A look back: January through June

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Photo by Bob Oliver
Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko (right) cuts the first piece of the 50th anniversary cake with its creator, Karen Kasrzyk, during golden anniversary festivities for the city in April. A large crowd was greeted with several displays of both the past and present of the city, including boards with historic photos of the city and posters hanging on the walls with names of residents who have lived in the city the entire 50 years.

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

Last year was full of interesting stories. Here’s a look back at the first half of 2013.

January
James Thomas Friedrich, 53, Gibraltar, had a preliminary examination of the evidence against him on Jan. 16 on charges of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder for an incident involving girlfriend Alicia Lynn Wilson on Dec. 22, 2012. Wilson was found dead in a Dearborn Heights motel room the couple had stayed in. Responding officers found her wrapped in a blanket on the floor and she appeared to have been very badly beaten.

The Dearborn Community Fund announced that 12 new sculptures had been placed throughout the city as part of the city’s 2012-13 Art in Public Places Midwest Sculpture Initiative.

A different sculptor and their sculpture were highlighted each month by the DFC.

The Henry Ford Community College Big Band travelled to Washington, D.C., to perform during President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration on Jan. 21.

A cold case file over 20 years old was brought closer to its conclusion as Florida resident Kelly Michael Brady was bound over to the Wayne County Circuit Court for charges stemming from the 1991 murder of ACCESS employee Gracielita Flores. Brady left Michigan after the killing but confessed to committing the crime to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputies in Florida Police in 2012.

A Dearborn McDonald’s restaurant and its management company, Finley’s Management Co., were ordered to pay $700,000 to Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed for serving him food falsely advertised as halal.

February
Hundreds visited The Henry Ford Feb. 4 for the “Rosa Parks National Day of Courage.” Parks was traveling on a city bus in Montgomery, AL, in 1955 when she refused to move from her seat for a white man. Parks was arrested and 4 days later the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest to segregated seating in which blacks refused to ride Montgomery city buses, ensued. The bus that Parks was riding is part of The Henry Ford’s collection and the celebration was held on what would have been Parks’ 100th birthday.

Several fundraisers were held by the Dearborn Public Schools and other community members to benefit three Dearborn children who lost both of their parents within a month of each other. The Cannizzaro children, Chastity, 8, Drako, 9, and Michael, 16, are currently being raised by their grandmother, Dearborn resident Shirley Sironen.

Fordson High School student Ali Hachem, 15, was found dead from an apparent heart attack in the basement of his parent’s house on Feb. 17. A crowd of more than 100 friends, family and community members gathered on outside of FHS three days later to remember the late sophomore.

Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Gierling resigned to take a position with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program. Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide program designed to help military veterans and their spouses find employment.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. gave his annual State of the City address, discussed the selling of city hall to Artspace, a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization, and the potential of the new train station in the city. O’Reilly said it is important for the city to plan for the future.

“We are looking 20 years out and more,” he said. “We are trying to make those decisions to ensure that Dearborn will be an attractive, desirable place to be and invest into the next millennium.”

March
Dearborn Heights’ District 7 school district announced that it would be closing Madison Elementary at the end of the school year. Financial difficulties led to the closing and the students were reconfigured into the the district’s other three elementary schools: Bedford, Polk and Pardee.

Najib Rizk, who owns Le Cigar Emporium, purchased the empty building that used to be Cheli’s Chili at the corner of Oakwood and Michigan Avenue. Rizk said he wanted to open a cigar and sports bar at the location about the beginning of 2014.

A vote of approval for a merger was given between the unions representing the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments. The issue then was sent before the Dearborn and Melvindale city councils for their approval, which they did in June and July, respectively. The merger, which was in discussion by the two cities for many months, became official in August.

City Council President Pro Tem Suzanne Sareini announced that she would not be seeking a seventh term on the council after the death of her daughter. Sareini said that she would support her son Michael’s candidacy instead.

The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education approved a $76 million bond to be placed on a general election ballot in November. The SMART bond addressed Security, Modifications, Additions, Renovation, Technology and Transportation needs district-wide.

Henry Ford Community College narrowed its field of potential presidential candidates from 54 to six. HFCC President Gail Mee announced in May 2012 that she wanted to resign at the end of the year, but agreed to remain in office until a successor was chosen.

April
HFCC announced that a special meeting was held in which six of the seven members of the board of trustees voted for two of the remaining six candidates to see who would be selected at the next president for the college. Stan Jensen, who had previously served as president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College in Colorado, received the most votes from the board. Oakland Community College Auburn Hills campus interim president Gordon May was the board’s second choice.

Dearborn Heights celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation by hosting a party inside city hall, complete with a large cake baked in the shape of the city. A large crowd filed through city hall for a cake-cutting ceremony and was greeted with several displays of both the past and present of the city, including boards with historic photos of the city and posters hanging on the walls with the names of residents who had lived in the city the whole 50 years.

The bombing near the finish of the Boston Marathon also hit close to home, as several athletes from Dearborn were in the race. Katie Millar, Sean Peecher, Angela Peecher, Reem Taha and Heather Ferris all participated in and finished the race, and reported no injuries from the explosion that killed three and injured more than 170 people.

Habitat for Humanity announced it would build 12 houses in Dearborn, six each on Neckel and Hartwell. The houses are being built as part of a project that hopes to revitalize Dearborn neighborhoods through the new home construction, and Habitat announced that preference for the sale of the houses will be given to working Wayne County families that include veterans and victims of domestic abuse.

Dearborn Police Officer Eric Krawczyk was arrested for suspicion of operating under the influence and fleeing the scene of an accident after an incident that occurred near the area of Carlysle and Northhampton Court. Krawczyk struck a tree and two vehicles before coming to a stop on Donaldson. He was arraigned and tried before 19th District Court Judge Sam Salamey on the charges of operating with a high-blood alcohol content, fleeing the scene of an accident and driving without auto insurance.

Krawczyk pled no contest on the charge of driving with a high-blood alcohol content, guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and responsible to the charge of driving without insurance. Krawczyk was sentenced to five days in jail, pay fines and attend substance abuse counseling classes because of the incident.

May
The Arab International Festival was not held for the first time in nearly 20 years. The American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the annual event, announced that the 2013 rendition would be postponed due to the logistics of changing venues at the last minute.

The event has been held on Warren Avenue between Schaefer and Wyoming for the last eight years but the city was working with the AACC to move the event from the open street to the more enclosed Ford Woods Park following several years of religious tension at the event.

Despite the introduction of a new location, Florida Pastor Terry Jones said that he would be returning to Dearborn to attend the ceremony. Jones, the controversial Christian pastor for the group Stand Up America, had last been in the city in October 2012 at a demonstration outside of Edsel Ford High School. Jones did not make the trip to the city after the AIF was canceled.

Two bomb threats also drew the community’s attention, one at the Adoba Hotel and the second at the 19th District Courthouse. The discovery of a pressure cooker in a second floor restroom of the Adoba caused an evacuation of several floors that lasted for a few hours.

The cooker was found by a hotel guest about 9:45 p.m. and hotel management was informed. They notified Dearborn police and then evacuated several floors of the hotel. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team was called to the hotel around midnight and determined that the cooker did not contain any explosives. A bomb inside a pressure cooker had been used at the Boston Marathon bombing in April.

The threat at the courthouse was not as innocent, as a 911 caller told the dispatcher in a message containing several profane words that a bomb had been placed inside the courthouse. Police were called to the scene and quickly evacuated the building, which caused a disruption of court activities for approximately 90 minutes. A search of the interior and exterior of the building showed the threat to be false.

HFCC introduced its new president and announced that it was looking at a $16.6 million shortfall for its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The college made several steps to combat the shortfall, including beginning an amnesty program where students who owed the school money could pay it back at a reduced rate, canceling the Lifelong Learning Program and raising tuition costs.

The per credit hour cost for tuition jumped from $82 to 87 for residents, $142 to 149.25 for non-residents and from $147 to 154.25 for out-of-state and international students, though administrators for the college pointed out that the cost was still lower than many of the other community colleges in the state.

June
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Regional Director Imad Hamad was put on administrative leave in the wake of sexual harassment allegations brought against him by a former ADC employee. An independent investigation into the matter cleared Hamad, who stepped down as director and into an advisory role before resigning from the group in November.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) was celebrated nationally and locally as he became the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. At 57 years, five months and 26 days, he passed the previous mark set by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.). Dingell was already the longest-serving member of the House, a feat he attained in February 2009.

Dingell took office on Dec. 13, 1555, following a special election for the seat representing what is now the 15th District of Michigan. The seat had formerly been held by Dingell’s father, John D. Dingell Sr., who represented the district from 1933 until his death in 1955.

A study session was held with O’Reilly’s administration, the city council and a crowd of local residents all convening to discuss the possible sale of city hall to Artspace, the relocation of city offices to the Dearborn Administration Center and a proposed donation from Severstal and how that money would be used for this project.

The session focused on how the items three items are connected and featured presentations for the council by several department heads and Artspace Vice President of Property Development and the leader of the project in Dearborn Heidi Kurtze, who flew in from Minneapolis to attend the meeting. After separate presentations from the department heads and Kurtze, several residents expressed their concerns about the project during the lengthy meeting.

(Next week: Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, the year in review, July through December.)

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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