Archive for January, 2010

Federal Grants to Fund New Dearborn Train Station

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

A rendering of the new Dearborn train station with walkway over the tracks to The Henry Ford. The eastbound lanes of Michigan Avenue can be seen in the upper left.

Dearborn is set to get an all-new train station adjacent to The Henry Ford as part of a series of grants announced by President Barack Obama. The new station could be a much-needed shot in the arm for downtown West Dearborn.

Michigan is set to receive $40 million to build the new passenger train station in Dearborn and renovate stations in Troy and Battle Creek.

The $40 million for Michigan is part of a larger $244 million award to the Michigan, Indiana and Illinois state transportation departments to fund a high-speed rail initiative that would link Pontiac and Chicago.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the money for Michigan is a fraction of the $800 million the state Department of Transportation had requested to shore up Michigan’s segments of the Pontiac to Chicago rail network, dotted with old, cramped train stations and rails that need improvements.

The $8 billion for high speed rail projects is part of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money approved last year.

A ground level rendering shows what Dearborn's new train station may look like.

It isn’t clear whether the $8 billion is enough to create a truly high speed rail system expansive enough to make a difference in commuter travel among car-conscious Americans but the money earmarked for Dearborn most certainly will be a positive improvement for our city.

Combine the new rail station with a plan to bring student housing to downtown Dearborn, new movie theatre and restaurants and west Dearborn could begin to feel more vibrant.  The stimulus money sure is a nice way for Dearborn to start the year 2010.

Dearborn Taps Into Nixle.com to Distribute Info

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The city of Dearborn says it is tapping into a new online community information provider to increase the speed and effectiveness of its communication with residents.

The city has created a new online account with the Internet provider called Nixle.  Through Nixle, the city says Dearborn residents will be able to receive important and timely information about Dearborn through e-mail, online or in a text message.

Nixle allows  users to choose what type of information they would like to receive and how they would like it to be received.

Users can sign-up to have alerts from the Dearborn Police Department sent directly to their phone via SMS, while having city government posts only sent to e-mail. And all Dearborn Nixle posts will be visible on the Nixle website.

The service is free for Dearborn residents. Anyone can go to www.nixle.com and type Dearborn, Michigan into the search to see the latest post, but an account must be set up with Nixle in order to receive messages.

“The City of Dearborn and its police department are pleased to provide this service to its residents as it offers a reliable and secure way for us to quickly get important information out to our residents,” said Police Chief Ronald Haddad in a city issued press release.

Fate of Resident’s Hens Rests With Dearborn Council

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Dearborn’s city ordinance allows residents to keep cows, horses, pigs, goats, pigeons, fowl or other harmless domestic pets so long as the homeowner first obtains a permit from the city health officer.

At least that’s what is written into Part II, Section 4-1 in the city’s ordinance books. In reality, the process isn’t as black and white as Dearborn’s code of ordinances would seem to suggest.

Dearborn City Council must now decide whether or not to issue a permit for these hens.

Dearborn resident Syeda Akbari has been waiting since May 2009 for city leaders to make a decision on whether she can get back her 10 pet hens that she kept in her garage so she and her children could enjoy fresh eggs each morning. The city asked her to remove her hens from her garage last summer, apparently after a neighbor complained, one city official earlier told us. 

Since then, she, well, has gotten nothing but the runaround. The city’s health officer has pushed her permit request to the city’s legal department and the city’s legal department has pushed the request to city council, drafting a paper telling our group of elected officials they would need to construct a new ordinance. But the council, at the direction of President Tom Tafelski, has decided to sit on the legal department’s paper, apparently hoping the chicken permit request would just go away. And that is where her request currently sits.

“I am feeling a bit frustrated,” said Akbari, whose hens are with a friend who lives nearly two hours away. “Why are they making this so complicated? I really love gardening and fresh vegetables and being able to have fresh eggs would be wonderful.”

Akbari is not alone in her love of fresh eggs from backyard pet poultry. Hens are popping up in the yards of urban homes in Michigan cities and across our country. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti allow them. Lansing recently approved the same, allowing up to five hens in the city, and even Royal Oak permits residents to have backyard poultry. 

Having hens has become the ultimate symbol in being “green” these days. Hens produce eggs, take care of kitchen leftovers and add manure to compost piles. Poultry also are great at controlling cockroaches, grubs, tomato horn worms or just about any other pest you don’t want in your yard or garden, according to poultry experts. There also is a website dedicated to urban chicken owners, aptly named www.urbanchickens.org

An article last fall in the Washington Post said this about urban residents and fowl: “raising backyard poultry has suddenly become as chic as growing your own vegetables. It’s all part of the back-to-the-land movement whose proponents want to save on grocery bills, take control of their food supply and reduce the carbon footprint of industrial agriculture.”

Dave Belanger, publisher of the magazine Backyard Poultry, says that chickens have become America’s cool new pet. When he launched his magazine more than three years ago, he told The Washington Post that he thought subscriptions would be between 15,000 to 20,000. The print run for his bimonthly is now more than 100,000.

The New Yorker magazine in its September 28, 2009 edition did a feature story about America’s renewed love affair with poultry using this headline:The It Bird.”

“Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, gastronomic, and emotional matters of the moment,” Susan Orlean wrote in The New Yorker. “In the past few years they have undergone an image rehabilitation so astounding that it should be studied by marketing consultants.”

Poultry, minus roosters, are hardy birds (quieter than some neighborhood backyard dogs at 5 a.m.) and can be kept year-round in a chicken coop, which is what Akbari says she did. In fact, her hens became a positive family project, with her husband building a coop for them last summer in their garage and her children feeding and gathering fresh eggs from her backyard birds.

“They are crazy about the hens, my boys,” said Akbari, who is willing to reduce the number of hens she had to just five if necessary. “It is a complete positive project. It can be positive for any family. It is the same hobby as someone gardening. My boys love it.”

Well, elected city council members, what’s it going to be? Does our city ordinance allow hens or not?

Dearborn School Supt. Says ‘Task Ahead Not Easy’

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Dearborn Schools Supt. Brian Whiston took to the local papers this weekend, the latest school official submitting a column on the difficult changes the Dearborn School district is facing because of massive cuts in state funding.

Supt. Brian Whiston

His column comes weeks after a “he said, she said” column appeared in the paper from Aimee Blackburn, president of the Dearborn Board of Education and Chris Sipperley, president of the Dearborn Federation of Teachers, Local 681. The column writing has been criticized by some in our city but no one can deny it is an effective way to present the issues facing our district and reach people who may not otherwise attend or watch school board meetings.

Whiston raises some valid points in his column, namely that the school district cannot go back and start over.

“We can’t pretend the $12 million in cuts from Lansing didn’t happen,” Whiston writes in his column that appears in the Sunday issue of the Dearborn Press & Guide. “We are faced with a new beginning that looks different than the beginning we had in September. Our new beginning, although not ideal or the one that we want, can have a successful ending, an ending that is even more meaningful than the one that we planned when the school year started.”

While Whiston spends too much time in his column quoting others to make his points (Woodrow Wilson, Maria Robinson, John Maxwell), he does at least admit the obvious: what lies ahead is going to be extremely difficult for our school district.

“. . . Not only are schools facing the possible loss of a teacher, parapro, or other vital staff member, but they are facing the difficult task of changing the way we meet the educational needs of children or how we deliver instruction. The task ahead will not be easy but it is vitally important to the success of the students in our classrooms. . .”

Indeed. And everyone working in the Dearborn School District will need to come together to successfully navigate the rough waters our schools and students will soon face.

Comerica Bank to Close One Dearborn Branch

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

If you haven’t already heard, Comerica Bank announced it is cutting 300 jobs or about 3 percent of its workforce and closing six branch offices, including one in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.

The branch closings will affect about 78 workers. The Dearborn branch being closed is located on Pelham and Outer Drive, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. About 80 percent of those workers will be transferred to other branches and those that do not find jobs will be given severance packages.

The other bank branches being closed are located at Nine Mile and Schoenherr roads in Warren; Cherry Hill and Inkster roads in Dearborn Heights; Livernois and Clarita in Detroit; and branches in Carleton and Lapeer. The closings are caused in part by the growing number of customers doing online banking, a spokeswoman for Comerica tells Crain’s.

We can all be relieved that the most beautiful Comerica Bank branch in Dearborn, located at Mason and Michigan, remains here as an anchor of the west Dearborn downtown. That branch has had a few names on the building.  At one point in the early 1900s it was the P.D. Lapham Bank. The bank was then sold to Henry Ford, who renamed it the Dearborn State Bank, which later became Manufacturers Bank and then finally Comerica Bank.

As for the job cuts, it isn’t clear how many of the 300 job eliminations will be from Michigan.

Wine Maker Dinner Tonight at Bistro 222 in Dearborn

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Dearborn’s award-winning restaurant, Bistro 222, is sponsoring a Wine Maker Dinner tonight that includes a special five course dinner from Chef Michael Chamas.

Chamas will be joined by Napa Wine Maker Joel Gott for an evening of wine and the special five course dinner. Joel will feature a number of his own select wines and discuss the art of wine making.

Cost is $60 per person

For more details and to make a reservation call 313-792-7500 or visit Bistro 222’s new website by clicking here.

Dearborn Rotary Donates Phone Cards to Soldiers

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The Rotary Club of Dearborn is doing its part to help American soldiers in hospitals overseas and in the United States call their loved ones through the donation of more than $8,500 in phone cards.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Rotary Club of Dearborn has raised money to purchase and distribute free phone cards. And despite these tough economic times, the Rotary Club says it has quadrupled the amount of money raised to purchase phone cards since the project began.

“We start asking for donations on Veteran’s Day so that we can deliver them in time for the holidays,” said Dearborn Rotarian Ray Trudeau, who has spearheaded the Club’s fundraising efforts for this project. “This year, we raised more than $8,500 which gave us enough money to purchase more than 400, 700-minute phone cards.”

In addition to the generosity of Dearborn Rotarians, Trudeau also acknowledged donations received from other local Rotary Clubs as well as friends in the community.

Trudeau says 150 phone cards were shipped to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany while another 150 were sent to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. and the remainder to local Veterans’ hospitals.

In response to the latest delivery of phone cards, Trudeau said he received a warm letter of appreciation from the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The center strives to provide a free phone card to each of the 700 patients who are evacuated from the different military theaters of operation every month.

“This gives us a better idea of how great the need really is,” Trudeau said.

American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Dearborn Kickoff Celebration

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life® of Dearborn will officially kick off on Feb. 3 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave.

 Community members are invited to attend the Kickoff Celebration in Studio A at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center to launch Dearborn’s 2010 Relay season and the organization’s theme of  “celebrating a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

 The Kickoff will feature speakers from our community and will honor cancer survivors and caregivers. Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr., will be the opening speaker.

 Registration and dinner, donated by Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, will begin at 6 p.m. Event chair, Denise Abdullah, and committee member Morris Goodman, both cancer survivors, will host the festivities.

 Those interested in registering their team for the overnight Relay For Life event on May 1-2 (10 a.m. – 10 a.m.) at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center will have the opportunity to do that as well as learn additional ways to be involved in the Relay For Life of Dearborn and the American Cancer Society.

 To RSVP for the Relay For Life of Dearborn Kickoff Celebration, or for more information on how you can get involved in the Relay, contact Deena Gardner at 248.663.3427 or Deena.Gardner@cancer.org  You can also find information, start or join a team, or make a donation to the Relay For Life of Dearborn by visiting www.relayforlife.org/dearbornmi.

Dearborn ‘Relay For Life’ Kickoff Celebration Feb. 3

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life® of Dearborn will officially kick off on Feb. 3 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave.

Dearborn Relay for Life 2009.

Community members are invited to attend the Kickoff Celebration in Studio A at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center to launch Dearborn’s 2010 Relay season and the organization’s theme of  “celebrating a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

The Kickoff will feature speakers from our community and will honor cancer survivors and caregivers. Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr., will be the opening speaker.

Registration and dinner, donated by Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, will begin at 6 p.m. Event chair, Denise Abdullah, and committee member Morris Goodman, both cancer survivors, will host the festivities.

Those interested in registering their team for the overnight Relay For Life event on May 1-2 (10 a.m. – 10 a.m.) at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center will have the opportunity to do that as well as learn additional ways to be involved in the Relay For Life of Dearborn and the American Cancer Society.

To RSVP for the Relay For Life of Dearborn Kickoff Celebration, or for more information on how you can get involved in the Relay, contact Deena Gardner at 248.663.3427 or Deena.Gardner@cancer.org  You can also find information, start or join a team, or make a donation to the Relay For Life of Dearborn by visiting www.relayforlife.org/dearbornmi.

End of Ride for Dearborn’s Adventure Bicycle

Friday, January 15th, 2010

So another Dearborn store is closing.

Adventure Bicycle, 3806 Monroe in Dearborn.

Sadly, it is a story that seems to be playing out all too frequently these days. With every step towards a recovery we seem to make when a new business opens, it feels like two steps back when one closes.

That’s certainly how it feels with Clayton Hatchard having to close his Adventure Bicycle store on Monroe. The bicycle shop was a dream come true for Hatchard, who would have celebrated his third year in business this spring. Instead, he is holding a 50 percent-off sale on every item in his store, preparing to permanently close at month’s end.

“I take most of the blame for my store’s downfall,” said Hatchard, a 12-year bicycle sales veteran. “I really should have closed up last fall when my ‘kind hearted bank’ overnight turned my line of credit into a loan. But like a stubborn mule, I refused to give up and the past six months have been brutal.”

Adventure Bicycle owner Chad Hatchard remains upbeat about Dearborn's future.

Despite his rough ride, Hatchard remains refreshingly optimistic about Dearborn and his own future.

“I would open a business again if the circumstances were right,” he said. “And I would do it in Dearborn if the timing was right. I love Dearborn and I would never leave. I take at least fifty percent of the blame and the other fifty percent is completely out of my control.”

That’s not to say Hatchard hasn’t had his share of sleepless nights in the past year. There have been many, he says, but he was able to get through this tough period in his life because of the support of his wife and their 6-year-old son.

What you won’t hear from Hatchard is blame that his store closing was the result of paid parking in Dearborn. His customers parked for free directly outside his store. But that convenience couldn’t save his business. Interestingly, the same was true for Bikesport, a bicycle shop on Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown west Dearborn that had free parking yet it, too, closed in November.

You also won’t hear Hatchard blame our city leaders, the location of his business or his landlord for the failure of his bike store (the building owners actually lowered his rent, he says, in his second year to try and help him). Instead,

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