Dearborn state of the city
By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The greening of the city, future flood mitigation, public health and economic development were highlighted in Mayor Abdullah Hammoud’s state of the city address Feb. 7 in the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center Lincoln Ballroom.
Hammoud said the city has experienced some great accomplishments while preparing for upcoming challenges.
“Twenty-two was a transformative year, not only for the city of Dearborn but for myself included,” he said. “I assumed office Jan. 1, at the same time that I became a new father. I was 30 days into fatherhood, and if you think being mayor is scary, I think fatherhood was even scarier.”
Hammoud said the city has much to celebrate.
“Homecoming is coming back to Ford Field – people are extremely excited to have that come back home,” he said. “We moved it because of the fear of the high-water levels of the Rouge River. We’ve done some work and those water levels have come down.”
Hammoud said that this spring they will clean up all 49 log jams along the Rouge in Dearborn, which will help prevent flooding at Ford Field and the Dearborn Hills Golf Course, which will be reopening this year.
“Flooding is the No. 1 issue for the city, make no mistake about it,” he said. “However, the work to mitigate flooding doesn’t happen overnight.”
Hammoud said the City Council approved a two-year study to evaluate the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, with the results due in 2024, and with the results mapping out what the city needs to do to ensure that flooding does not occur in residents’ basements in the future.
“We will be hosting town halls throughout the process to update the residents and to hear their concerns about what matters are important to them,” he said.
Hammoud said the study will also look at the greening of the city by determining the green infrastructure practices that can be implemented now, such as increasing the use of permeable surfaces, introducing bioswales — vegetated channels used to transport stormwater runoff — and using retention and detention basins and rain gardens to do what can be done now to increase the capacity in the city’s storm water system.
“We received $26 million in CDBG disaster relief from the federal government and we are in the process now of finalizing that plan,” he said. “That will assist in also trying to retain more water.”
Hammoud said block-long rain gardens are being looked at, and they are looking at removing up to six feet of sediment from some of the largest storm sewers, which will create more capacity to hold rain water.
“I know flooding is not the sexiest topic to talk about, but it’s the most important for our city, so I am excited to get the sediment out of these pipes,” he said.
Hammoud said the city has also had great success with its public health perspective.
“We believe in a philosophy called ‘health at all’ policy,” he said. “What that means is our public health department is not where you come to get your vaccine or come to get your medical checkup.
“Our public health department is one that ensures that every decision we make as a city is seen through a public health lens, a public health perspective, and so flooding is a public health issue, and when we talk about economic development and the zoning of our city, zoning is a public health tool.”
Hammoud said there is a reason the residents in the south side of the city have the highest asthma rates: It is the most industrialized part of the city. Therefore, the city has begun to purchase industrialized parcels of land in the city to begin the de-industrialization of certain parts of the city, to help improve the asthma rates and air quality in the region, knowing that mobile truck traffic is one of the biggest polluters in the city and is not regulated.
He said that when the Gordie Howe International Bridge opens, truck traffic will increase, and the city wants to do what it can to build a green barrier between residents and the main thoroughfares.
Hammoud said that the city’s first Narcan vending machine was placed last year at the John D. Dingell Transit Center on Michigan Avenue.
“What we did was we took a map of all the opioid overdoses, and what we found was they actually occurred in some of the hotels and motels along the Michigan Avenue strip and we found a central location in the Amtrak train station and we put a vending machine there for free Narcan, a lifesaving drug,” he said. “It doesn’t help prevent overdoses, but it ensures that no life is carelessly lost because of an overdose.”
He said more than 800 units of Narcan have been dispensed in just a few months, with a grant from the State Department paying for the Narcan and the vending machine donated by a local mosque.
“It has been a very robust intervention,” Hammoud said.
He said the Public Health Department also received a grant to test the city’s sewage to track flu levels, respiratory syncytial virus levels and COVID-19 levels to help determine if there are certain neighborhoods that are seeing increased spikes in illness.
“That tailors the interventions for you to coordinate public health responses, working with the Wayne County Public Health Department or the State Department of Health and Human Services,” Hammoud said.
In addition to the innovations coming from the Public Health Department, the mayor said the city is working on economic development as well.
“We put our bulldog hats on,” Hammoud said. “No longer is the city of Dearborn kind of standing on the sidelines and just kind of waiting for development to come to us. We are being proactive.”
He said that during the past two years Ford Land has sold many parcels of land — more than 150 acres — throughout the city.
Hammoud said many of the parcels have come into the hands of Dearborn residents who want to develop the land responsibly.
“We are working with them to ensure that we bring responsible development, development that everybody wants to see,” he said. “We know that we have a shortage of housing, and so we are looking at acres of housing coming to the city of Dearborn soon, and we are excited for that.”
Hammoud said that while the city is proud to be the home of the Ford Motor Co., it is also proud to be home to small business entrepreneurship.
“There is a proliferation of entrepreneurship across our city,” he said. “Drive down any one of our business districts, whether it is Michigan Avenue, east, west; Warren; Schaefer; the Dix-Vernor business district, entrepreneurs are everywhere you go.”
He said the entrepreneurship is also attributable to the city’s immigrant population.
“We are the first stop for many immigrants; we are the destination for many immigrants,” he said. “If you think about the Afghani refugees that were resettled in the state of Michigan, that were put up in some of the hotels and the surrounding areas of the city of Dearborn, most of them are being asked to be permanently settled in the city of Dearborn because Dearborn is known as the destination for immigrants because we are a welcoming place that has a beautifully diverse community, and it is one where you can come and you can grow.”
Hammoud said Dearborn is a place that bets on Dearborn, which ultimately leads to the city’s success.