YAN – Hamtramck
With the Poletown plant closure on the horizon and other challenges ahead, Hamtramck is set to face headwinds. Kathy Angerer, who was appointed city manager for the city of Hamtramck on September 7th, sees the situation in Hamtramck as being a “glass half full” scenario.
Angerer said that public safety is one of the top reasons people choose where to live and raise their kids, and that the public can help address public safety issues in Hamtramck.
“I look at things positively. The things we’re doing: training our police officers, educating our community, working with our community, are important,” said Angerer. “I would like to see the crime rate level off. What we need are residents to open their eyes and report things and call the police, so we can come and help.”
Angerer also claimed that most of the crime was coming from residents, but from outsiders who come into the city of Hamtramck.
“It’s outsiders that come in and pray on people, and sometimes we contribute to that by doing things like leaving our things out, not locking our doors or locking our car, and those things will perpetuate crime,” said Angerer. “If something is happening that’s suspicious, call the police and tell us that something us going on.”
A recent lead survey with homes in Hamtramck came back with some homes testing positive for lead. Angerer said that the situation is very different from Flint, and residents shouldn’t be alarmed.
“Our water problem is different than in Flint. They changed their source of water and didn’t treat the pipes, and that’s what caused the issues. Here in Hamtramck, our service lines, which the water goes through, we tested them and they’re fine. On individual homes, within the piping, we did tests and found 5 homes where lead was tested at unsafe levels,” said Angerer.
Angerer says that she intends to do more lead testing in homes in the near future, and that when the city detects lead in a pipe, they immediately help by providing water filters and assistance in replacing the pipes.
Diversity & Inclusion
Angerer says that diversity is one of Hamtramck’s biggest strengths. She said that people who voice concerns about “Sharia Law” or who complain about a “Muslim majority” city council aren’t looking at the facts.
“I’m proud to lead a city that has a council that people refer to as “Muslim majority.” It mirrors the make up of the community and unfortunately there’s always a vocal minority that will complain about things like that,” said Angerer. “What I’ve seen is our city council take strong action to improve our parks, to improve our safety, to make sure that our children are safe when they are pedestrians, or when our young drivers are in place. They’ve done good things for our community, and nothing about being a “Muslim majority” is a negative, in my mind.”
Financial Troubles & Poletown Redevelopment
Recent reports showed that, while the city is currently in good financial shape, in five years the city may go bankrupt. Angerer acknowledged that the situation has been made difficult by the closing of the ‘Poletown’ General Motors plant, which generates more than $800,000 in revenue for the city each year.
“We have to look at the whole general fund. What can we do differently?” said Angerer. “We don’t have a lot of room to cut – we don’t have any meat, we’re down to the bone. At this point we need to look at the services we deliver, and what the residents want.”
Angerer said she is optimistic overall, and it’s in part because the city has unique traits that can attract new small businesses and investment that other cities don’t have. In particular, she talked about the thriving small business culture and the diversity that makes Hamtramck so special.
“Our diversity is the reason people come here. When people come here, it’s the world in 2 square miles,” said Angerer. “When you walk the streets and smell food from all over the world, or you talk to someone and they’re from Yemen or Bangladesh or the Ukraine, where else do you get that in the state of Michigan, this kind of diversity?”
Angerer also said that small businesses, not big box stores, would lead the way in Hamtramck’s restoration.
“You know, the big box stores have everything you need, but you can’t tell me you can’t walk down the street in Hamtramck and shop here,” said Angerer. “The food here is good. The restaurants here are good. I don’t think people here are going to miss a big box store…The malls are drying up. People are going back to small business.”