Hamtown hassle

Dec 13, 2000 at 12:00 am

By the time you read this, Hamtramck Mayor Gary Zych will have either survived the third effort in as many years to recall him, or city residents will have voted to bid Mr. Z. adieu. Whatever happens, News Hits can’t help but shake our heads at this whole nutty affair. Here’s why: Until November, when John Justewicz was elected to Hamtown’s City Council, the body was deadlocked with two members — Council President Phil Kwik and Joe Strzalka — almost always siding with Zych’s vision for the city and the other two — Chris Cornwell and Bernard Bator— opposing him. Although he has veto power, the mayor can’t cast a council vote, and one seat was vacant. Hence the stalemate.

The biggest battle has been over how to balance the city budget, which is $2.4 million in the red. Zych and his crew wanted to cut some city jobs; Bator and Cornwell fought the plan. Justewicz, who is also no fan of Zych, did not support job cuts either.

As a result, the state stepped in and took over control of the city’s purse strings.

Last month the state appointed retired financial consultant Louis Schimmel to get Hamtown back on its financial feet. The irony is that Schimmel not only cut city jobs — about 30 so far — he is saving the city a few bucks by having Zych and the council go without pay and benefits. Since Schimmel had relieved those elected officials of their duties, actually paying them probably seemed a little extravagant, considering the city’s dire straits.

How does the Hamtramck Organized for Political Enlightenment (HOPE), which spearheaded the recall election, feel about this turn of events? News Hits can’t say. HOPE did not get back to us by press time. But if their intention is to “reclaim Hamtramck,” as some Zych opponents have repeatedly said, News Hits suggests that they think about this: That will never happen, recall or no recall. The reason is that Hamtramck belongs to all its citizens, including those who elected Zych twice and voted against past recalls. It also includes the foreign-born residents Zych’s opponents tried to keep from voting in past elections. Besides, a recall won’t get rid of the state — which seems to be carrying out many of the measures Zych has been pushing all along.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]