factors that we started to see was that a lot of the kids needed ESL assistance and we really weren't equipped or prepared for that. It was very challenging... I dealt with some students towards the end, specifically Middle Eastern families, that had a lot of problems and it simply came down to a communication barrier. We knew it, but we didn't deal with it in time," Mayor Lamarand stated.
Mayor Lamarand was pleased to hear the news of the recent appointment of Hamid Soueidan onto the school board district, who happens to be the first Arab American on the board. During his time at Crestwood, Mayor Lamarand was able to work closely with Soueidan.
"He is a good guy...Hamid has always been very involved with the district since he was a student. The good thing about it is he's young and that's huge for the school board. It's something that a lot of other school boards always lack."
Mayor Lamarand is not sure if he will one day return to Crestwood. In the meantime he says he's got more work to do for the city as he prepares to run for a re-election in November 2013.