At a luncheon meeting hosted by the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce under the title of “The Tale of Our Cities”
Hammoud and Bazzi give briefings on the achievements of their administrations over the past year: Addressing the flood dilemma is a top priority
DEARBORN — Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi recently briefed the audience at the annual “Tale of Our Cities” meeting held by the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce on the most important achievements of their administrations over the past year.
The meeting, which is held alternately between the two neighboring cities, took place at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn on February 7.
The nightmare of the spring floods dominated a large part of the speeches by Hammoud and Bazzi, who spoke extensively about future plans to protect the residents from the damage caused by the Ecorse Creek and the Rouge River floods, which annually cause huge losses to tens of thousands of residents.
“Last year, I didn’t have much to say, but this time we have some great achievements to report,” Hammoud, the first to speak as the host mayor, joked.
Last year he presented a short summary of the performance of his young administration, which was only five weeks old, since he officially assumed his mayoral duties on January 1, 2022.
Hammoud explained that the city, which is the home for about 108,000 residents, has witnessed a major transformation under his young administration, pointing out that the changes were not limited to local government affairs, but also affected his own personal life.
“I took over the position of mayor 30 days after I became a father,” he said. “And if you think being a mayor is scary, entering fatherhood is even scarier. I can mess up as mayor. You can’t really mess up as a father. There’s no take-backs.”
Hammoud stressed that Dearborn has a lot to celebrate this year, pointing out the return of the Homecoming Festival to the Ford Field Park in the west side of the city, after it was moved last year to avoid possible floods of the Rouge River.
“Last year, we had to move the festival to the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center due to the high water level in the Rouge River, but we have done some work that would reduce the risk of floods this year,” he said.
He pointed out that his administration has worked on identifying chokepoints in the river that impede the flow of water and cause blockage of the stream, which leads to overflowing torrents and floods, stressing that the river repair work included identifying 49 bottlenecks in the Dearborn area.
Hammoud indicated that this year will also witness the reopening of the Dearborn Hills Golf Course, which was closed during the last season due to floods. He stressed that dealing with floods in Dearborn is issue “number one” for him and for all residents of the city.
“Once the flood issue is addressed, not only will Ford Field Park be better, but Dearborn Hills Golf Course will be better as well,” he said. “We are very excited and optimistic about solving this problem that has been bothering residents for many years.”
However, Hammoud acknowledged that solutions to address this dilemma cannot be achieved overnight. He said his administration has assigned a committee to study and monitor the conditions of the river, but added that they won’t get the results of the study until next year.
“But that will not prevent us from continuing planning and starting some reforms to limit potential flood effects,” he said.
Dearborn is seeking to make great efforts to “green” the entire city by expanding grassy areas and increasing garden spaces to for the purpose of rain absorption, in addition to cleaning and opening channels to draw surplus water from rain and torrents.
Hammoud also stressed that his administration is carrying out all the plans and tasks entrusted to it, taking into account the issue of public health.
Hammoud, who established a public health department in Dearborn a few months after he assumed the office of mayor, explained that the reclassification of areas (zoning) falls within the “purpose of promoting public health”, referring to the city’s purchase of some industrial real estate in the Southend of the city in an effort to reduce the sources of toxic emissions in that area.
In this context, he noted that the Southend neighborhoods have many factories and industrial facilities that pollute the air and water, making it a major cause of asthma among residents.
“We have started buying industrial land as a prelude to de-industrializing the Southend in order to help reduce asthma rates among the population there,” he said.
Hammoud also touched briefly on other topics, including grant money for small businesses, the real estate market and business growth in the city.
Floods were also a top priority for Bazzi, who began his speech by emphasizing the severe damage caused by torrents and floods of the Ecorse Creek and Rouge River. He described last year’s floods as “devastating.”
Bazzi, who was elected in 2021, pointed out that about 2,000 homes were damaged as a result of the recent floods.
He said it was very frustrating to be on the ground during the flood season, “as I had to put on a U.S. Marine cap and go out to the affected areas and families.”
He hinted at some “happy” news regarding the solution to this intractable dilemma, without revealing any details, saying only that it is likely to be announced in March.
Bazzi said his administration is currently working to obtain a “massive” grant through Wayne County government that would help significantly in addressing flooding from the Ecorse River.
He said the city has flown a drone along the course of the river from Inkster Road to the Southfield Freeway, which enabled officials to identify all the obstacles that impede the flow of water.
“We will be ready to address these obstacles once we obtain the grants that we seek to secure from the county, state or the federal government,” he said.
He added that his ultimate goal is to make Dearborn Heights a city with “world-class standards”, noting that he has been working to achieve this goal since his appointment as mayor in late 2020 and his election in November 2021.
Bazzi explained that his team is keen to carry out the municipality’s work “internally” instead of contracting with parties outside the local government, referring to his appointment of a full-time legal counsel for the city for the first time, in addition to appointing a director for the Information Technology Department.
“All these things were done in the past on a contractual basis,” he said.
With a full-time legal counsel, Dearborn Heights has begun to review outdated ordinances and regulations that haven’t been updated since the adoption of the Dearborn Heights Charter, many of which are no longer consistent with city or state laws, according to Bazzi. His administration conducted a comprehensive survey regarding these ordinances last year and found out some of the missteps that will be avoided in the future.
With regard to ridding the city of pests and waste, Bazzi confirmed that the administration’s workers are going house to house to remove waste and weeds.
He also stressed that his administration is working very hard with all its power to make the city a business friendly one, after decades of ignoring its importance to the growth of the city. He said that promoting business is an important mission of his administration, stressing that prospective business owners were facing a lot of red tape and complications that hindered business growth for many years.
He said that in the past two years, 180 businesses opened in the city, which made many people feel happy.
Bazzi also mentioned the formation of a new business commission, which will meet for the first time in the next few weeks to discuss plans to develop and encourage commercial opportunities in the city, which is the home of more than 63,000 residents. He said his administration is looking forward to establishing a Downtown Development Authority, a body most cities in the region have had for years.
Bazzi also spoke briefly about the development of the Van Born Corridor, a program in cooperation with the city of Taylor that will focus on fixing up the area where the two cities border on each side of that road.