That went fast.
The pages of the calendar for 2022 flipped by lickety split and 2023 is already here.
Thinking ahead, here is a quick list of things that could come in the New Year:
1) Mayoral showdown in Warren
For local political junkies, this is going to be an exciting year in Macomb’s most-populated city.
A variety of the city’s political heavyweights are expected to throw their hat into the proverbial ring including City Council President Patrick Green, state Rep. Lori Stone, other council members such as Angela Rogensues, and even Fouts himself.
The question is, will Fouts be on the ballot?
Voters approved a charter amendment in 2020 that imposes term limits for the mayor’s position. A mayor can only serve three four-year terms, or 12 years, in office like the rest of the city’s elected officials.
The 80-year-old Fouts recently was quoted by the Warren Weekly as saying his name will be on 2023 ballot. If he is successful, that would result in an unprecedented fifth term.
According to the newspaper report, Fouts says he has received more than a 70% approval rating in polling, while other potential candidates garnered single digit positives.
“I think the people support what I am doing,” Fouts told the Warren Weekly.
He was first elected to the City Council in 1981 and served 26 years. When this, his fourth term as mayor draws to a close, he will been at the city’s helm for 16 years.
No doubt Fouts’ biggest selling points are his availability to residents — he is known for answering resident’s phone calls late into the night — and overseeing all department heads with an iron first.
But if he is disqualified for term limits, political consultants say Green or Stone would be the front-runners.
Stone was just elected to her second term in Lansing, but would be the city’s first female mayor if she ran and won the position. Green has a large amount of institutional support among city workers, which could translate into votes in a mayoral run.
To add further intrigue, a Green-Stone contest would be, in boxing terms, a rubber match, after each one election.
Green beat Stone in the August 2016 Democratic primary election for the Michigan House of Representatives and won a seat in the general election. Two years later, she returned the favor by defeating Green in the August primary and went on to win in November.
Sounds like a potentially interesting scenario.
Consultant Michael Radtke says either way, it will be a “lively primary” this summer.
“Personally, I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership in Warren,” said Radtke, who is also a member of the Sterling Heights City Council.
2) Paradise on Lake St. Clair
It’s hard to believe Gino’s Surf and Luna Kai Bar & Grill in Harrison Township has been closed for seven years now.
The landmark venue Jefferson south of Metropolitan Parkway been an iconic facility for generations, hosting weddings, graduation parties and other events. It closed in August 2015 as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.
Now comes a team of investors headed by Harrison Township business entrepreneur Brian Jeffries who are putting together what looks to be a compelling recipe of casual elegance combined with waterfront ambience.
They include Awsem Zbair, Isam Sami, Fikry Gejou, Farqad Sami, and Jeffries, who is internationally known by his alter ego, DJ Godfather, a master of electronic music festivals.
They’ve been working on the project for a couple of years, although delayed by the pandemic. The group says even they want to open as soon as possible, they are taking their time with the design, menu, and atmosphere of the place.
Plans call for a remodeled outdoor patio with huge artsy structures that can be seen from a mile out on the water, the addition of up to 30 boat slips, a renovated banquet center, and 44 new big-screen TVs in the bar area.
According to Jeffries, the idea is to make Gino’s Surf a high-end sports-themed restaurant/bar with live entertainment and a next-door banquet facility. It likely will be open year-round.
Jeffries predicted it will be a gathering spot for sailors and landlubbers alike.
Also, the team has acquired a field right next to Gino’s parking lot that they may convert into a landscaped garden area that will be ideal for wedding photographs.
“Once it gets done, it’s definitely going to be a destination spot not only for Harrison Township, but for all of Macomb County and beyond,” he said. “We’re very excited.”
3) Ciao Italia
A new restaurant featuring Italian and American food will take its place along Gratiot Avenue in Roseville beginning Tuesday.
Joe’s Italian Grill replaces the long-vacant Noni’s Grill south of 12 Mile Road, giving Rosevillians a 4,000-square-foot casual, sitdown place to eat adorned black linen tablecloths, and an outdoor patio.
“We want to provide great food and customer service at a blue collar price for a working man community,” said Charles Whisnant, the general manager.
Owner Joseph DeFelice says he is offering an alternative to the fast-food hamburger-and-chicken joints crowding up Gratiot Avenue that is open a little bit later into the night.
“We have all these chain restaurants around, but we wanted to give the people a better meal than they would get at a corporate chain eatery,” said DeFelice, who serves as secretary for the Roseville Community Schools Board of Education.
The two-sided menu features all the Italian dishes you can think of, including spaghetti and meatballs, several versions of pizza, fettuccini Alfredo, and gnocchi parmigiana, along with a range of classic American steaks, sandwiches, and salads.
Joe’s expects to have a liquor license in place by February for diners who care to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their dinner.
It also has a drive-through window that will not be used right away but will be available in case another pandemic breaks out.
4) Farewell to Dooleys
Dooleys Tavern, another longtime gathering spot in Roseville, is expected to be replaced by Macomb County’s first Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken in the New Year.
Longtime owner Frank Sgroi Jr. said he is retiring from the entertainment business and moving to Mexico. He said he has sold the venue.
“It’s being purchased by the owner of Leo’s Coney Island across the street,” he said recently in a text. “They are remodeling it to be a Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken franchise.”
Lee’s is a quick-service restaurant chain that offers broasted chicken along with other tasty treats such as chicken pot pie, country-fried steak, BBQ chicken sandwiches, and about 20 sides including mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and baked beans.
Sgroi shut down Dooleys following the fatal shooting of a doorman in February 2002.
5) Dress it up
Is there anything planned yet for the little parcel of vacant land that used to house the Macomb County parking garage in downtown Mount Clemens?
The 2.3-acre of property north of the Circuit Court has been empty since the structure was demolished in 2016. It was part of a $65 million renovation project at the county’s Mount Clemens campus.
Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin said there are no plans currently in the works.
“Given it is adjacent to other county facilities the plan is to determine future needs as the county population continues to expand,” he said in an email.
We’re completely on board with getting the best use of the property near the Clinton River. But in the meantime, it seems logical to use it for something – to host art displays, maybe a temporary ice rink, and even accept donations to make it into a park.
Something is always better than nothing.
6) The Blue Economy
Maybe 2023 will be the year elected officials in Macomb and Oakland counties put aside their name-calling and finger-pointing over pollution of Lake St. Clair and come up with a realistic solution.
The lake’s shoreline for decades has been has been plagued with out-of-control algae growth and closed beaches due to contaminants in the water.
Many suspect that’s due to Oakland County dumping sewage combined with storm water into the Red Run in Madison Heights during heavy rain events. Partially treated or raw sewage flows through the drain into Sterling Heights and Warren, into the Clinton River and ultimately into Lake St. Clair, impacting water quality.
Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash in December said he has been working on a regional collaboration initiative that takes a scientific approach to finding the causes of the pollution. He said Macomb and Wayne counties are on board with the concept, as is SEMCOG.
“We need to stop yelling at each other,” he said.
Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller supports a task force approach.
Nash expects the task force will get going in 2023.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has said he may have to resort to a lawsuit or building a dam to prevent sewage overflows from entering the Red Run Drain. The county board in October passed a resolution urging Oakland officials to invest in steps to reduce sewer discharges.
7) The Clem’s growth continues
The past 12 months saw a number of businesses making downtown Mount Clemens their home. The trend looks like it will continue for 2023
Black Cat Coffee Shop, Clementine’s Pastries, Switalski Law, and Capture a Moment Photography are among the shops and offices that have opened.
Scheduled to open in the coming weeks are Escapology Escape Room and Kawaii Bubble Tea, along with the Painted Lady tattoo parlor and a restaurant/bar both located in the former Salad Garden as part of the John Van Camp building.
Initially, part of the old Salad Garden development was going to have the restaurant located at the corner of Macomb Place and North Walnut Street.
But retired Macomb County Judge Mark Switalski and his wife, former assistant prosecutor and Waterford Township district court judge, Jodi Debbrecht Switalski, swooped in and took over the property. They’ve retained the original tin roof and exposed brick walls, and added large windows to the reception area,