Dobies focuses on economic growth, safe neighborhoods in address

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JACKSON, MI (WILX) -- Several speakers and Mayor Derek Dobies held the Jackson City of the State address Wednesday night.

Mayor Derek Dobies focused on Jackson's economic growth, infrastructure and keeping community neighborhoods safer in his address Wednesday night. (Source: WILX)

After many thanks to those who work in the community, and a few speakers, Mayor Dobies stepped up to the podium.

He started his speech by talking about new developments in the City of Jackson.

Dobies talked about The 200 development downtown that will house around 150 new residents. He also discussed the $17 million Albert Khan Apartment complex, which includes commercial space and 73 low-income apartments with one and two-bedroom units. Dobies said both projects are scheduled to be completed in the fall.

Speaking of low-income housing, the mayor said the $2.5 million partnership between Jackson Habitat, Community Action Agency and the City of Jackson will build four houses and 10 townhouses for families who are struggling. The mayor said construction on that project will begin this year.

The mayor also listed a few new businesses which will be coming into Jackson this year including Metropolitan Ice Cream, Ogma Brewing, the Pickel Barrel and Popeyes.

Dobies said the city has also allowed two provisional licenses for two new multi-million dollar medical marijuana establishments.

"That’s exactly the approach we have taken in constructing our regulatory environment in Jackson. We’ve incorporated our rigorous building design standards and other worker-oriented policies into scoring criteria that allows us to ​ensure that the new businesses and developments coming into our community are ​good​ for our community​," Dobies said.

Next in his speech, the mayor switched gears to discuss construction projects within the city.

"This year Cooper Street and the overpass will be complete and work will begin on our other entryway to the city down Elm Street. It will get the same roundabouts and gateway treatments as Cooper Street," Dobies said.

MLK Drive will also be redone from Wesley all the way down to Morrel, Dobies said.

"Decorative street lights will be placed all the way from downtown, down Morrell and down Adrian Street to the MLK Center to better connect the downtown to the southside," Dobies said.

Work will also be done to the city parks including converting Beech Tree Park into the city's first dog park, which will have areas for both small and large dogs, Dobies said.

In addition to growing the economy and working on infrastructure, Dobies said the city is also working to make Jackson's neighborhoods safer.

"We’ve made good progress in that endeavor with the support of the brave men and women at the Jackson Police Department. Over the past five years, the City has seen a 10% decrease in crimes like homicide, rape, and assault, robbery, burglary and theft. In fact, over that period the City saw a 12% decrease in overall crime and a 6% decrease just from 2018 to 2019," Dobies said.

The mayor said statistically, 2018 and 2019 were the safest years on record in the last 30 years for crime across the board.

The mayor then went on to speak about gun violence.

"Just last week, a 14-year-old boy, Cameron ​Kasprzycki, was killed on Orange Street. Last year I spoke about the murder of Ronald Demetrius Owens, the son of a colleague at city hall," Dobies said.

The mayor said gun violence is a "public health crisis."

"Under the worst conditions, it is infectious and contagious. Thinking of gun violence in that way makes it treatable. It makes it preventable," Dobies said.

Dobies spoke of his Cure Violence initiative which focuses on curbing gun violence.

"Teams of street level interrupters will work with city staff to identify and isolate the most violent offenders and work to ensure others are not inflicted with violent thoughts and actions. We will rally the community to support them, provide them with the tools and opportunities they need to be successful," Dobies said.

The mayor also talked about the Harm Reduction Program, implemented in 2019, which led to the creation of the city's first needle exchange program under the leadership of Laura Stephens.

"We’ll continue to explore ways to support those efforts to reduce the effects of the opiate crisis and addiction within our city and the spillover effects it has with violence in our neighborhoods," Dobies said.

In addition to discussing efforts to keep neighborhoods safer, the mayor said he will be introducing the Neighborhood Association Ordinance, which will work with the city council to organize neighborhoods, giving them "ownership of some of the solutions they can employ to fix the problems particular to their neighborhood. To give them more control and oversight about future developments going on in their area."

"We’ll give residents the tools to stabilize their neighborhoods, increase homeownership, and improve the quality of housing stock by expanding access to housing rehabilitation loans," Dobies said.

Toward the end of his address, the mayor touched on the Poverty Council, which will help reduce poverty in the city.

He said the council will be made up of nonprofit leaders and thinkers who will work to create solutions to reduce poverty.

"Jackson is leading the way in reducing poverty through the development of new low-to-moderate housing developments, proactive policies that combat the criminalization of poverty, and dedicating resources back to traditionally neglected neighborhoods," Dobies said.

In closing, the Mayor urged the city to come together to make Jackson a better place for everyone.

"We’ve spurred development, new businesses are opening up, and the city is becoming a great place to do business. So do your business here, but ​make helping Jackson your business too​," Dobies said.

You can watch the full address at the bottom of this article.

You can read the full transcript of the speech by clicking to the right of this article.

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