2012: A look back at January through June

January
East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority board members approved a contract with Artspace Projects Inc. to convert a building into a live-work space for artists in an effort to bring more tourism and exposure to the city.

U.S. District Court Eastern District Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen ruled Jan. 27 Dearborn must pay more than $100,000 in attorney fees to California-based pastor George Saieg who was banned from distributing leaflets at a 2009 street festival.

The city prohibited Saieg, founder of the Ministry to Muslims network, from distributing material urging Muslims to convert to Christianity during the city’s 2009 Arab International Festival. During the festival, Saieg, along with about 120 members of his group, were allegedly told by Dearborn police officers they faced arrest if they passed out the material.

In 2009, Saieg sued the city claiming he was allowed to distribute leaflets during previous visits from 2004 to 2008.

Whalen ruled Jan. 27 the city violated Saieg’s free speech rights.

February
Tanaka Wells, a Detroit man, was found guilty Feb. 16 of first degree murder in the March 15, 2011, shooting of Jay Shin, 60, owner of Sunrise Beauty Supply, 4920 Schaefer.

Wells, 19 at the time of the crime, also was found guilty in Circuit Court on three counts of armed robbery and felony firearm for stealing 80 hair extensions and robbing two customers during the crime.

The City Dearborn Plan Commission tied its vote on a Goodwill special land-use permit during a Feb. 13 meeting. That was the commission’s second time voting on the issue.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. refuted a column described as “inaccurate” from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy column that discusses 2011 salaries of Dearborn’s city employees.

O’Reilly said he did not agree with the report released Feb. 20, which he argued against in a Feb. 23, press release from the city of Dearborn.

The Mackinac Center report published by the think tank’s publication, Capitol Confidential, described the mayor as telling Dearborn residents they would have to pay higher taxes because of “severe budget issues” but details seven top administrations who received significant gross income increases ranging from 8 to 12.8 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The press release from the city of Dearborn added that the last two opportunities to set department head salaries were in 2006 after the death of Mayor Michael Guido and in 2010 after O’Reilly had taken office.

March
In Dearborn, Fordson High School went into lockdown mode on March 1, after an unknown caller contacted the school with a gun threat, Dearborn Schools Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said. Mustonen said the lockdown was a preventative measure.

Alchemy Management LLC bought the Dearborn Towers apartments in Clearwater, Fla., for $6.2 million, after winning the bid over of two other potential buyers on March 9.

A special City Council meeting was called March 13 to vote on accepting the offer. O’Reilly Jr. and the Legal Department presented the offer to the council and recommended the highest offer.

The 88-unit complex had been on the market since 2007 when Dearborn voters approved to sell the 52-year-old building. The building was appraised in 2008, 2009 and 2010, with an average selling price of nearly $6 million.

Some discussion on the apartments revolved around asbestos in the buildings, which previously stalled some of the city’s progress in selling the building.

Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Dearborn Heights City Councilwoman Margaret Van Houten to become a Third Circuit Court judge. Van Houten, a four-term councilwoman, stepped down from her position March 27 to fill the position.

Snyder appointed Dearborn Fire Chief Richard Miller as state fire marshal. Miller was appointed as Dearborn’s fire chief in June 2010 by O’Reilly.

Miller served on the Michigan State Fire Safety Board since August 2011. He began his career as a firefighter in Dearborn more than 30 years ago with positions ranging from inspector to senior battalion chief.

April
Assault charges were dropped for four Dearborn Heights Star International Academy football players on April 4.

Mark Plawecki, 20th District Court judge, dismissed the charges against the players – Hadee Attia, Mohamed Ahmed, Ali Bajjey and Fanar Al-Asady – including misdemeanor assault and battery, stemming from a fight during a football game in October 2011.

The football players were accused of inciting an alleged assault during a game against Westland’s Lutheran High School, allegedly giving 15-year-old Lutheran High School quarterback P.J. Guse a concussion.

The Dearborn City Council on April 4 approved a motion to allow the city to create a letter of intent to sell the City Hall complex to Artspace, a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization created to help artists find affordable locations to live and work.

The Rev. Terry Jones, famous for threatening to burn the Quran, won a lawsuit against the city filed on April 2. The lawsuit stemmed from the city’s hold- harmless agreement that would relieve the city from any legal responsibilities if anything happened during Jones’ speech scheduled for April 7.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood’s ruling, a temporary restraining order against Dearborn, does not allow the city to require Jones to sign the hold harmless agreement.

Jones called the agreement an unconstitutional restriction. He initially was required to sign the agreement to receive a permit to speak against the beliefs of Islam in front of the Islamic Center of America.

Goodwill received approved for special land use in a 5-4 Dearborn City Plan Commission vote during a commission meeting April 9 at City Hall.

Since January, Goodwill Industries went before the commission four times asking for approval to open its store at the former Inca Computer location on 22451 Michigan Ave., which sat empty for 15 years. The secondhand store moved into the location this past summer.

A 12-year collaboration came to fruition April 10 as federal and state officials celebrated a construction launch ceremony for Dearborn’s Intermodal Passenger Rail Station.

The $28.2 million federally funded project through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will allocate the money to the Federal Railroad Administration High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program.

Amtrak will operate the 16,000-square-foot station, which covers seven acres.

Dearborn Public Schools district Business Services Director Robert Cipriano, 52, of Farmington Hills allegedly died at the hands of his son, Tucker, 19, and his friend Mitchell Jordan Young, 20, April 16. The pair allegedly raided his house looking for money. Cipriano died from blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Cipriano worked in the district since July 2000.

During his fundraiser in Dearborn, President Barack Obama visited The Henry Ford April 18.

Education, taxes, the auto industry bailout and health care reform were a few of the topics Obama spent about 20 minutes addressing in front of a packed audience.

May
The Dearborn City Council approved the purchase of the ADP building for the new City Hall location during a special meeting May 22.In a 5-2 vote, councilors voted for the move into the $3.2 million-building, located at 16901 Michigan Ave., along with the nearly $600,000 in closing and holding costs, prorated property tax, hearing cost and maintainence.

The ADP building purchase is one of the many steps O’Reilly has supported when it comes to moving City Hall and letting another entity fix structural problems with the historic building complex.

Henry Ford Community College President Gail Mee announced May 21 that she will leave HFCC to pursue other opportunities. Mee has agreed to remain in her position until a new president is appointed.

Mee joined HFCC as president in July 2006. She is the fourth president of the college and the first woman to serve in that role.

June
Officials at state and local levels joined forces in combating a synthetic form of marijuana, known as “K-2” and “Spice,” in Michigan.

State Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn) introduced bills will help end the sale and use of the synthetic substances. On board with the ban were Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Police Department.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said the department shared information about the synthetic drug with all of the southeast Michigan police depatments to keep them abreast of the issue and the measures Dearborn is taking to keep the synthetic drug off the shelves.

On June 5, Haddad sent a letter to area businesses requesting their support and cooperation with taking synthetic drugs such as “K-2,” “Spice,” “Black Magic” and “bath salts” off store shelves.

After 53 years in business in west Dearborn, Dearborn Music decided to move its 7,000-square-foot full-line mom-and-pop music store a few blocks away.

The store opened in the fall at its new location on Michigan Avenue, in the same strip mall as ACO Hardware.

Dearborn resident Fadi Hassan Faraj was sentenced June 18 by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Carole Youngblood for the second-degree murder of 23-year-old Hassan Zeidan at Riverside Academy, 6345 Schaefer.

Faraj pleaded guilty to fatally shooting him after a fight during a pickup basketball game July 13, 2011.

Faraj, 35, was charged by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy July 15, 2011, with first degree murder and felony firearms possession.

Michigan lawmakers lifted the ban on fireworks, citing losses of $8 to $12 million in sales tax revenue each year from residents who drove to Indiana and Ohio to purchase airborne fireworks.

State law provisions for the newly-lifted ban include not allowing people to use fireworks on public properties, including schools, churches, government buildings, city streets and parks. Fireworks also cannot be discharged by minors or anyone under the influence of alcohol.

(Compiled by Sherri Kolade.)