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Dearborn Turnaround Requires Innovation, New Vision

What I believe is needed to turnaround Dearborn, MI.

Dearborn is at the crossroads – and heading in the wrong direction could spell disaster for our once thriving and prosperous city.

Over the past several years, Dearborn has faced a combination of tax revenue cuts and leadership decisions that are continually diminishing the quality of life and attractiveness to lure new residents and businesses, and we have witnessed a large number of desirable residents moving to other communities they feel are more desirable to live in.

This has to stop, as we cannot continue down this same destructive path and further cut services, cultural amenities, and the fabric of Dearborn that made it such a desirable place to raise a family, start a business, and enjoy life.

We need a solid turnaround plan to grow revenue and utilize our amenities and resources to leverage our future success, which requires innovation and a new vision.

As a 37-year Dearborn resident, I have served Dearborn tirelessly on commissions, committees, task forces, and in volunteer work with the sole objective of giving back to my hometown and helping make Dearborn the best it can be for current and future generations. 

However, I believe there is even more that I can do to help turnaround Dearborn. 

My drive and creativity has resulted in an extensive record of accomplishment creating successful businesses and leading business and community turnarounds.  One key lesson I learned in past leadership and management positions is that the best way to resolve issues is through transparency and accessibility to the people one serves.

My turnaround plan is a complete reversal from the complacency and norm that Dearborn has experienced the past few years, and even though Dearborn City Council is a part-time position, I am prepared to work whatever days and hours needed to make sure Dearborn is heading in the right direction.

My turnaround plan is straightforward and includes meeting regularly with residents, businesses, and organizations to listen and take action addressing their specific needs.  Our residents and businesses are the core of the community, and preserving and enhancing their quality of life and vitality is crucial to Dearborn’s long-term success.

The second part of the plan is identifying funding opportunities to save our small neighborhood pools, reopening Snow Library, funding of the Historical Museum, fixing the Henry Ford Centennial Library fountain, eliminating user-paid parking in west downtown Dearborn, helping our business districts, and more.

I plan to meet with mid to large size business leaders to build closer ties between our city and their businesses, and see what they may be willing to do to provide funding, sponsorships, and other revenue streams to preserve and maintain the many amenities and services that have defined Dearborn and made it such a unique and desirable city.  In addition, I plan to meet with our small businesses in Dearborn to see what they believe the city can do to help their businesses grow and prosper.

The third part of the plan is to further grow the tax base and revenue stream in Dearborn.  I plan to meet with a diverse collection of business owners and companies outside of Dearborn to market, promote, and lure them to relocate or expand in our city.  This effort will fill our empty storefronts, bring in a desirable variety of businesses, and revive our downtown business districts.  The expansion of retail and business growth will increase tourism, bring back customers that shop elsewhere, and serve as a means to grow our population and prosperity.

To achieve the fundamental parts of the turnaround plan won’t be an easy task.  It will require some new leadership that thinks differently, has a passion and love for the city, will never settle for second best, will work tirelessly for its residents and business owners, and leadership that possesses the vision to continually improve and grow Dearborn.

If you are ready for a Dearborn “revolution” and the return of a thriving and prosperous city, I am the type of innovative leader to elect to the City Council and am ready for the challenge to transform our city.  I have the vision, passion, drive, bridge building, and problem solving skills to face this uphill transformation head on.  I cannot think of anything that would make me more proud than to serve the city that raised me, which would enable future generations to share and enjoy the experiences that make us all proud to be from Dearborn.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Nor or Laterd February 26, 2013 at 11:01 PM
What we need is people to pay taxes and we need to stop giving away free stuff to those who don't. Pretty simple. Stop subsidizing the lifestyles of those who don't contribute now or haven't spent 30-60 years contributing.
Lee Jacobsen February 27, 2013 at 07:22 AM
Nor, well said. Mike, we need to cut costs. We have a superintendent of schools who makes over $1000 per day. Our teachers make 100 grand a year, when you factor in the actual time they work. Most of the city employees get longevity bonuses. Are we flush enough to be giving bonuses? Many employees get $3000 for not choosing city healthcare. With Obamacare upon us, healthcare is no longer the city's job. Give each city employee a stipend for healthcare and let them pick their own at the exchanges. City employees are paid to do their jobs, the city should not be in the health care business. Mike , we need some ideas, not more talk about talking to folk about what their ideas are. That can be done on this forum. How to improve small business? Simple enough. Provide easy access for customers to reach the business folk. That means free parking for 30 minutes, and front door access. That means bringing back the old Michigan ave, and slow it down with selective parallel parking. There should be bike racks in the parking lots so folk can ride to the shops and restaurants and lock up their bikes, can't do that now. Mike, were you at the train station meetings? Folk need a way to easily access the downtowns, and once that is figured out, the businesses will see a viable business model that means a profit can be made. Let's hear some specific ideas, Mike. We can talk about them right here. State grant money may be available for some of them.
Michael D. Albano February 27, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Lee, the city has been cutting costs by reducing staff, services and amenities for a number of years. However, they also spent $3.75 million purchasing a new city hall, with an estimated cost of another $3-4 million to retrofit the new city hall, which has upset many. However, I do agree that the city needs to find other ways to cut costs, and reign in expenses, since it seems them cut heavily in some areas, and then spend the savings and then some in other areas. With all due respect Lee, since you state that our superintendent and teachers earn too much in pay and benefits, and city council has no control over this, and it comes out of the school tax millage, and not the city tax millage, what do you propose be done about it? I do agree with your concerns about getting healthcare spending under control though, for schools and the city. This is a major expense that is breaking cities all over America. However, I also believe that in order to represent the people one serves, which includes citizens and businesses, these citizens and businesses should have a right to be heard, since these are the people and organizations that are affected by city policies and decisions.
Michael D. Albano February 27, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Lee, I exceeded the allowable characters in my 1st response to you. So it may take a few more responses to answer you. Rather than free parking for 30 minutes, I'd much rather work on finding solutions to create free parking in all of downtown west Dearborn, because while 30 minute free parking may bring some shoppers back, completely free parking will bring far more shoppers back to downtown west Dearborn, in my opinion. The other thing sorely needed in west downtown is more of a variety of businesses there, and while the Transportation Center will certainly help somewhat, it's not the total solution, especially for business located further west and east of it. We need leaders who are willing to research and work with businesses to find out why many are no longer choosing Dearborn, then come up with solutions to motivate them to come to Dearborn.
Michael D. Albano February 27, 2013 at 04:29 PM
We also need to work with current Dearborn businesses to see what/if there is anything the city can do to grow and prosper their businesses as well. All of this I mention in the article above. And yes, I was at the Transportation Center meetings, and found them very informative, and heard a number of great ideas from residents. I have submitted some of my ideas to the Press and Guide, and as soon as they are published I will place the link on this article so you and othera can read it Lee. I am also working on a more comprehensive plan for the city. As soon as it is complete and published, I will provide a link to it on here as well. The last I knew, the city was working with MDOT who controls Michigan Avenue, about slowing down Michigan Avenue and bringing back on street parking. I also agree with you that our downtown's need to be far more accessible to more than just automobiles. Drawing in people who walk, bike, skate will help bring in more business to our downtown's.
Michael D. Albano February 27, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Lee, lastly rather than using the term cutting costs, I would use the term controlling/containing costs and expenses. While there usually are areas and expenses that can be cut, cutting too far in vital employees, services and amenities usually does far more harm than good, as it affects the quality of life in a city. Using your suggestion about grants, there are grants available for pools and libraries, yet we haven't seen the city pursue grants to address the closing of 2 pools, keeping others open and helping reopen the Snow Library. Yet the city has pursued grants that they have to match for tennis courts at Ford Field and Ten Eyck parks, along with an inline hockey rink at Ten Eyck. Wayne County Commissioner and Chairman Gary Wornochak has told Save Our Pools more than once he could arrange up to approximately $250,000 for our pools, but he states city leadership has to ask, which they have not done. Why is it that the city passes up this type of opportunity?
Donna Hay February 27, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Mike, didn't the city try to work with MDOT a couple of years ago trying to slow down traffic by part of MI Ave to Garrison? I just can't see that happening I don't think MDOT will go along with this idea at all. Is it the city that is putting to many restrictions on new businesses making it almost impossible for them to even consider moving to Dearborn? I've heard that this is one of the biggest reasons for the vacant store fronts.
Dearborn Taxpayer February 28, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Hi Mike. I'd welcome some new thinking on City Council and less rubber stamping. I've owned my home in Dearborn for 10 years. My 2012 Dearborn city tax was the highest amount I've paid in those 10 years, yet the sevice level has degraded over those 10 years. I pay more, but get less from our city government. Hopefully, we can start reversing that dangerous trend! Did you support the latest city tax millage increases?
Michael D. Albano February 28, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Donna, yes a while back they city did try to work with MDOT to divert westbound Michigan Avenue traffic down Garrison. However, the neighborhood association opposed it, and the idea never went any further. I haven't heard about the city putting any restrictions on businesses in Dearborn, other than many, especially bigger box stores feel our building codes are far too stringent, and that our Building and Safety Department is very hard to work with. I've also read that many businesses in downtown west Dearborn feel our signage ordinances hinder their building and property signage, which they believe hurts their businesses.
Michael D. Albano February 28, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Dearborn Taxpayer, I agree about the rubber stamping, and that we need to find ways to reverse that dangerous trend, as we are losing businesses and residents in droves, and we're not gaining the quality and number of new residents and businesses we used to gain. Yes, back then I did support and vote for the 3.5 mill, 5 year sunset increase. However, we were told it would save services and amenities, and all we've seen since is millions being spent on a new city hall we were never informed we needed, with more to come, and services and amenities still being cut. Therefore, in my opinion, we were misled.
Dearborn Taxpayer February 28, 2013 at 07:29 PM
So will you make a commitment as a candidate for and potential Dearborn City Council member to vote NO on any budget that increases the city tax millage rate? We have not had one current city council person vote NO on any city tax millage increase that I am aware of. That's what it will take to earn my vote. Will you make a commitment to vote against any future city tax rate millage increase including a potential new "Pools" tax?
zibii989 February 28, 2013 at 08:48 PM
"Donna, yes a while back they city did try to work with MDOT to divert westbound Michigan Avenue traffic down Garrison. However, the neighborhood association opposed it, and the idea never went any further." Why should one neighborhood association be able to shoot down a plan that would have benefited the entire city and anyone else who used michigan avenue? As a council person, would you vote AGAINST the squeaky wheel neighborhood association to do what was best for all of the people instead of just the noisy ones, even if it meant that you would be targeted at the next election by the neighborhood associations?
Michael D. Albano March 01, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Dearborn Taxpayer, due to the Headlee Amendment, voters must approve any increase in the city tax millage rate. Council members have no say, nor vote on city tax millage increases Based upon my opinion that we were misled in voters approving a 3.5 millage increase recently, in that the city continues to attempt to cut services and amenities, as a citizen I would not vote for any tax millage increase. Most of my life, I've voted against any millage or tax increase, as I believe politicians have enough of our money and in most cases do not use the money wisely. However, if there was a proven severe emergency that would devastate Dearborn, then I would have to consider all options before coming to a decision.
Michael D. Albano March 01, 2013 at 12:52 PM
zibii989, in my opinion, when council and/or the mayor make decisions they should take into account the opinions of everyone that the issue impacts. Therefore, before I could answer your question, I'd need to see the entire picture, and have all the facts at hand. That would include the overall city business and resident opinions, the neighborhood association opinion that is the most severely impacted by the decision, as well as the businesses down Michigan Avenue. The more input I had from all the involved parties, the better informed I would be, which would help make that decision. Therefore, at this point, I could not give you a firm answer.
Dearborn Taxpayer March 02, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Michael - You are not correct that council members "have no say, nor vote on city tax millage increases." In fact, city council members vote each year on the budget and the city tax millage rate which is levied on taxpayers. The maximum rate is currently limited by the City Charter and the recent millage vote, but the actual city tax rate levied each year is set by City Council when it votes on the annual budget. So yes, City Council has control and votes each year on the city tax millage rate! It is this misunderstanding of the influence and approval of city taxes by the City Council that allows current members to skirt accountability and responsibility to taxpayers. I'm afraid that you have fallen into the same "we have no control or vote" over taxes trap that has led to the current situation where Dearborn taxpayers are now paying the highest city taxes in the history of our city but receiving dwindling service levels. We need to elect people who fully understand the budget process and will take responsibility and accountability for these decisions.
Kerry Elder March 02, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Michael it is for comments like the above, that you have no chance at the City Council office. Read the facts before you make stupid assumptions.
Pam March 02, 2013 at 03:26 PM
KE, I don't understand your comment. He just said he wanted to make decisions upon all the facts he could garner.
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Thanks Pam. However, I believe KE was referring to my answer asking if I would vote to raise the city millage rate. To clarify, prior to the residential votes over a year or so ago to raise our Headlee capped tax rate of 15 allowable mills, voters approved a 3.5 general fund millage on properties, bringing it to 18.5 mills. However this millage has a sunset clause of 5 years, meaning that after 5 years, the millage is lowered back to 15 mills. In a separate vote at the same time, voters approved an additional 1 mill increase for our city libraries, which is capped at 10 years. Therefore, after 5 years properties will be assessed at 15 mills, and the library millage will add another 1 mill for another 5 years. The Patch only allows so many words, so my explanation may take another few posts.
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:10 PM
And yes, the mayor and council made the vote/decision to put this to a vote of voters who approved both millage's with their sunset clauses. Since at the time these votes were decided and voted upon, I trusted most of our city leadership, had I been a council member, I would have voted to bring them to a vote of the people. However, since that time our leaders suddenly found $3.75 million in our general fund that we did not informed would be available, and used it for the new city hall we were not informed of that we needed. Thus, had that vote taken place today, I would not vote for it. In addition,
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Since that time I have lost a lot of faith in some of our city leadership, and was not happy that for whatever reason they did not disclose all the information we needed to make an informed vote on those millage increases. In addition, since I knew prior Dearborn's millage rate was capped at 15 percent, which required voters to approve raising it, which they did, my answer was based upon that. Therefore, Dearborn Taxpayer is correct stating that council can vote on increasing our millage rate should it ever fall below 15 mills However, the limit council has for approving millage increases is capped at 15 mills.
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Like I've stated earlier, all my life as a citizen, I have always voted against millage increases or any additional taxes or fees that politicians want to levy on us. The only exception I can honestly remember doing the opposite was these 2 city tax millage's, 1 for property and the other for libraries, which I truly believed we needed to save services, amenities and libraries. Today, I would vote against them and work at finding other funding to save them, such as grants and other ways to increase revenue, without placing an undue burden on taxpayers. However, hindsight is 20/20 and we all make mistakes.
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Lastly, it's difficult to forecast/predict where the city will be in the next 5 years, with the possibility of being a council member for the last 4 of them, although some may disagree. However, I truly believe that if we have since numerous other citizens not happy with the way Dearborn government has been operated have decided to run for council, should we gain a majority of votes on council, we can vote to save this city from unreasonable taxes, and explore other options to gain revenue, which I've mentioned in my most recent articles, and which are mentioned in some articles I've submitted that have not been published yet.
Pam March 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
We need a much better way of presenting expenses and revenue to the taxpayer. For instance, where can I find out exactly how much homecoming, the bloated entertainment complex and other non essential things are costing in expenses and personnel, and how much money they bring into the city's coffers? I think you could file FOIA request until the day you die and not find out this information. The lack of transparency contributes to the bad decisions taxpayers have made.
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
I also forgot to mention that when I was elected to a HOA board of directors, I promised that during my 1st four year term I would not vote to increase monthly assessments/dues, and that I would also not vote for any special assessments. Three other board members that worked well with me as a team, insisted on raising the monthly dues, and despite their insistence I vote with them, I voted against the dues increase. As a result, these 3 board members gave me a public scathing in a meeting, and resigned, blaming it all on me, telling me I was no longer a team player. My answer was that I didn't get on the board to serve the board. I got on the board to serve the homeowners, which I did. And when I gave my word to not vote for any assessment increases, I lived up to it.
Dearborn Taxpayer March 02, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Michael - I take you for your word to oppose additional tax millage requests. Please keep these facts in mind and remind other candidates of them during your campaign: 2003 total City tax millage rate (operating + debt) = 15.29 (per $1,000 of taxable value), 2012 total city tax millage rate = 26.86, an increase of 76%! My home's taxable value declined by 28% during that same time. As a result, I paid 26% more in total city taxes in 2012 than I did in 2003. But in my opinion, city service levels have steadily declined over those 10 years. Dearborn does not have a "revenue" problem as many would like us to believe. In addition, my water/sewer basic service charge and usage rates have doubled between 2003 and 2012, but I don't think my service is any different than it was 10 years ago! These trends must change or I will need to seriously consider moving my family out of Dearborn. Thank you for your willingness to listen and provide your perspective. Good luck with your campaign. We need fresh, new thinking on Dearborn City Council!
Michael D. Albano March 02, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Thanks Dearborn Taxpayer. I have saved your stats above for future reference. Also, I agree with everything you stated in that post. Pam, here is a link the city provided about Homecoming expenses and revenue that puts it in a simple format: http://www.dearbornfreepress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/2011_Homecoming_Report_to_the_Dearborn_Community.pdf Let me know if the link has problems opening, and I'll find another way to post it. This is another link that will answer a lot of your questions, hopefully without having to go through the FOIA process. There are also other links on the page that may help Pam. http://www.cityofdearborn.org/transparency I agree with you Pam on trying to read the city budget, as it is a long, detailed article, and most would have a hard time even beginning to comprehend it. If you need any additional information, contact me here Pam or on mdalbano@yahoo.com and I will look it up for you.
Pam March 03, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Thank you, Michael, I have seen the Homecoming report and bits and pieces of the other.
Tom B March 03, 2013 at 01:33 PM
I don't see the actual expenses from city employees who set up, maintain and tear down and clean up. What about police and fire who are on call? Is there overtime? This alone would account for tens of thousands?????I did not see any of that in the report. Or am I missing something? Thanks

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