By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Christopher Dardzinski may be the newest member of the Lincoln Park City Council, but he already has a seven-year plan to rebrand and revitalize the city.
For detailed information about Dardzinski’s plans, go to lpccchris.webs.com and rebuildlp.webs.com. To reach him, call 734-775-2267 or send an email to [email protected].
Dardzinski, 47, who began serving April 6, replaces Deborah Henderson, who resigned after announcing she was moving out of state.
He lost by three votes in the last city council election.
“It was harsh, considering how much time I put into running, how much effort I put into my revitalization plan,” Dardzinski said. “I had so many ideas I had to put a website together.
“Outside of the guys at DPS and maybe (Councilman) Mario Disanto, literally nobody elected right now or ever knows this city the way I do because I have literally not just driven every street, I have walked every street. I am telling you, when you walk every street, you really, really learn a city.”
Dardzinski, who grew up in Wyandotte, is a 15-year resident of Lincoln Park. He has 26 years of experience as an international trade analyst, and has done economic and political consulting. He said he also studied architecture and engineering, and he did landscaping, concrete and construction work when he was younger, which he said helps him understand the problems of Lincoln Park’s infrastructure.
“Believe me, I know how bad our infrastructure is,” he said. “All the main roads that are state and county roads are in pretty OK shape. The streets in the neighborhoods are patch upon patch upon patch.”
He said the sewage system needs work, and fire department personnel told him the hydrants are in terrible shape.
“That infrastructure needs to be done,” Dardzinski said. “That is a $125 million problem, so we need a lot of revenue.”
He said home rentals are at 20 to 25 percent of the housing stock, and he would like to see home ownership go up so that the income base from residents will increase.
He would also like to bring in 300 new businesses to shore up the business district, but even that would only provide part of the increased revenue base the city needs.
He said Lincoln Park does not have much industry, and needs a stable retail and residential property tax base.
He said the three main parts of his revitalization plan focus on finding more revenue for police, roads and infrastructure.
“We need a full grant writing program,” he said. “We need a full internship volunteer program.”
Dardzinski said he addressed the political mindset and culture change needed at his first city council meeting.
“We are Lincoln Park,” he said. “We are destination Lincoln Park. Crime is going to happen everywhere, and obviously, crime is more concentrated in working class cities. Lincoln Park has become a poorer city, but how you change that dynamic is simple. First you become a leader and you start changing it.”
He said he would like to see two more police platoons, which is 10 more officers. He also wants to help ensure proper materials usage for neighborhood road repairs, so they will not buckle.
He said leadership and volunteer involvement is a key component to the city’s revitalization.
“It is so basic to understanding how you move forward,” he said. “If you are going to bring in the proper revenue, then you need a lot of people to just get involved.”
He said he would like to see public administration and urban planning college students volunteer to fulfill part of their curriculum service requirements.
“My seven-year plan is not just a bunch of ideas tossed out there,” Dardzinski said. “I actually break it down into years, (and) main action steps. Each action step is broken down into goals, what we want to accomplish, the timeframe I have set out for it, and the amount of people we need to accomplish it, and this is the city resources.”
He said grant writing is a good example, and once a volunteer intern program is established, he does not want it to end with any elected city administration change.
He said he would also like the Economic Development Corporation and Downtown Development Authority to get involved with the internship and grant writing initiative, and would like residents with business administrative and grant writing skills to get involved by volunteering.
A solid branding concept for Lincoln Park is a key component, he said, as is the city’s physical location, being 18 minutes from the Canadian border and having three on-ramps to I-75. He said having the downtown on Fort Street, a high-traffic road, is another resource.
Dardzinski said he has attended council meetings for eight years, and he already knows the council members. He said he has emailed his ideas to them in the past, and has attempted to build bridges with them during citizen participation sessions.
“My ideas have been out there,” he said. “I have no grenades to throw. My revitalization plan is out there.”
He said he puts in as many hours as he can, and he has already reached out to the business community.
A line-by-line city ordinance review, performed by a resident review board, is on his priority list. He said he has identified 46 ordinances and city charter provisions that he believes need language changes.
“This is not Councilman Dardzinski’s Traveling Salvation Show when it comes to my revitalization plan,” he said. “I made sure I kept the framework very basic so it could be added on to as much as possible.
“We need a special study session before a regular meeting. This is my very first proposal. We need to talk about revitalization and a branding process for the city.”
He would like to make the proposal at the May 4 meeting, with a May 11 council study session.
“It is a lot of work, and people have lives,” Dardzinski said. “I guess at the end of the day, it really is our responsibility to do this, and to be that forceful, dynamic change.
“Whatever revitalization we put together over the next 18 to 19 months, is really a down payment on 25 years. You never stop revitalizing.”