Monday, June 29, 2009

Somebody Will Be Watching You, Maybe

Recently, City Council approved the purchase of security surveillance cameras for the Downtown Business District of Hamtramck through existing funds and approval of a loan. There seems to be contentions floating around the city to this action, so, let's examine them:

The Reason For The Cameras

Crime in the area is prevalent, the likes of purse snatching and armed robberies. Since the majority of consumers come from Detroit, the presentation of a safe and secure shopping area would increase business revenues for the local merchants.

The Challenge

1. The city is broke. There was no financial analysis for the purchase of the cameras, or rather, how would the investment in security cameras generate a profitable return for the city? Nobody even addressed the dollar for dollar ratio on the future benefits of the cameras. There were no presentations on the social benefits the city would gain in this transaction. What will be the interest rate and penalties of this loan?

2. The business district is loosing business. The storefronts on Jos Campau are owned by a handful of property owners. Rent is so exorbitant that business are leaving by the droves. This means the cameras would be watching the vacant properties. The properties being vacant benefit the few property owners as taxes are assessed at a lower level and the loss of revenue could be calculated as tax write-offs. Quintessentially, the property owners are getting free security at the expense of the city.

3. The city has not formulated policy. Who is going to have the authority to maintain the records of the tapes? How will the tapes be stored? Should the tapes be preserved for 14 days or 30 days? Will the public have access? How much will it cost to oversee the operations and what is the funding source. There are numerous legal issues at stake that have not been raised because there was no legal analysis, that would be another $250 an hour, probably in the realms of 20 hours, expense.

4. Who will be watching the live streams or snapshots? Ok, you have a security camera. Great. Now, what good is it if you do not have a real person watching and monitoring all activities? Let's just say a crime has been committed. No one is survieling. This means that the cost of labor insurmountably increases because, now, after the crime is reported, someone has to go over the loops to pinpoint the activity. By that time, the perpetrators are long gone.

5. Where was the city a few years ago? I attended numerous consortia and training sessions of the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Looking back, Hamtramck was never in attendance. These sessions were instructional for local governments to apply for federal grants for these surveillance cameras. Since 2003, the feds have doled out over $23 billion to combat crime to local governments. Liberty, Kansas, with a population of 95, received $5,000 to buy a G2 Sentinal camera. Scottsbluff, Nebraska, with a population of 14,000, got $180,000 to buy closed circuit cameras. Hamtramck never asked for a penny.

6. Privacy. There has been no discussion on the issues of privacy so I shall not address it at this time.

My solution would be to invest in signs that say "This area is under surveillance". It would be just as effective and would cost a whole lot less. Then, I would go seek out federal funding to fund a more efficient and inclusive city surveillance project that would entail the expansion of police resources, and ask the property owners on Jos Campau to entertain the idea of reducing the rent of the storefront properties so more businesses could stay and move in the city. If rent was not so high, business owners would be able to afford their own surveillance systems.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hamtramck Review Candidate Election 2009 Survey

This appears in the June 26, 2009 edition of the Hamtramck Review.

Hamtramck Review 2009 Election Candidate Survey

Name: Beverly Tran

Age: 44 years

Occupation: Mother/Policy Analyst

Wayne State University-Detroit, Michigan, present
Doctoral coursework: completed
Political Science/Public Policy
Attention: Dispute Resolution
Concentration: Research Methodologies-Econometrics
Specification: Child Policy

University of Michigan-Dearborn, Michigan, 2003
Bachelor of Arts Psychology-Industrial/Organizational
Minor in Organizational Communications

Belgium Technical Academy-Antwerp, Belgium, 1989
Certificate in Netherlands (Dutch) and French

Oakland University-Rochester, Michigan, 1987
Three years post Baccalaureate-Economics, Minor in English Literature

What are your qualifications to hold office?
My qualifications to hold office are that I am a citizen of the United States and reside in the city of Hamtramck pursuant to MCL 168.11(1). I was President of the Hamtramck South End Block Club but gave up my seat to run for Council. I sat on the City Clean Sweep Committee, and am part of Community Policing. I have opened communication with the Public Schools and Police because I am a strong advocate for increasing their juvenile resources.

I previously coordinated the Detroit Police Junior Cadet Program, implementing work skills and college preparation training. I am trained by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to train local law enforcement in hate crime enhancement. I have partnered with the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the Supreme Court to effectuate new court rules: 3.901; 3.903; 3.921; 3.965; 3.975; 3.976; 3.977; and, 3.979, in dealing with matters of child welfare reform, also, successfully advocating for the passage HB5757, Michigan Medicaid False Claims Act.

Collaborating with University of Michigan in numerous Violence Against Women grants and women’s programming has allowed me to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Community Outreach Policing Centers.

I have Regional Emergency Preparedness Training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and currently participates in restructuring the national child welfare system by increasing accountability and transparency with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney General. My book, detailing my political activities, will be published this year.

My legal expertise includes extraordinary writs, negotiation and emergency response training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, State of Michigan Attorney General, Supreme Court, multiple banking and social welfare institutions in dealing with reducing waste and eliminating abuse of taxpayer dollars.

I am proficient in French and Dutch, with familiarities in Spanish, Latin and Vietnamese.

Briefly, what are the most pressing challenges facing the city and how would you solve those challenges?

Problem: Maximizing Revenue Streams

Solution: Generate proposals to secure federal stimulus funding and encourage international investment for the re-development of housing and business landscape.

Problem: Lack of Internal Controls

Solution: Ensure cost-benefit analysis is performed for all contractual relationships as a way of reducing waste and abuse of funds. Require a certain percentage of residents to be employed with all contracts entered into with the city and allow for Internet as a form of citizen oversight.

Problem: Demand for Juvenile Resources

Solution: Create a junior city government for the children to bring forth their grievances, ideas and solutions as a cost-effective vehicle to target and solicit direct federal funding.

How would you increase economic development?

Broaden the focus of the Downtown Development Authority to include the entire city so that all business may participate and benefit from its activities.

Market the city from its historical perspective to the international film industry for site locations and to international developers. If the Governor can do it, then the Mayor can, too.

Encourage entrepreneurialship with youth by creating a junior economic development authority.

Expand the cyber-presence of the city to increase its marketability. I have initiated this process by uploading city documents on an external site to provide the ability for anyone to participate in the generation of new ideas for urban planning as a “one-stop-shop”.

The city possesses the ability to expand. Not out, but up. This may be seen in multiple level housing and businesses, creating more open and common areas such as parks.

Public safety has become an increasing issue, what are your ideas to make the city safer?

Public safety is not just a matter left to law enforcement. The Community Policing Program is continuing to grow, but it needs to have more public support and participation. I would create a public awareness campaign to encourage more participation in the neighborhood block clubs.

I would like to see a Police-Youth mentorship, similar to existing junior cadet policing programs, which would prepare youth for their transition into adulthood, such as soft-skill development, professionalism, academic and career opportunities. This type of program could be partnered with the Hamtramck Public Schools as high school credit coursework.

Speaking of public safety, do you support asking voters to pass a public safety tax millage (i.e. a tax increase)?

My father used to always say to me: “The dumbest question is the one that is never asked.” Yes, I strongly support referring serious issues to the public for opinion; but no, I do not support a tax millage for public safety. There are outstanding, undistributed funds Police are entitled to for specialized training which would open access to other funding sources. I would immediately open negotiations with the State to release these monies.

The cost of city services continues to increase at the same time that city revenues are either stagnant or decreasing. Do you support merging our services with another community or Wayne County? If you don’t support merging, how would you preserve our city services?

The weight of public safety should not solely fall on the shoulders of the City. There is a dire need for improved communication channels for our Fire/Police Department with the Detroit Police/Fire, Wayne County Sheriff, State Police, Federal Marshals, and other federal agencies. To take a position on the merger of services is premature. A merger of communication and law enforcement activities would be properly stated as a regional partnership.

I would begin preserving our city services by holding a symposium with the regional leadership (sponsored by city, in the city, of course) to open continuing dialogue to adopt and implement feasible relationships.

The year 2010 is when the national Census count occurs, what will you do to make sure Hamtramck receives an accurate count?

The first item on my agenda is to invite all city leaders (i.e. business, education, religious, community) to a lecture, I will facilitate, on the history of the census, its importance, and the personal impact of its effects. I would ask they take the information materials directly back to their areas and conduct similar informative lectures, sort of like the “train-the-trainer” model. Just as an example, the schools could hold workshops for parents, encouraging them to spread the word for people to stand up and be counted.

Secondly, I would put together a short film (made in Hamtramck) and post it on the Internet, like YouTube.

Thirdly, after posting my census film, I would hold a contest for young filmmakers to do the same, promoting the activity in the schools and the community centers.

I could go on, but not at this time. Just spread the word and stand up to be counted.

The growing number of charter schools is threatening to exhaust revenue from the public school district. Is it important that Hamtramck keeps its public schools, and if so, how would you ensure the district survives?

It is extremely important that Hamtramck keeps its public schools for a myriad of reasons. If not only for preserving the historic buildings, such as Holbrook Elementary School, then, the Public School District should be preserved for its community resources, such as the Recreation Department, Community Center, Special Education Programs, and parks.

The real question that should be raised is to ask why the School Board has not addressed the basis for the growing demand of charter schools. This is why I am reaching out to Hamtramck Public Schools to assist resolving this pressing issue.

If you could tap into federal stimulus money, what would you use it for?

I would hope to foster the development of women’s/mother’s program to deal with the issues of domestic violence and the need for a parenting resource exchange network. The program would help economically vulnerable women/mothers with assisted housing stability and home ownership in the city, continuing education opportunities, and entrepreneurial skills training.

The reconstruction of our roads and light rail transportation to connect the region to Hamtramck, would increase the frequency and the amount of shoppers in the city.

Improve public safety monitoring through technological upgrades, such as video surveillance for the entire city and digital communication tools for Police.

There are many artisans here in the city. I would like to further more creative projects in conjunction with affordable housing development by having the artists decorate the properties, all done with a green agenda. Remember, build up, not out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

And Then The Bat Ran...

The initials of my forename are B.A., making it a playful theme as "the bat ran". This theme shall be the name of my youngest son's first literary publication, rightfully entitled: "The Bat Ran".

I am quite sure there are many individuals who are curious as to why I have chosen to run for the public office of Hamtramck City Council. Now is my time to share with you my passion:

It is really quite simple; I am running not only for my children, but for all children. I have never been one to run away from a confrontation, as I do greatly enjoy and encourage dissent, for it is part of the democratic process and a core component of scientific methodology. A theory may only stand the test of time if it can withstand rigorous and robust challenges.

The theory I challenge is that children may not participate in the political process.

Many of you may not know that the national landscape in dealing with matters of family is quickly changing due to the fact that the world is getting smaller, rather we are coming closer together. Hamtramck, with its rich international social fabric, has historically been a unique and progressive municipality in its structure of government. Many families move to this city for the small town comfort of raising a family.

From my research, there are only two instances of the term "children" in the city ordinances I have been able to review, and that term was used as a descriptive for day care facility. No one is willing to listen to our children, and this is the reason I am running for office: to give children a voice, to give the parents opportunities.

I would like to start a junior government. This is how it would work:
  • The children will have to abide by current campaign laws of the State of Michigan.
  • They will solicit signatures in each of their respective schools and submit them to a designated student clerk.
  • Then, they will have to generate campaign material, where the focus will be a green/recycling campaign.
  • Each student voter will have to go through a mock voter registration process in their classrooms.
  • Each school will hold a primary election. The top 4 candidates would advance to the general election.
  • The top 2 students from each school will make it to the junior city council.
  • There will be a similar process for the position of junior Mayor and Junior Judge.
  • Youth will be able to address their concerns and solve them.
  • The junior government may then report their activities and suggestions directly to the City Council.
  • Each elected Councilperson will directly mentor the junior government.
  • There would be a junior police mentoring program.
  • These activities may become incorporated into school credit coursework.
In one fell swoop, we would be picking up the task of civic education while encouraging community participation, as this would end up to be a family activity.

I am attempting to run my campaign as a recycling/low-cost process. My business cards were designed by the top political campaign director in the country, Liam Tran, age 9. My campaign literature was printed by a Hamtramck friend who offered the use of his printer and his leftover supplies. My campaign signs, that have been stolen, (the same exact day my car was stolen, as I shall assume for the esoteric value), were made by using old political campaign material I have been collecting throughout the years and old cardboard, clear packaging tape, old hangers, crayons and markers. My campaign headquarters, located at 9725 Conant/Bangledesh Ave., Tristate TaeKwon-Do Federation, in the city, was offered for use by the Grand Master. I just do not see the logic in dropping thousands of dollars in campaign material when the city is suffering economic hardship. It almost seems like a slap in the face of the families struggling through this economic transition.

And then, the bat ran...