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Highland Park’s

Community Report to

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm







Prepared for:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm

and the Highland Park Community



Submitted by:

Governor’s Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee

February 18, 2004













Table of Contents




              I.      Introduction............................................................................................................................. 1


           II.      City Of Highland Park – Background....................................................................................... 2


         III.      Summary of Challenges & Solutions......................................................................................... 6


        IV.      Breakout Sessions .................................................................................................................. 8


1     Business, Jobs and Training.................................................................................................. 8

2     Education............................................................................................................................ 11

3     Housing and Neighborhoods................................................................................................ 15

4     Public Safety....................................................................................................................... 19

5     Seniors................................................................................................................................ 22

6     Water ................................................................................................................................. 25


        IX.      Attachments


1.      Highland Park, MI -- Renewal Built on Its Heritage............................................................ 27

2.      Participants in the Highland Park Community Process......................................................... 28

3.      Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee and Planning Sub-Committees..................... 29

4.      Demographics For The City of Highland Park.................................................................... 32

5.      Changes in Tax Revenue, Population and Employment........................................................ 33

6.      Day of Dialogue Narrative................................................................................................. 34

7.      Supplemental Business Survey........................................................................................... 35

8.      Acknowledgements........................................................................................................... 37






Highland Park is a small city of 17,000 residents with a rich history of unparalleled economic success early in the century, followed by unprecedented economic downfall toward the end of the 20th Century.  The city, whose claim as the ‘birthplace of mass production’ was once considered a model community boasting the best schools, an excellent housing stock, and retail that drew people from throughout the Detroit area.  However, the exodus of the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, and countless other manufacturing establishments has disintegrated the tax base and burdened the City with an aging and oversized infrastructure. 


Highland Park’s manufacturing downturn has been accompanied with a 68% decline in population since 1930.  The residents of Highland Park today are conscious of what this community once was, and have the vision to restore its reputation as a model city.  Throughout its volatile history, Highland Park has always maintained a strong sense of community and continues to boast a hard-working and dedicated collection of residents and other stakeholders committed to seeing this historic community through a revitalization.  It is this spirit of progress that led to the convening of the Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee and this Community Report to Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. 


During the Summer and Autumn of 2003 a number of residents and business owners were communicating with members of The Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan about various issues affecting Highland Park.  As a result of this community interest, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm asked her Southeast Michigan Office to work directly with the community in Highland Park, and a subsequent meeting of community stakeholders was convened on August 20, 2003.  The purpose was to discuss challenges facing the community and to begin formulating a plan to facilitate an active and participatory community-driven process.  Out of this meeting came the Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee.  This Committee met regularly throughout the Autumn and Winter to develop this process and organize a “Day of Dialogue” event which has held on December 13th.


This Highland Park Community Report to Governor Jennifer M. Granholm is the culmination of this entire process.  It includes a description of the Steering Committee and the community challenges and solutions prioritized at the widely attended Day of Dialogue.  A number of attachments are also included to further describe our community’s rich history, demographic conditions, and the results of a business survey. 


It is the aspiration of the Highland Park community to present this report to the Governor so that she and her staff may assist this exceptional community in working towards fiscal stability and the solutions outlined in this report. 




City of Highland Park



Highland Park is a city rich with heritage as the birthplace of mass production and the former headquarters of two of the big three automakers – Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Corporation.   Like many communities across America, Highland Park is discovering new possibilities as it reinvents itself in the post-industrial age.  Almost $300 million in new commercial, industrial and residential development has been invested in the city in the last decade, positioning Highland Park as a vibrant community for the future.


There are over 300 businesses in Highland Park, which benefit from the city’s central location to metro Detroit.  Highland Park boasts immediate access to three major expressways – the Chrysler (I-75), Lodge (M-10) and Davison (M-8) – as well as Woodward Avenue, Michigan’s main street and National Scenic Byway, which runs through the city.


New commercial possibilities along Woodward allow businesses to join 30 other national and regional retailers successfully operating in thriving Highland Park Place and the Model T Plaza, national models of urban redevelopment.


The citizens continue to show their involvement and commitment to restoring and revitalizing Highland Park as well as honoring its historic heritage as individuals and members of community groups.


Despite the many positive aspects of Highland Park, years of disinvestment and a steady decline in population have led to the city’s current financial crisis.  Services to residents and businesses have been reduced to the bare minimum as the state appointed Emergency Financial Manager struggles to keep the city solvent.


Governmental Context in Which Day of Dialogue Occurred


The City of Highland Park has been under the control of the State of Michigan, through the appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager, since July 2001.  Before that, it had been under the review of a State appointed monitor for ten years.  During the monitoring period, the financial situation continued to decline and debt increase although the debt was unauthorized by Treasury as required by various state laws and regulations. This included debt through unauthorized loans and increased liabilities through expending or committing more funds than were available from revenues as well as by not paying many obligations.  These unpaid liabilities included required sums owed to the Internal Revenue Service, to the each of three defined benefit pension funds, to vendors, to required reserve funds and to employees. 


The situation was made worse by the almost complete failure to do required maintenance on either public facilities or infrastructure.  Questionable use of restricted funds resulting in losses, suspensions and penalties of Act 51 funds for road maintenance and repair.


During the time the monitor was in place, the State issued over $3,000,000 dollars in fiscal stabilization bonds to the City in an effort to have Highland Park pay its debts, reestablish fiscal solvency and avoid the necessity of a state appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager.  Those bonds were given to the City in October of 2000.  By late June 2001, when the situation continued to deteriorate and required that an Emergency Financial Manager be put in control of the City, all those funds had been spent; the debts were increasing, and the budget was severely out of balance.


Compounding the situation was the fact that there were more than 40 lawsuits in process against the City.  The City had failed to respond in some cases—resulting in more than $5,000,000 in judgments against the city—and was in court on many others


Spending outside budget limits and failure to amend budgets to reflect realistic revenues resulted in an excessive number of judgments being placed on the tax rolls, some of which went unchallenged  Most recently, in addition to charter and special millages, the City tax rate included about 15 mills of judgment levies.  These taxes were continuing to increase until the Emergency Financial Manager and her team took strong action to remedy real problems and halt payments for which the citizens and city should not be liable.


Pension liabilities are a major concern.  The unfunded pensions, if no other actions were taken, would require a pay as you go funding of the prior vested pension obligations and would absorb approximately 65% of the total General Fund revenue or require judgment levies of 40 mills annually for payment on a pay-as-you-go basis to handle unfunded pension payrolls and funding obligations under previously approved benefits.  The total of unfunded pension liabilities for which there had not been legally required actuarial reports since 1999 are now estimated at more than $30,000,000.  Actions have now been taken to begin to address this and to avert either default on pensions or ruinous payment plans, which would further cripple current city services.


During the first year under the Emergency Financial Manager, painful steps were taken to stem the financial hemorrhage.  City services were slashed, payless paydays occurred and numerous previously unidentified debts, liabilities and other financial problems were uncovered. The Emergency Financial Manager and her team were able to stabilize the situation sufficiently to restore basic services at a reduced level.  During this time, both the structural deficits and the ongoing financial requirements were assessed.  The depth and breadth of financial mismanagement including failure to make required payments, misuse of funds, undocumented expenditures and missing records is so pervasive that all the detail would require a book length report to enumerate; but a few examples illustrate the depth and pervasiveness of the problems:


·        The financial records were declared unauditable by Plante & Moran and major liabilities and prior period adjustments to the 2000 audit were required

·        Many critical records were missing, incomplete, and/or inaccurate

·        Money had been withheld from employees’ pay but not remitted to the Internal Revenue Service, the State, nor to the employees’ pension plan or 401(a) plan

·        Employees were not able to get any reports or records of their 401(a) pension accounts

·        Income Tax refunds were not made for 2000 or 2001 and liabilities for them had not even been fully recorded in the financial records

·        Unauthorized loans were taken by the Administration from the pension plans

·        Grant funds were not accounted for

·        Payments to individuals were recorded but not actually paid

·        Payments to individuals were made which cannot be reconciled with proper records or legal authority for the payments

·        City operations were, by labor agreement, on a 4 day work week, with

      an average 61 paid days off for employees.  Officials on that 4 day

      schedule were also paid for four hours more per week than worked.


Therefore, the challenge became how to put into place a viable plan which will:

·        restore fiscal stability,

·        gradually reduce the overwhelming tax burden on the remaining taxpayers, both individuals and business, who are committed to Highland Park and are paying their taxes and bills; and

·        prevent a recurrence of the local environment that resulted in the current crisis.


The Emergency Financial Manager and Interim City Administrator worked non-stop to develop and present a Comprehensive Recovery Plan to the Engler administration in October 2002; but the plan was not addressed.


The election of Governor Jennifer Granholm became an opportunity for renewed attention to the plight of Highland Park.  The Granholm administration has devoted considerable attention to the status of and possible options for a situation as severe as that in Highland Park.  Even during the transition period following the election, transition team officials were familiarizing themselves with the specific issues in Highland Park.  One fact identified in the Recovery Plan has become apparent to all as this process has unfolded—prior existing State law never contemplated a community reaching such a severe deficit status before the state interceded.  Several legislative changes have already been sponsored by the Governor and by local legislators to provide a mechanism to begin to address some of these problems.


Since State of Michigan resources are also severely constrained, significant financial assistance from the state has been unavailable.  State Revenue Sharing changes enacted in the 1990s, coupled with a severe downturn in state revenue, has resulted in a reduction of nearly $1,000,000 in annual revenue to the city from Revenue Sharing between 2000 and today.  This same downturn, coupled with the failure of the City to make income tax refunds for 2000 or 2001, resulted in a reduction of city income tax collections as well.


The Emergency Financial Manager, Interim City Administrator, and team have been successful in making a number of the essential changes needed to achieve fiscal stability and provide basic services.  While the full list is too long for this report, some of the major accomplishments include:

  • Negotiation of revised settlements for previous judgments, saving more than $3,000,000
  • Worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation to get street funding for maintenance, plowing and paving restored—bringing back more than $1,100,000 a year which had been stopped due to prior administration fiscal improprieties and violations
  • Negotiation of reduced service costs for essential professional services, saving $200,000 annually
  • Negotiation of an agreement with Wayne County and the Wayne County Sheriff to provide supplemental policing services for the community to assure viable policing and public safety services within a workable budget
  • Refinancing of debt and liabilities at lower interest rates and for reduced amounts, saving more than $1,000,000
  • Won or settled at reduced liability more than two dozen lawsuits
  • Restoration of 5 day work week at City Hall, elimination of pay for no work and reduction of paid time off through negotiation with labor representatives of two employee groups 
  • Implementation of the same work and compensation changes for exempt personnel
  • Consolidation of city services and facilities into one location, reducing operating costs and improving service convenience for the public
  • Prevention of pension defaults and resolution of a threatened expulsion of the City from the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) because of the failure of the city to remit Constitutionally required city contributions or employees’ own payments
  • Designed and negotiated an insured bond offering which was proposed in the Recovery Plan to partially fund the MERS and ERS pension plans in an affordable and sustainable manner


These accomplishments have moved the City toward fiscal and operational stabilization. With the assistance of the Emergency Loan Board, the Governor’s Southeast Michigan Office staff, the Department of Treasury, local officials, local legislative representatives, employee groups and numerous citizens, businesses and groups in the community and the region, much progress has been made.  A number of major issues remain and must be addressed to restore the City to local control. 


Legal limitations on what can be done by the state have also been examined with a focus on proposing such changes as are needed to allow implementation of recovery steps, which required state approval or even legislative changes. As part of the on-going effort to assess all these factors, positive and negative, which are affecting Highland Park and to determine the most feasible way to provide assistance to a resolution for Highland Park, the Day of Dialogue was held to assure dialogue between the Governor and the community in the painful recovery process.


 Summary of Challenges and Solutions


The major challenges and solutions are ranked below in the priority order of the participants in each breakout session. Subsequent pages describe the outcomes of each session in greater detail.




Business, Jobs & Training


1.            Decreasing Population


Create Redevelopment Strategy for additional housing

2.      Security Concerns

Increase public safety services

3.      Need Improved Government

State/Fed assistance for sustainability; Function within financial means

4.      Improve Cleanliness

Need Community group efforts; Code enforcement

5.      Inadequate Quality of Workforce

Increase training possibilities

6.      Untapped Resources

Find new sources of workers locally





1.      Lack of Parental Involvement

Break down invisible wall through events, classes

2.      Lack of Community Involvement

Improve communication- outreach to businesses, and the faith community

3.      Wall Between Educators And Community

Educators should reach out to community

4.            Teaching Skills w/ Today’s students

lack materials

Stronger curriculum, professional training, develop materials

5.      Closure of McGregor Library, H.P. Community College

Re-open historical institutions; develop courses

Lack of Cultural/Historic [activities]




Housing & Neighborhoods


1.      Public Image & Stereotypes

Publicize successes

2.      Abandoned Properties

Demolition blitz; improve court review process

3.      Locating Resources for Demolition

Fund and expand State programs; offer tax-credits

4.      Code Enforcement

Hire inspectors, expedite court reviews

5.     Owners/Residents Need to Keep Property Clean

Inform, ticket, fine as necessary



Public Safety


1.      Future of Highland Park Public Safety

Develop effective local public safety program

2.      Lack of Business Development due to Community Safety Concerns

Educate public about public safety possibilities, improve response time, better traffic signals

3.      Community Participation

Establish and/or strengthen available programs

4.      Demolition of Private & State Owned

Unsafe Structures

Increase demolition programs

5.      Court Resources to Address Public Safety

Establish new ordinances, improve court processes






1.            [Inadequate] Senior Housing/Health Services

Fund in-home programs; increase types of health services

2.            Community Services

Create variety of housing types with built-in services

3.            Safety


Offer info to seniors on home safety; improve transportation for seniors

4.            Information [about services lacking]

Create and distribute Service Directory

5.            Financial Services

Increase info on available financial services





1.      No Local Representation

H.P. Human Rights Coalition meet with Governor

2.      [Need Moratorium] On Shut-Offs

Set moratorium on shut-offs

3.      Sewer And Water Rates Too High

Compare with others; check meters; reduce rates

4.     Timely Bills [not received]

Improve system for billing

5.     State Is Taking Too Long [To Resolve   Problems]

Restore local control, Build administrative leadership capacity of local government officials





 Facilitators:   Leo Carr, Terrance Hicks, Mark Kelly, Ben Mason, Cheryl Sanford and Anne Zobel


Approximately 25 individuals including residents, business owners and other stakeholders participated in this session.  Business was combined with the Jobs and Training session because they are similar topics in nature; however, each topic was discussed individually.  A lively discussion ensued regarding the challenges faced in Highland Park by both residents and business owners.  Participants were asked to identify a solution to any challenge that they pointed out.  This kept the discussion positive and solution-driven. While a number of serious challenges were identified, the participants did not seem to think that the city’s problems were irreversible.  A high level of optimism was present.


The list below reflects the top four priorities for the Business discussion and the top two priorities for the Jobs and Training that participants identified during the voting process.  However, the complete list reflects additional concerns brought out during the discussion.


Top Priorities


Rank          Challenges                                       Solutions



1                      Decreasing population               Redevelopment strategy for new housing


2                      Security concerns                                 Create Long-term solution to increase public safety


3                                            Need improved government                  Request State & fed assistance to achieve                                                                                 sustainability


Need to function within financial means


4                      Improve cleanliness                               Initiate Small group clean-up efforts


Provide effective Code enforcement / Report    dumping


Jobs and Training    

1                      Inadequate quality of workforce            Training for both workforce and employees

                                                                                    Michigan Business Roundtable

                                                                                    Establish a Roundtable locally with link to state


2                      Untapped resources                              Employer gap analyzed

[a needs assessment based on model of Maryland business roundtable]


                                                                                    Mandate business to hire trained H.P. residents


Other Concerns


Challenges                                                                  Solutions


Need for more demolition                                             [Develop] new housing / [attract more] residents


Decreasing population                                       Demolish unsafe buildings

Devise Redevelopment Strategy for new housing          

Approach state for funds (MEDC)

            Need plan for getting more grants and incentives

                        Nonprofits collaborate with city [to pursue funding]

HP Devco should take lead and serve as champion


Non-political entity should also have strong role


Maintain cleanliness                                                      Small group clean-up efforts

Wayne County Alternative Workforce – work release inmates


Work with Jerome Drain of Operation Weed & Seed of HP


Develop a schedule/strategy for clean-up efforts

                                                                                    Identify root cause of problems & fix

                                                                                    Put pressure on business to maintain property

                                                            Code enforcement / Report dumping

Follow Richton Street model [for community clean-up efforts]


CB patrol [to report dumping]

                                                            Purchase garbage can for businesses


No city building department                                          Employ someone to specifically handle permits & generate revenues for city


[Lack of] skilled city employees laid-off                        Bring former city employees back


Security (Public Safety)                                     Need long-term solution


Need functioning city government                                  State & fed assistance to achieve sustainability

Need to function within financial means (fiscal responsibility)


State Police Command Center (Calumet Center)

Other Concerns


Challenges                                                                  Solutions


Unemployment                                                 Need State initiated incentives for companies coming                                                                             to Highland Park


Utilize ‘Distressed Community’ Designation by state






Facilitators: Mr. Carl Pettway, Greg Roberts, Dr. Theresa Sanders, and Hon. Senator Martha G. Scott


The working breakout session consisted of educators, concerned parents, community leaders and others interested in the educational future of the students in Highland Park.  It was a consensus that we needed a "Back to the Future" approach to restoring the high standards and expectations that were once "commonplace" for the Highland Park School District.  In the not so distant past, the Highland Park School District was one of the top districts in the State.  The graduation rate was high, the dropout rate was low, the McGregor Public Library was opened and those graduating had a community college to attend.  The recommendations and priorities reflect the need and desire to return the Highland Park School District to being one of the top districts in the State.  It was strongly felt, by consensus that the implementation of the following recommendations/priorities would, in fact, do just that.




Top Priorities


Rank          Challenges                                       Solutions

1                      Lack of parental involvement                             Break down the invisible wall

                                                                                                Offer Parenting classes/events


2                      Lack of community involvement                        Create more involvement w/business,

faith-based organizations, events and meetings


[Improve] communication


3                      Wall between educators &                                Engage Educators to venture into community

                        the community                                                 

Provide More information to community


4                      Teaching skills to today’s students                     Offer Stronger curriculum, professional                                                                                                  training

Lack of materials                                              More materials & resources for teachers and



5                      McGregor Public Library                                  Re-open

                        Highland Park Community College                    Re-open

                        Lack of cultural/historical [activities]                  Add more culture/language courses to







Other Concerns


                        Challenges                                                      Solutions


Need competitive pay scale for teachers            Help teachers go back to school

                        Lack of student empowerment              Offer training & assistance to students to

                                                                                                Improve academic performance


Lack of cleanliness in schools                            Require staff accountability

                        Weak infrastructure                                          Obtain funding for capital improvements

                        (Charter Schools?)

            Lack of hands-on resources                              Develop additional hands-on resources



Challenges                                                      Solutions


Lack of balanced curriculum --             Create new balanced curriculum

academic & elective


Lack of connection between kids                      Create the connection between kids &

                        & administration                                               administration


                        Kids being raised by grandparents/                    Understand family types – take into

                        foster family                                                      consideration


                        Busy parents 2+ jobs


                        History of Highland Park                                   Stronger curriculum


                        Lack of dialogue between unions                       Financial resources for an audio/visual

                        & teachers                                                        modules


                        Lack of materials (kids are bored)                     Accommodate all learning styles


                        Lack of authority for teachers to                        Create authority for teachers



                        Lack of post-ed opportunities                           Highland Park Community College


                        Lack of funding (books to take                         Find more money



                        Lack of parental access to                                Inform parents of education laws/

education laws/legislation                                  legislation


Possible influx of Charter Schools                     Maintain dialogue between community

                        (drain public school resources)              and state


                        Lack of open dialogue between             Create dialogue between parents and

                        parents & administration &                               administration & community

                        community/community orgs.     


                        Need to increase tutoring &                              Scholarship programs (in non-traditional

                        mentoring                                                         areas)


                        Lack of involvement from faith-             Weed and Seed (more involvement of

                        based community                                              program)


                        McGregor Public Library Closed                      Re-open make available to students


                        Highland Park Image (negatively                       Change image (business & industry would

                        portrayed in the media)                         come money)


Challenges                                                      Solutions


                        Lack of parental involvement                             Break down invisible wall

                                                                        Parenting classes – something to attract

                                                                                                More parents


                        Lack of strong belief that children                      Parents & teachers motivate kids

                        can learn                                                           Encourage and up-lift children

                                                                                                Let kids know they can succeed



Facilitators:  Harriet Saperstein, Vickie Thomas


About 40 stakeholders, representing a broad section of the community attended the session.  The participants included residents, business owners, community leaders, religious leaders and others.  The majority of participants were residents who shared openly and passionately about the day-to-day problems and challenges they face as Highland Parkers.  The session lasted for nearly two hours and could have extended even longer.  Residents not only discussed the critical issues in the city but also came up with possible solutions to some of those problems.  Despite the tremendous challenges that the city has faced and continues to face, it was crystal clear that residents and others are willing to do whatever they can to help turn the city around.  They are looking forward to brighter days ahead. 


There were at least 30 interconnected challenges identified by the group with a variety of suggested solutions.  The list below reflects the top five critical issues that stakeholders identified during the voting process at the end of the breakout session.  However, the complete list reflects additional concerns brought out in the active and engaging discussion.



Top Priorities


Rank          Challenges                                       Solutions

1                      Public Image and Stereotypes                           Improve image by publicizing success stories and positives                                                            Bring back Home tours                                                                                                             Initiate Business Tours


2                      Abandoned Properties                                      Demolition blitz; Create separate                                                                                               housing court/administrative review;

                                                                                                Ticket/fine: Make owners pay


3                      Locate Resources for Demolition                      Fund State Programs (CMI, Revitalife)

Private fundraising campaign; Demolition Tax Credits/other benefits for business; Use National Guard


4                      Code Enforcement                                            Hire more officers/inspectors; improve

                                                                                                court system for ticketing & fines.


5                      Owners/Residents need to keep                        Inform owners/residents of their

                        property clean                                                  responsibilities, ticket and fine where                                                                             necessary




Other Concerns


            Challenges                                                                  Solutions


            Code Enforcement

            Code enforcement                                                        Hire more officers/inspectors

Code enforcement tickets                                             Reorganize court process to

            go through same system as criminal,                              expedite ticketing & fines

            delaying court response for up to a year


Residents/Owners need to know                                   Provide information/ticket & fine them

Responsibilities to keep property clean.             if necessary

Stores have too much material hanging

outside on streets


City-Yard full, can’t take more trash                             Need more space

City hire back employees to remove


More dumpsters needed -- only two                             Locate additional funds for dumpsters

dumpsters available for clean-ups



            Dumping at night                                                           Install cameras/signs.  Ticket violators

            Bulk trash dumping: where to report?                Provide information


Abandoned Properties

            Abandoned properties:                                     Locate funding for demolition blitz

              500 + need to be demolished -                                   Weed&Seed has done 30; Revitalife’

              cost $3 million                                                            about 50, much more needed.

Priority to demolish and clean up by                              Identify drug havens or drug activity

schools                                                             in and around schools

Dumping in front of abandoned buildings                       Ticket/fine

Abandoned cars: alleys, streets, backyards                    Provide info on existing program




Insufficient funds                                                           Businesses to tear down houses in

(Need $10 million for total cleanup)                              exchange for tax credits/other benefits

Radiothon/telethon or other fundraising


Approach philanthropists

                                                                                                Use National Guard

Involve MSHDA and other state agencies                                

Ford should meet its responsibilities to city

                                                                                                Concentrate for redevelopment


Challenges                                                      Solutions


65% of properties privately owned                    Make owners pay for repair or change

law to get lien on property elsewhere for demolitions costs.


Title clearance is difficult procedure                   New law to clear titles more easily

                                                                                                State to alleviate environmental costs

Selection of houses for demo                            Revitalife – state owned properties

                          doesn’t always seem to work                selected internally-need city input


How to put house on list for demolition  Need information

Owners may not have the resources or Locate private owners

may not  cooperate                                           Create a law which penalizes disinvestments                                                                              and walking away from property

Need specific housing court for demolition


Prosecutors office program promised                Need funding resources to accelerate

expected demolition didn’t take place    program.

Hamilton Ave has many buildings that

need demolition                                                Pilot or CMI to tear down some of larger buildings to get ready for redevelopmt.


Public Image

                        Stereotypes on Highland Park                           Success stories need to be publicized

                        Poor media image                                             outside of city

                        Safety concerns                                                Focus on positives

                        Positive changes in community not                     Bring back home tours

                        reflected in larger community                             Do business tours

Unite neighborhoods and increase block clubs.


Need improvements to build houses &  Encourage rehab & construction of apt

                        apartments                                                        houses



                        Materials stolen from renovations while Improve public safety

                        underway                                                         Increase & utilize new CB patrol

                        Hamilton – too many resale shops using Control what outside of stores look like


                        People work on cars in streets/garages  Improve system to require business

                                                                        license.  Ticket & fine violators

Trash thrown out of car windows                      Create effective grass-roots reporting -

                                                                                                dumping, trash throwing, etc.


                        Not enough parks or facilities for youth Approach Wayne County to use funds

                                                                                                & earmark them for Highland Park.


Property and Land Information-                        Provide central information on property for developers and citizens

Challenges                                                                  Solutions


No one calls you back when you ask for           Improve City response



                        Homeowners need both help & referral             Need home owners repair assistance

                        system                                                              program







Facilitators: Angelo Flemings, John Holloway, Hon. Bridgette T. Officer & the Sheriff’s Department


About 15 stakeholders, representing a broad section of the community attended the session.  The participants included residents, business owners, community leaders, religious leaders and local law enforcement representatives.  Participants felt that key to the survival of the city is having a long-term, stable “local” policing solution devoted to the continuation of Highland Park as a community wherein the residents, business owners and visitors feel safe.


Top Priorities


Rank Challenges                                        Solutions


1                      Future of Highland Park Public Safety   Develop an effective “local”

public safety program, develop and publish working contact numbers, establish infra-structure, improve relationships between officers internally and with other agencies, local dispatcher familiar with the community


2                      Lack of Business Development due to   Educate businesses with

Community Safety Concerns                             public safety roles & responsibilities, replace street signs and improve traffic flow problems in busy areas, improve and report response times for police & fire services


3                      Community Participation                                   Re-establish D.A.R.E.

program, T.E.A.M. implementation, community participation with patrols, increase communication between the community and our police force, Preventive means at conflict to involve families & schools


4                      Demolition of unsafe structures              Remove old/unused

structures, & health concerns declare a state-of-emergency, grant writing/funding needed


5.                     Court resources to address public safety           Establish working group to

develop new ordinances, work  with present legislature, working relationship between public safety and the judicial system, recruit new talent


Other Concerns


Challenges                                                      Solutions


                        Community participation in patrol                      Community participation

            Preventive means at conflict                              D.A.R.E. Program (re-establish), T.E.A.M

                        resolution to involve families                              implementation

                        & schools                                            

Community Policing

                                                                                                Civilian participation w/patrols

                                                                                                Community organization


Future of Highland Park Public                          Develop an effective Public Safety Prog.


Develop and publish working contact numbers


                        Relationship between officers                            Establish infrastructure

                        Internally and with other agencies


                        Present legislation                                             Grant writing/funding


                        Reporting response time w/policing                   Release actual v. perceived records

                        & fire services                                     


What is the proper process for a                       Educate community in regards to

citizen to receive police response                       policy


Publish correct working numbers


Local dispatcher familiar with                            Prepare a document for citizens as a

the community                                                  reference as to exactly who called


                        Lack of street signs & traffic flow         

                        problems in busy areas


Public Safety services offered to                        Provide P.O.C. with public safety in

businesses                                                        regards to business


Educate business with public safety roles & responsibilities


Remove old/unused structures               (declare state of emergency)





Challenges                                                      Solutions


Court staff resources to adequately                   Work with present legislature

address public safety                            

Establish working group to develop charter - building block


Recruit new talent

Working relationship between public safety & judicial system











Facilitators: Ameenah Omar, Margaret Lewis, Jan Lazar


Seven people attended the Seniors breakout session and provided cross-generational views of Challenges for seniors.  Because the group was small, each person had ample opportunity for full expression of their views.  The resultant priority listing shows that there is a consensus of opinion among seniors and/or primary caregivers for seniors of seniors needs.


Of particular note is that although Financial Assistance ranked 6th   in the priority listing, providing funding from the lottery and creating a dedicated revenue stream patterned after the Pennsylvania Program are among the Solutions given for meeting seniors’ challenges under Health Services which tied for 1st with Housing and Community Services.


Top Priorities


Rank          Challenges                              Solutions


1                      Health services/in-home services                       Percentage of lottery proceeds

Pharmacist coordinate medicine schedule


                                                                                                Medical staff making in-home visits

Check medicines, visiting nurse, podiatry


Social worker – home visit, assist in applying for insurance or other assistance



2                      Senior Housing – affordability               Creation of authority/financial assistance

                        Services, taxes


Accessibility housing for disabled                      Condos or one level


                        Senior complex                                     Senior village, multi-level


Out displacement                                              Independent, assisted living & right to nursing


                        Maintenance & rehab                                       Financial assistance

                                                                                                Community volunteer programs


                                                                                                Habitat for Humanity

                                                                        Activate historic pres. Comm..



Challenges                                                      Solutions


3                      Community Services                                         Obtain senior grants

                                                                                    Recreation/senior day care

Indoor programs – year around, add craft

Programs, sewing, ceramics, instructor for



4                      Safety – inside home                                         Training for in-the-home safety

Emergency kits, Locks – update safety checks, fire alarms, better lighting

[Provide] fire extinguishers - donations


Safety in community – walking              Buddy system – all network

                                                                                                Group shopping, medical visits

Senior Transportation


5                      Information services available                Directory – Highland Park Community

mailed, on-line, telephone -- updated regularly



Distribution [of directory] to churches, neighborhoods, groups, individuals


6                      Financial assistance                                           Information or availability


Social Worker – assistance in insurance and grant assistance


Primary Caregiver Support                               Information, hours of service, availability



            Dedicated Revenue                                           Like Pennsylvania Program



Adopt a Senior                                                 Donate services -- matching young volunteers


                        Foster Grandparents                                         Groups to seniors


                        Cross General Assistance                                 Daily interaction with every senior


                        Added meals in home and at                             Aging Consortium

                        facilities                                                            Maintenance of recreation facilities

Recurring background checks DRMM personnel

                                                                                                Food Handler license

Continuous monitoring of any violation

                                                                                                Background, license





                        Challenges                                                      Solutions


                        Used computers                                               Get donated used computers


                        Health Services                                     In-Home services

                                                                                                Primary caregivers support




Facilitators: Steve Egen and Stephen Goodfellow


Although there are severe short-term problems, the long term prospect for Highland Park water is good news. Built by Henry Ford with the purpose of supplying two major motor industries and 60,000 people, the city's water plant can produce more water than the city could ever consume. The problem is presently that the underutilized resource is a burden on a dwindling tax base. If the water could flow to the cities surrounding Highland Park, the utility would be capable of generating much needed income for the city.


Short term problems and proposed solutions are listed below by the citizenry. The frustration and tension expressed is palpable, even to the casual observer. It is a grim mood that must be defused. The issue is singly the most divisive subject in Highland Park. It is a powder keg.


Top Priorities


Rank          Challenges                                        Solutions



1                      No local reps – human rights                             Highland Park Human Rights Coalition

                        related to water                                                meet with Governor


2                      Shut offs                                                           Moratorium on shut offs –                                                                                                                     turn water back on for

residents until solution is developed


3                      Sewer rates & water too high                            Investigate meters, new meters, compare

                                                                                                to other cities’ rates


4                      Untimely bills                                                    More efficient, more lead time                           [6 to 9 month billing cycle]                               until bills are due, new people in                                                                                                            department


5                      State is taking too long to solve (2 years)       New representation (new legislation)


Now the state control is draining the city            Restore local democracy



Other Concerns


Challenges                                        Solutions


                        High bills, low number of users              More users (G.P.F., Hamtramck, etc)

                        Customers without Ford &




Challenges                                        Solutions


Sewer – rate cost                                             Investigate why rates are so high


Water too [rate cost}                                       Why so high – compare with other                                                                                                                       communities


                        Respect for customers by                                  Need New people, local people

                        employees/poor customer                                 Provide Training in dealing with public



                        Meter accuracy                                                Install New meters-tested by neutral source


                        Lack of local control and                                  Audit costs

Representation                                                  Utilize Local people


Shut offs                                                           Moratorium on shut offs and bill taxes

Turn water on                                                              

                        No privatization                                                Water as utility like gas, electric


                        Human rights violated, esp. poor                       Restore democracy, local voice

                        grass roots people


                        Water off                                                          Turn water on


Unclear on finances and basis for                      Communicate web/internet Michigan

Rates, not transparent                                       Citizen – legally open the books


For all the water problems                                Water strike escrow

Including crooked billing


Now draining the city, including                         Restore local democracy

the county (i.e. sale of abandoned

houses at low cost)


Infrastructure – what is spent?               More people – personnel worker

Why not in better shape?


Human rights – related to water                         Highland Park HRC meet with Governor


Estimated bill                                                    Get actual readings




Attachment 1



HIGHLAND PARK, MI: Renewal Built On Its Heritage


Preserving Highland Park’s historic places is uppermost in our hearts and minds. Your history, unlike your education, can be taken away!


The industrial feats and cultural milestones accomplished in Highland Park, Michigan – not Illinois – are legendary all over the world.  The fact of and impact of those feats is published and publicized in print and other media-type industries.  Even though Highland Park, Michigan, specifically, is generally not mentioned, people from all over the world pass through Highland Park, Michigan to see the physical sites where those milestones went from dreams to reality:


Some of the landmarks include:

  • The moving assembly line that resulted in making the Model T Ford automobile affordable to the common man and changed the way industry did business, as highlighted in the recent smash hit movie, Seabiscuit.
  • Highland Appliance store - the forerunner of the ABC Warehouses-type stores.
  • Davison Freeway - the country’s first expressway.
  • The second-oldest community college in Michigan until its recent closure and reopening as a career academy.
  • The original site of the Lawrence Institute of Technology (1932-1955 in Highland Park).  Begun in September 1932, it was the next-door neighbor of the Henry Ford Trade School (1917-1932).
  • The home of Canners Warehouses, the institution that “sold merchandise by the single can or carload at warehouse prices direct from the canners to you,” according to a December 3, 1931 article that appeared in The Highland Parker weekly newspaper.
  • The McGregor Library whose archives contain all of this history.
  • The Highland Park museum located at the McGregor Library


Highland Park’s history is inextricably tied to Highland Park’s future.  A large part of Highland Park’s future can be attracting significant tourist dollars to it, as a standalone automotive, industrial and residential historical site where modern manufacturing was born, and/or as part of the corridor of communities comprising Woodward Avenue, one of the country’s nationally recognized American Byways.  Highland Park has two nationally registered historic districts, one of which has the largest number of arts and crafts historic homes outside of California.  Highland Park is the birthplace/world headquarters of Chrysler Corporation (with an historic marker to prove it) until the late 1990s, and has other historic accomplishments too numerous to mention in this preface.


Building on Highland Park’s rich historic past in its present task of reorganizing itself can only enhance Highland Park’s stable, self-sufficient economic future.

Attachment 2


Participants in the Highland Park Community Process

(partial list based on sign-in sheets)




Raheem Anderson

Samuel Anderson

Claude Auger

Lona Bermender

Janice Bibbs

Eleanor D. Blackwell

Jullian Blackwell

Albert Bowman

Davis Bray

Carlene Bryant

James Buford

Lila Cabbil

Theodore Caldwell II

Bob Chappell

Litchfield Clement, Jr.

Sgt. Morris Cotton

Shirley Davis

Matt Duff

Brenda Epperson

Bill Gibson

Mildred Goff

Mary Griffin

Florence Hamilton

D. Harris

Thelma Hightower

Smerdis Hughes, Jr.

Vallory Johnson

Alicia Jones

Robert Jones


C. Kelly

Teresa Kelly

Susan M. Kennedy

Marian Kramer

Ginay Kyles

Norma Lewis

Soyini Liddell

Charlie Mae Mason

Tom McGuire

James Mosley

Earl O'Wheeler

Todd Perkins

Gloria Pogue

Katie Pride-Washington

Julia B. Ramsey

Zeke Rossir

Harriet B. Saperstein

Ronald L. Seigel

Tanya Sharon

Jeff Sturges

Shirley Taylor

Alfreda Thomas

Isabella Thompson

Shirley Turner

Helen Washington

Marilyn Wheeler

Regina Williams

Lee Yancy, III

Hubert Yopp


Attachment 3

Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee



Due to the challenging times facing the city of Highland Park, concerned citizens, businesses, faith-based organizations, local and state governments established a task force to allow the stakeholders of Highland Park to publicly express their concerns, prioritize them and make recommendations for resolution of the challenges facing this historic community.  Every endeavor was made to make this process as inclusive as possible as reflected in the participants listed below:



Daedra A. Von Mike McGhee, Director of Government and Business Affairs,

Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan



Committee Members:

Paula Biskup – Director of Corporate Communications, Budco

Professor Robin Boyle – Wayne State University, College of Urban, Labor & Metro Affairs

Albert Bowman, United Community Block Clubs of Highland Park

Leo Carr – Owner, Express Personnel & President, Highland Park Business Association (HPBA)

Don Cox – Chief of Staff, Wayne County Sheriff’s Department

Robert A. Davis – Senior Advisor and Director, Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan

Jerome Drain – Executive Director, Operation Weed & Seed Highland Park

Perrin Emanuel – Vice-President, HP Devco

Warren Evans- Sheriff, Wayne County

Angelo Flemings – President of Diverse Solutions, Inc. & Vice President of HPBA

Emma Fogel - United Community Block Clubs of Highland Park

Stephen Goodfellow –

Bill Henry – President and CEO, Budco

Terrence M. Hicks – Contributions Program Analyst, Ford Motor Fund

Jan Lazar – Interim City Administrator, City of Highland Park

Barbara Jean Johnson – Director, Constituent Relations,

Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan

Margaret Lewis – Publisher, Legacy News

Ben E. Mason – Account Representative,

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

Hon. Titus McClary – Mayor, City of Highland Park

Hon. William McConico – Michigan State Representative

Daralene Nero – Deputy Special Services, Wayne County Sheriff’s Department

Hon. Bridgette Thornhill Officer – Judge, City of Highland Park District Court

Hon. Dr. Ameenah Omar – President, Highland Park City Council

Linda V. Parker- Director, Michigan Department of Civil Rights

Ramona Henderson Pearson – Emergency Financial Manager, City of Highland Park

Greg Roberts – Director, Community & Faith Based Initiatives,

Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan

Dr. Theresa Sanders- Superintendent, Highland Park Public Schools

Cheryl Sanford – Regional Manager, Michigan HRDI/Michigan Works Service Center

Harriet Saperstein – President, HP Devco


Attachment 3

Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee





Hon. Martha G. Scott – Michigan State Senator

Reverend V. Ricardo Thomas – Pastor, Faith Tabernacle Church

Vickie Thomas – WWJ Radio, Reporter

Anne Zobel – HP Devco




Attachment 3


Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee






Day of Dialogue Planning Sub-Committee

Facilitated By:  Professor Robin Boyle – Wayne State University,

College of Urban, Labor & Metropolitan  Affairs (CULMA)


Angelo Flemings – President of Diverse Solutions, Inc. & Vice President of HPBA

Stephen Goodfellow –

Terrance M. Hicks, Ford Motor Fund

Jan Lazar – Interim City Administrator, City of Highland Park

Margaret Lewis – Publisher, Legacy News

Honorable Titus McClary – Mayor, City of Highland Park

Daedra A. Von Mike McGhee – Dir. of Government and Business Affairs,

Governor’s Office For Southeast Michigan

Cheryl Sanford – Regional Manager, Michigan HRDI/Michigan Works Service Center

            Vickie Thomas – WWJ City Beat Reporter and Highland Park resident




Report Finalization and Governor’s Visit Sub-Committee

Facilitated By:  Angelo Flemings, President of Diverse Solutions, Inc. & Vice President of HPBA and Cheryl Sanford, Regional Manager, Michigan HRDI/Michigan Works Service Center


Professor Robin Boyle – Wayne State University, College of Urban, Labor & Metro Affairs

Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan

Terrance M. Hicks, Ford Motor Fund

Jan Lazar – Interim City Administrator, City of Highland Park

Margaret Lewis – Publisher, Legacy Newspaper

Dr. Ameenah Omar - HP City Council

Harriet Saperstein – President, HP Devco, Inc.

 Attachment 4

Demographics for the City of Highland Park


(From U.S 2000 Census unless otherwise noted)


Date Incorporated        1918

Area (Square Miles)     2.98



2000 Census                            16,746


            African American          93.4%

            Caucasian                     4.1%

            Other                           2.5%


            Female                         9,016

            Male                            7,730



 18 & Over                  70.9%

 65 & Over                  14.5%

Median Age                 34.5



Residents Living in poverty        38.3%

Children living in poverty (5-17)            47.6%




# of Households                       6,199

# of Person per Household       2.6

# of Housing Units                    7,249

# of vacant units                        1,050

Owner Occupied Units 38.6%

Renter Occupied Units  61.4%

Persons per household              2.56

# of single parent households     1,267

# of two parent households          441

Median Housing Value`            $49,800

Range of 2003 Sales                 $50,000 to                                                       $159,500

(Source: Detroit Free Press)


National Historic Districts: Medbury-Grovelawn and

Highland Heights





High School Only                     30%

College 1-3 years                     27%

College 4+ years                      6%

2001-02 Enrollment (K-12)      3,930




Employment Profile – December 2003

Labor Force                             6,525

Unemployment Rate                   22%

(Source: Michigan Dept. of Career Development)



Per Capita Income (1999)        $12,121

Median Household Income       $17,737

(4th lowest in S.E. Michigan)


Income Tax Rate

Residents                                  2%

Non-Residents                         1%


Property Tax Rate

Homestead                               50.54 mills/ $1000

Non-Homestead                       68.54 mills/$1000

(Source: City of Highland Park)


















Attachment 5


Changes in Tax Revenue, Population and Employment


City Tax Revenues










































Source: City of Highland Park





















Text Box: Population by Decade




Text Box:


























































































Source: Census & School District of Highland Park




























Text Box: Employment Change in Major Sectors























Industrial Class




Change 1990 - 2000










Transportation, Communication & Utilities







Wholesale Trade







Retail Trade







Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate














Public Administration














Total Employment











Attachment 6


Day of Dialogue Narrative


On Saturday December 13th, 2003, more than 140 interested and committed citizens met at the Highland Park Community High School to discuss, dialogue and prioritize the challenges facing the City of Highland Park, Michigan. The Day of Dialogue was the culmination of a community-driven planning process that had begun six weeks earlier at the request of a number of community stakeholders.  Ms. Daedra A. McGhee, Director, Government and Business Affairs, Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan facilitated this process. Utilizing the leadership and expertise of a broad based Steering Committee, a Day of Dialogue Planning Sub-Committee was convened and met throughout November and early December to structure, design and eventually implement this community-centered event. 


A decision was made at the beginning of the planning process that the Day of Dialogue should be:


(a)   as open and accessible to as wide an array of interested citizens (residents, business people and others) as possible; (The event was publicized through newspapers, radio, television, flyers, telephone outreach and website:

(b)   forward-looking as well as grounded in the present day;

(c)    structured around a set of topics identified by the Steering Committee:  business, jobs and training, education, housing and neighborhoods, public safety, services for seniors and water – and that the opinions and ideas of the community be gathered through a series of breakout sessions;

(d)   as concerned with solutions to the challenges facing the city as with recitation of problems and concerns.


Accordingly, facilitators were selected whose role it was to administer and record the discussion, dialogue and prioritization of challenges and solutions presented at each of the breakout sessions. Student volunteers from the Center for Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs’ Masters Program, Wayne State University, Detroit, also staffed each breakout session. Their task, along with the facilitators, was to accurately record the discussion and debate in each group and assist the community in their prioritization of the challenges and the solutions.  The deliberations of each group were recorded on flip charts.


The Day of Dialogue started at 1:00 pm on December 13th, with the community gathering in the atrium of the School.  The event began with an introduction by Ms. Margaret Lewis, Highland Park resident and publisher of the local paper.  She was followed by Professor Robin Boyle, Wayne State University, acting as coordinator of the event.  After his explanation of the process and of the “rules” that would apply across all the breakout sessions, the community was invited to make their selection of the breakout session they wished to attend.  Each breakout session was allocated some 90 minutes for discussion and debate.  In mid-afternoon, refreshments were served, enticing participants to return to the dining hall for a reporting session from each group.  In turn, speakers from each breakout session were invited to introduce the challenges and solutions discussed and prioritized by their group. This also provided an opportunity for participants to comment more broadly on the issues facing the city. It is these data that are presented in this report.


Attachment 7

Supplemental Business Survey


Summary and Analysis of Highland Park Business Survey


HP Devco prepared and disseminated a survey designed to identify the positives and negatives of doing business in Highland Park.  The survey was initially sent to the largest 15 businesses in the city.  A follow-up phone call was made to each survey recipients and eight surveys were returned.  The survey consisted of three simple questions:


1.      What Are The Three Most Important Benefits Of Locating In Highland Park?
2.      What Are The Three Most Serious Problems Of Doing Business In Highland Park?
3.  What Are Your Three Highest Recommendations For Improving The Business Climate In Highland Park And The State Of Michigan?
The survey revealed a number of consistent responses particularly pertaining to the benefits and problems affecting the business environment.  Highland Park’s central location and access to freeways was a unanimous response to the first question regarding benefits.  This appears to be a crucially important factor in a company’s decision to locate and remain in the community.  In response to the second question regarding the problems affecting the business climate, three major themes were recognized: aging infrastructure, crime, and inadequate city services.  The respondents were very thoughtful in their suggestions for solutions to the city’s problems.  These solutions appropriately responded to the problems identified and included: investment in infrastructure, strong police force and crime prevention measures, and providing city operating support.  The table below further details the most common survey responses.
Major Issues Affecting Business





• Centrality

• Access to freeways

Aging Infrastructure

  Poor condition of roads

    mitigates benefit of location

Investment in Infrastructure

• “Fix-it-first” (repair existing roadways)

• Utilize enhancement & other grants



• Security cost for businesses

   very high

Maintain County Sheriff Department

Support other Crime Prevention



Inadequate City Services

• Limited City Hall office hours

• Tax payment ≠ city services

Provide City Operating Support

• Need human power / additional staff 

• Hire full-time Development Director




Additional themes were recognized in the survey relating to workforce issues, property values, overall condition of city, and image.  The table below summarizes these secondary issues.


Secondary Issues Affecting Business




Availability of Light Industrial Workforce



Difficulty Attracting Employees with Quality Skills


Improve Image

Public relations assistance


Low Tax Assessments


• Benefits businesses with longevity here



High Tax Millage Rate

• Difficult to attract new development

Insurance redlining

Assistance with Tax Abatements

• State support of initiatives

• Abatements to make new projects comparable to existing properties



Competitive Lease Rates



High Rates of Abandonment & Derelict Buildings

• Deters business investment

• Creates poor image



Coordinated Demolition Strategy Assistance w/ Code Enforcement




Surveys were also distributed to the current members of the Highland Park Business Association.  This membership includes a diverse variety of small, medium and large, mostly independent business and non-profit organizations.  Seven surveys were returned and identified many of the same themes as the responses from the city’s largest businesses.  Location stood out as the primary benefit, while crime, image and redlining were repeatedly identified as problems. 


Attachment 8





The following organizations made significant contributions to the Day of Dialogue Event and the Transforming Communities Process of community-wide engagement:



Acme Photo Works


Diverse Solutions, Inc.

Eastown Distributors

The Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan

Highland Park Business Association (HPBA)

Highland Park High School

HP Devco, Inc.

Model T Shopping Plaza/Farmer Jack

The Highland Park Leadership Steering Committee

Wayne State University, Center for Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs (CULMA)