Ypsilanti Citizen News Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant

City Council approves all mayor's re-appointments
By Dan DuChene
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   3:42 a.m.

Jone Coleman, president of downtown business LookInTheAttic, shares his thoughts with City Council about the discussion and procedure taken to pass mayoral re-appointments, which he was being considered for the Downtown Development Authority.

After much procedure, Ypsilanti City Council approved six mayoral re-appointments to city boards and committees Tuesday, including the two postponed from earlier...read more

Council postpones two reappointments
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   4:57 p.m.

Two of Ypsilanti's volunteer board members were not reappointed on schedule Tuesday night, owing to a 4-2 vote by City Council to delay the appointments until...read more

Downtown properties to be rehabilitated
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   10:40 a.m.

The three properties located at 120, 122 and 124 West Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti will soon be rebuilt into commercial and office space and loft apartments, thanks to a planned $1.7 million investment by developers.

Three recently-vacated properties in downtown Ypsilanti, two of them condemned, will soon be renovated owing to recent purchase by a local development company and...read more

Ypsilanti Township authorizes litigation against Liberty Square
By Mark Tower
May. 28, 2010   ·   6:53 p.m.

Many of the homes in the Liberty Square complex on Grove Street in Ypsilanti Township are already boarded and ready for foreclosure sale. All 151 units, some of which are still occupied, will be condemned Tuesday, Ypsilanti Township has resolved.

Residents living in the Liberty Square complex of townhouses will see a sticker appear on their homes Tuesday, when the Ypsilanti Township Building Department places...read more

Ford plant granted tax exemption by township
By Mark Tower
May. 24, 2010   ·   5:44 p.m.

Ford Motor Company's Rawsonville Plan, located at the intersection of Textile and Bridge Roads in Ypsilanti Township, will soon be the new home for production of Ford's Electric Focus batteries, formerly produced in Mexico.

New machines and equipment will soon be wheeled into Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti Township as it begins manufacturing a line of batteries for the new global...read more

City revisits liquor store case

Cathy Hanna, her son Brian and husband Samir own Brandy's Liquor Shop on Michigan Avenue and Summit Street. The city has filed a nuisance abatement suit to close down the store, as the Hannas allege racial discrimination against their store. Photo by Dan DuChene

Cathy Hanna, her son Brian and husband Samir own Brandy's Liquor Shop on Michigan Avenue and Summit Street. The city has filed a nuisance abatement suit to close down the store, as the Hannas allege racial discrimination against their store.

HRC no longer forwared Brandy's situation

By Dan DuChene
Dec. 3, 2008    ·    3:19 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council voted to repeal its decision to forward the racial discrimination issue stemming from Brandy’s Liquor Shop to the city’s Human Relations Commission.

The decision was made last night after Council voted to reconsider the resolution it had passed last month.

While the HRC will no longer be charged to pursue the allegations of discrimination from last month’s meeting, the 60-day stay on the nuisance abatement suit filed by the Ypsilanti Police Department was upheld.

The topic was discussed by City Council and the audience for nearly 1 hour and 40 minutes until a decision was reached. Nearly a dozen Ypsilanti residents spoke out against the store and Council’s previous decision, before the topic was officially discussed by councilmembers.

Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, was the only councilmember who voted against reconsidering the resolution.

The motion to reconsider the resolution passed unanimously by City Council last month was put on the agenda by both the Democratic councilmembers from Ward 2, Bill Nickels and Michael Bodary. At the meeting Bodary made the motion and Nickels seconded.

At the meeting, Bodary said he made the motion “because of some questions that came up” after the last meeting.

“After the 60 days, what are we going to do at that point?” Bodary said. “We really didn’t have all that down in black and white.”

The entire issue stems from an Oct. 29 nuisance abatement suit filed by city police through the City Attorney’s Office. If passed by 14-B Circuit Court Judge Timothy Connors, the suit would order a padlock placed on the store, located on Michigan Avenue near Summit Street.

In addition to the padlock order, all of the private property would be seized and sold, with proceeds going to the city.

The suit alleges city police responded to more than 200 calls to Brandy’s since Jan. 2007. The next closest number is 77, made to Eagles Market on Ballard and Cross streets.

The city alleges Brandy’s has become a hot bed for drugs, aggravated assault and other crimes.

More than 20 people came out at a City Council meeting late last month in support of the store and against the nuisance suit, which had been scheduled to go in front of Connors on Dec. 12.

City Council then voted unanimously to put a 60-day stay on the litigation and forwarded the racial discrimination allegations made by Swanson and audience members at the meeting to the HRC.

These two matters were split when Council reconsidered the issue last night.

Nuisance allegations
Both Ypsilanti Police Chief Matt Harshberger and City Attorney Karl Barr say they have been working with the Hanna family, who own the store, for years.

The two sides have had several meetings in the past, and both sides say there have been discussions on how to curtail the problem of loitering and other crimes stemming from that issue.

These include solutions from hiring security guards and installing surveillance cameras to installing lights and trimming bushes.

“(Harshberger) keeps on telling me I’m not doing (anything),” Samir Hanna said. “He’s saying I’m not cooperating,”

Hanna said he has spent $9,000 in the past two years to meet the requests of the city.

Harshberger said the store owners often act on recommendations made by the city, but those often fall through after time.

“Initially it appeared they were going to do the things we asked them to do,” Harshberger said. “They didn’t follow through and the problems returned quickly.”

He said the private security “didn’t last long,” and previously trimmed bushes grew out again, which concealed narcotics activity.

The Hannas, however, maintain they had a security guard on duty during the summer of 2007, but were only able to keep one for three weeks this past summer.

“It’s not an issue when it’s cold,” Hanna said.

They also said the security cameras do go out sometimes due to equipment malfunctions, but they do their best to maintenance the equipment.

The Hannas have pointed out that not all the calls made to their property were necessarily related to criminal activity, and that the police have stacked the statistics against them.

Harshberger said some of the calls are not due to criminal activity, but they pulled all the calls indiscriminately against all similar businesses. Thus, he maintains some of the calls to other stores are similarly not based on criminal activity.

The Hanna family says when they call the police to report loiterers hanging out in the store’s parking lot, they aren’t taken seriously and told to handle the situation themselves. Instead, they said customers are often harassed by police officers.

Harshberger said the problem is two-fold. First, he says Brandy’s relies on police enforcement too much. He said other liquor stores in the city are often able to remove loiterers on their own.

However, he said if a call is made to police, they will respond.

“We will respond,” Harshberger said. “That’s what we’re there for.

“Don’t just call us,” he said he told the Hannas. “We’re only part of the solution.”

On the contrary, he said the Hannas have told dispatch they don’t want police to visit their store.

“The city of Ypsilanti is not in the business of managing liquor stores,” Barr said.

He said the city has presented the Hannas with options and have turned up with little results. He said the family should look to other store owners for suggestions.

“I think the store is past the point of complete innocence,” Barr said.

Both Barr and Harshberger have said they have a confidential informant that says they know the Hannas have hidden drug dealers in their coolers. Barr said he has heard reports that dealers will often hide drugs behind stock on shelves.

Both said the informant was expected to testify during court proceedings.

The Hannas deny these allegations emphatically.

Harshberger and Barr said they have been working out a list of criteria that could be met by Brandy’s that could lead to a settlement without court action. They told City Council the list could include a 30-day suspension of liquor sales and a reduction of hours.

However, the city has not specifically discussed these points with the Hannas.

Council directed staff to have a report on those conditions at their next meeting.

Alleged discrimination
Swanson, several members of the audience and Cathy Hanna alleged the suit against the store is race related at last month’s meeting.

They said loitering outside of stores is a common event throughout the city, not just at Brandy’s. Many asked why this store was being singled out by the city for a systemic problem.

Members of the audience at last month’s meeting stated Brandy’s is a community-oriented store that often goes out of their way to serve their costumers. Because of the mainly African American clientele, and the Middle Eastern ownership, the store is being picked on by police and members of nearby neighborhood associations.

Swanson said police often present themselves to the community one way, and deliver information to City Council in another.

The Hannas have recorded a phone call they had received during store hours using racial slurs, they believe to intimidate them and prevent them from fighting the suit.

Cathy Hanna played the recording during the City Council meeting last month. “We’re going to get you nigger lovers out of there,” the caller said.

Harshberger said the nuisance suit is not at all race related.

“The race issue was totally inappropriate and unjustified,” he said. “I believe it’s a smoke screen.”

If the city would like to review the race allegations against the department, Harshberger said he welcomes it.

“I invite it,” he said. “I know what it is going to show.”

The HRC met last week and spent almost the entire meeting discussing the issue. They had decided that although the commission normally responds to specific complaints filed by citizens, they would take on the issue.

However, they noted to separate the issue from the ongoing litigation.

They had asked for written statements from community members about the situation at Brandy’s.

“I don’t see any discrimination going on here on part of the city,” Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said at last night’s meeting. “As citizens, people have every right to ask the HRC to approach the issue.”

Councilmember Peter Murdock, D-Ward 3, said, “If people have complaints for the HRC, they should follow up with the HRC.”

City Manager Ed Koryzno said allegations of rational discrimination should be e-mailed to Deputy City Clerk Ed Golembiewski at egolembiewski@cityofypsilanti.com.

They can also be mailed to the city to City of Ypsilanti c/o HRC, 1 South Huron Street, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197.

The HDC hopes to review statements in January and set a deadline of Dec. 22 for submissions.

Stay tuned to the Citizen for details on this developing story.

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