Victim of Paradise Manor fire dies of brain aneurysm

February 24, 2007 by  
Filed under News

(February 23, 2007) Sources at City Hall have confirmed that one of the residents displaced by the fire at Paradise Manor died last week of a brain aneurysm. The mother of four including one adult daughter, died Wednesday, February 14th. The mother, who has not been named, was one of five families that lost everything in the deadly fire at Paradise Manor that killed three young children.

The three children that died in the fire are not related to woman who did of a brain aneurysm. Sources told YpsiNews that her death was likely not the result of stress related to the fire. Few other details are known.

The funeral was held this week. Money raised to pay for the funeral of the three children is expected to cover some of the costs of her funeral. Case managers from the county are working with the family and other agencies to move quickly to place the children with other family members.

Sources have privately told YpsiNews that Washtenaw County is working to get a ‘portable’ Section 8 voucher for the family for new housing. Calls to the Ypsilanti Housing Commission for comment were not returned.

Michigan think-tank says regionalization is solution

February 20, 2007 by  
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(February 20, 2007) A Livonia, Michigan based think-tank has issued the first of four reports on regionalization in the State of Michigan. The Citizens Research Council, a 90-year old independent, nonpartisan research organization released today a 16-page report entitled, Regional Approaches to Economic Development: The Challenge of Economic Development.

CRC concludes that “While it is clear that preserving the old model is untenable, Michigan (is) struggling to transition to the new competitive requirements of higher education and skills, technological innovation, e-commerce, open trade, organizational flexibility, increased product and service diversity, and relentless competition. One promising approach that is emerging in Michigan and across the nation is the realignment of economic development efforts on a regional basis.”

The report goes on to say, “Regions are the logical basis for economic development.” CRC says that Michigan leaders should consider what North Carolina is doing by organizing all counties in to seven regional centers.

The second report will focus on effective regional economic development organizational structures, the third report are the results of a nationwide survey of regional economic development organizations. The final installment will describe some of the “contradictory theoretical and programmatic approaches to economic development.” CRC officials said the will be staggering the release of the next three reports over the next month.

Estabrook receives prestigious Blue Ribbon award

February 20, 2007 by  
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(January 20, 2007) Ypsilanti Public Schools’ Estabrook Elementary School was one of 23 elementary schools in the state to receive Blue Ribbon status from the state Department of Education. The Michigan Blue Ribbon Exemplary School Program is designed to recognize schools that have made outstanding improvements and demonstrate a strong commitment to academic excellence.

Estabrook is the only elementary school in Washtenaw County to receive the distinction. The Blue Ribbon program was established in 1982. Schools under consideration for the award must complete a comprehensive report of key criteria for school effectiveness that serves as a basis for an extensive assessment of the building and programs.

Links
Ypsilanti Public Schools

Editorial Cartoon 2/19/07

Thanks to Atom Smasher for the picture.

New YpsiNews videos posted on-line

February 19, 2007 by  
Filed under News

(February 19, 2007) YpsiNews.com and a number of community volunteers continue to video record City Council, boards and commission, and community meetings. The recent Water Street Update meeting held last week was posted within 24 hours of the meeting. Turn-out was light for the meeting as Ypsilanti was blanketed by a heavy snow that evening.

Readers can view any video by going to www.YpsiNews.com/video.

Other recent meetings that have been recorded include the Planning Commission, DDA, as well as the City Council Goal Setting. For the first time, YpsiNews also recorded an Ypsilanti Township meeting.

Ypsilanti Twp Police Services Meeting, January 20, 2007

Since October 2006, over 24,300 people have watched YpsiNews videos. The December School board meeting which discussed the “Braves” mascot had over 1,000 viewers. Several City council meetings each have had some 800 viewers.

If you would like to volunteer to help record a community meeting or want to suggest a meeting we should record, contact YpsiNews.com

Fundraiser for Paradise Manor victims huge success

February 13, 2007 by  
Filed under News

(February 13, 2007) A dinner to raise money for the families of the deadly Paradise Manor public housing fire was a huge success. Leonardo Christian from Devinci Fundraising and Bob Roberts from Aubrees Resturant in Depot Town reported that over $11,200 was raised and over 1,000 spaghetti dinners were served. Servers and staff donated all tips that evening which was $500.

Patrons were lining up outside the restaurant waiting to enter. A veritable who’s who of Ypsilanti was there from the Mayor of Ypsilanti Paul Schreiber and his wife to two women from Detroit who heard about the dinner on TV and wanted to help. Roberts said people were stopping by as early as 9 in the morning to drop off a check telling Aubree’s staff they were on the way to work and wanted to make a contribution because they couldn’t make the dinner.

Christian said every penny will go to victims. Christian began work on the fundraiser the morning after the devastating fire that killed three young children. Roberts, manager of Aubree’s, and a board member of Devinci Fundraising immediately offered Aubree’s restaurant. Sarah Harrington from Standard Printing in Depot Town donated the labor and printing of the flyer. Less than 18 hours after the fire, the first event was planned.

Christian said another fundraiser will be held on Wednesday, February 14 from 4 to 7pm at Pub 13 in Downtown Ypsilanti. A comedy show to raise more money is planned for this weekend this Sunday February 18th, from 7 to 9:30 p.m at Pub 13. Cover is $5 and buffet is $10. All money will be donated to the families affected by the Paradise Manor fire.

Funeral arrangements for the three children are still being planned. Lucille’s on South Adams is handling the arrangements. Visitation is Thursday, February 15th, from 4 to 7 pm. The memorial service and funeral will be on Friday, a time has not yet been set.

Deadly Fire: City-Owned Apartments Did Not Pass Rental Inspections

February 9, 2007 by  
Filed under News

Fire kills three children in Ypsilanti public housing (Photo Courtesy Detroit News)

Public Housing property is one of many Ypsilanti Housing Commission complexes that has no valid Certificate of Occupancy.

(February 9, 2007) Ypsilanti city building officials told YpsiNews.com just two weeks before the deadly fire, that Paradise Manor Public Housing on West Michigan Avenue does not have a current Certificate of Occupancy.

Under the City of Ypsilanti ordinances, all rental property in the city, including property owned by the Ypsilanti Housing Commission, must have their property inspected by the city Building Department every two years.

The city specifically calls it a Certificate of Compliance under the rental housing inspection program that is administered by the city. Property owners and managers must have and maintain a valid certificate of compliance in order to rent the property to any residents.

On Thursday around 4pm, a deadly fire raced through Paradise Manor. Killed in the fire were three children, ages 1 to 7. The mother had stepped out to a neighbors to get an ingredient for a meal she was cooking. When she returned, smoke was so thick, residents reported that you could not even see the door to the apartment.

Witnesses report the fire tore through the building within minutes. The first call came from an Ypsilanti police officer who was driving by and noticed flames coming from a window. Shortly after that, calls began coming into 911. When firefighters arrived on scene within minutes of the first call, they found flames shooting through the roof. Two firefighters were injured fighting the fire. One twisted an ankle after falling into a hole, the other suffered minor burns and blistering of the neck.

The fire began in the kitchen and then raced up the stairs to the second floor where the children were located. The only exit out of the apartment was down the stairs and through the kitchen. Firefighters said it would have been impossible for the children to make it down the stairs though the smoke and fire.

Modern building codes do not allow for the only exit to be through a kitchen because of the prevalence of kitchen fires. Paradise Manor is a public housing project built in the 1970’s, long before most building codes were adopted by the City.

Paradise Manor is owned and managed by the Ypsilanti Housing Commission, which is part of the City of Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti City Council appoints members to the Housing Commission board and oversees their budget. The former chair and long time board member of the Housing Commission, Paul Schreiber, is now mayor of Ypsilanti.

The City’s Rental ordinance states:

    “No person, either the owner or owner’s agent shall rent, lease, or allow occupancy of a dwelling unit or sleeping unit after September 1, 1986, in a multiple dwelling, to any person unless that owner or owner’s agent has first obtained a valid certificate of compliance from the city building inspection department covering that unit.”

The Housing Commission currently owns and operates 199 units in the City of Ypsilanti as well as administers the HUD Section 8 voucher program in the city.

According to City Hall, besides Paradise Manor, Housing Commission properties at 610-614 First Avenue and 881-885 Madison also do not have current Certificates of Compliance. Most of those properties have tenants.

Charles Boulard, Director of the Ypsilanti Building Department, said that most of the problems at Paradise Manor involved site work including steps and sidewalks which haven’t been repaired. Boulard said the apartments had not been inspected and the city was waiting for the Housing Commission to complete additional work before reinspecting the property.

Another unit at Paradise Manor was devastated by fire less than two years ago. The north unit fire destroyed one apartment and caused significant damage to two other units. Those units have been rebuilt but still do not have Certificates of Compliance. It is unknown if residents are currently living in the north unit of Paradise Manor.

In a closed session last January 2006, The Ypsilanti Housing Commission (YHC) voted to hire an outside attorney to deal with the ongoing dispute over housing inspections and code violations with the City. When it was pointed out that the closed session was in violation of the Open Meetings Act, YHC officials said the issue was about on-going litigation. However, no suit had been filed by the city and the closed meeting was to discuss the need to hire an attorney, not hear advice from legal counsel. YHC officials and board members have refused to talk about the code violations or inspections since the January 2006 meeting.

From the Housing Commission minutes:

Adjourned to Closed Session at 7:56 pm. per Open Meetings Act Sec 15.268(a) to discuss City Building Department Violation/Registration

When the Housing Commission emerged from closed session they passed a new resolution which stated:

Meeting reconvened at 9:21 p.m.
New Business
RESOLUTION 2006-01
RFQ for Legal Council (sic) regarding the Housing Code Violation Citation
Offered by Commissioner Schreiber
Supported by Commission Jones
Questions asked and answered
YEAS 5 NAYS 0 Passed Unanimously

As of the posting of this story, we have made several calls to Ypsilanti Housing Commission Director Walter Norris. Our calls have not been returned. We will update this story as we continue to learn more about this devastating fire and deaths.

Editors Note: The owner of YpsiNews.com, Steve Pierce, was one of three candidates that ran for Mayor of Ypsilanti in the 2006 Democratic primary.

Prosecutor clears police in Ypsilanti shooting (UPDATE3)

February 9, 2007 by  
Filed under News

(February 7, 2007) The Washtenaw County Prosecutor has cleared two police officers in a recent shooting death of a drug suspect in Ypsilanti. Police Officers that are part of the LAWNET task force, were conducting an undercover drug buy on North Huron in Ypsilanti when, during the arrest of the two suspects, one suspect drove his car towards an officer while the second suspect, fled on foot. Police shot at the driver apparently injuring him. Both subjects then fled on foot. The driver was hit by an undercover police car. The police chased the passenger and he was shot and killed by police on Arcade Street.

The County Prosecutor, in a press release dated February 6, 2007, said that the shooting was justified under Michigan law. The press release contradicted earlier media reports as well as the Michigan State Police press release that was sent out the day after the shooting.

One local paper reported that the second suspect, was shot six times. The County Prosecutor stated the suspect was shot three times.

There is also a disagreement over the name of the subject. The State Police press release said the suspect killed in the shooting was David Antjuan Ware of Washtenaw County. The County Prosecutor said the passenger and second suspect was David Eugene Ware of Taylor, Michigan that was killed by police.

The County’s press release leaves more questions unanswered then answered. While the press release says that Michigan law permits an officer to use deadly force to stop a fleeing felon, it is unclear how a suspect is considered a felon if they haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime. Another question left unanswered, under Michigan law can a suspect be shot for fleeing if suspected of any felony, including a non-violent felony.

The press release claims that officers knew the suspect and knew that Ware had possessed firearms in the past.

If that is the case, was it appropriate to shoot the suspect during a foot chase, in an uncontrolled environment of a residential street. If the officers did know Ware, could the officers have arrested Ware at a later date since they knew who he was before they shot him?

One of the questions asked by many neighbors in the Riverside Neighborhood Association was did Ware have or brandish a weapon? The press release made no mention if Ware possessed or threatened to use a weapon before he was shot.

Sources at the police department have confirmed that one of the officers involved in the shooting was Uriah Hamilton from the Ypsilanti Police Department. Hamilton is currently on loan to LAWNET.

According the County Prosecutor, two officers fired their weapons that evening. One officer, shot three times at the suspects vehicle. According to the press release, “Two shots penetrated the vehicle and one of those two shots appears to have grazed the driver, but did not cause serious injury.” The driver was then struck by a police vehicle. The driver was taken to an area hospital for treatment and then lodged at the County Jail.

The second suspect, Ware, was a passenger in the vehicle. Ware fled on foot and according the County Prosecutor two officers pursued Ware. Officers yelled at Ware, “Stop! Don’t make me shoot you.” Ware was shot three times, by Officer Hamilton.

Ypsilanti Police have confirmed that Hamilton is on paid administrative leave which is typical after an officer is involved in a shooting. Police declined to further comment on the shooting or Hamilton’s role in the shooting.

During the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, Ypsilanti Police Chief Harshberger told the mayor and council that he could not provide any further details on the shooting as he had been instructed by the County Prosecutor to make no statements.

One of the questions that remains unanswered is how many shots were fired by the second officer at Ware? The Prosecutor said Ware was shot three times but it is unknown if the second officer fired more than three times.

Now that the County Prosecutor has received the report from the Michigan State Police and has determined that shooting was justified, it remains to be seen what will happen at the City. Police Chief Matt Harshberger in an earlier interview had indicated that YPD would be conducting their own review of the incident once the Michigan State Police completed their investigation. Harshberger did not indicate when that investigation would be completed.

The City of Ypsilanti many years ago, as a result of previous police shootings, had developed guidelines for the appropriate use of deadly force. It is unclear if these guidelines are still used at YPD and if the YPD officer, while on loan to LAWNET, would even be subject to those guidelines.

The City and LAWNET officials are conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. (Wednesday, February 7th) at the Ypsilanti Senior Center. The meeting is open to the public.

If the Prosecutor’s gag order is still in effect, it is unclear whether LAWNET or the Ypsilanti Police will provide more details at tonight’s meeting or even respond to specific questions about the shooting.

Last updated: Feb 9, 2008 9:46 am
First reported: Feb 7, 2007 6:25 am