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Ferndale cut from downtown revitalization program


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Ferndale is cut from downtown revitalization program

February 24, 2004



There may be no more outspoken foes in southeast Michigan than the Republican-led government of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the Democrat-dominated leadership at Ferndale City Hall.

Their decade-long war of words turned bitter on Monday.

Oakland County's chief of economic development called Ferndale's city manager to say the county was dropping Ferndale from its Main Street program of downtown revitalization.

"Now I guess we're orphans," said Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin.

Seven other cities in Oakland County participate in Main Street Oakland County, a version of a downtown revitalization program available to cities nationwide.

The move means Ferndale will lose technical assistance valued at about $10,000 to $25,000 a year. And by losing the program, Ferndale won't be invited to county meetings about how older shopping districts can compete with the gleaming new shopping areas at the fringes of metro Detroit -- areas where Ferndale's leaders accuse Oakland County government of fostering sprawl.

Barwin said he received a call Monday from Dennis Toffolo, Oakland County's director of community and economic development.

Barwin said Toffolo told him that "the Oakland County administration disagrees with Ferndale's position on unabated urban sprawl and unabated freeway expansions, and therefore apparently they no longer see fit to allow us to participate in the Main Street program. I appreciate him being candid."

On Monday, Toffolo disavowed that anyone outside his office, including Patterson, had contributed to the decision.

"Basically, we're pulling it because I don't think we have the cooperation from Mr. Barwin that we need," he said.

Asked for an example of poor cooperation from Barwin, Toffolo said: "One is verbally. Another is his mannerisms."

Toffolo also said Barwin criticized the Main Street program and told others it wasn't helping Ferndale. Ferndale Mayor Bob Porter said, "I've never heard Tom do anything but compliment the program."

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Yeah. Ferndale knows what's right for the region. However it is so small that it is totally overshadowed by the larger, sprawlier suburbs to the north. The little town has no voice. They talk about things such a light rail along Woodward instead of the $8 billion widening of I-75, but nobody listens.

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