|City of Pontiac|
The Pontiac Commercial Historic District in September 2010.
Location of Pontiac, Michigan
|• Type||Council-Strong Mayor|
|• Mayor||Leon Jukowski|
|• Total||20.28 sq mi (52.52 km2)|
|• Land||19.97 sq mi (51.72 km2)|
|• Water||0.31 sq mi (0.80 km2)|
|Elevation||922 ft (281 m)|
|• Estimate (2012)||60,175|
|• Density||2,980.2/sq mi (1,150.7/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0635224|
Named after Chief Pontiac, the city was best known throughout its history for its General Motors automobile manufacturing plants including Fisher Body, Pontiac East Assembly (a.k.a. Truck & Coach/Bus) and Pontiac Motor Division, which in the city's heyday was the primary automobile assembly plant where the famed Pontiac cars were produced and named after the city. The city of Pontiac also was home to Oakland Motor Car Company which was acquired by General Motors in 1909. Also of note is the Pontiac Silverdome, the stadium that hosted the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) from 1975 until 2002, when the team moved back to Downtown Detroit.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.28 square miles (52.52 km2), of which, 19.97 square miles (51.72 km2) is land and 0.31 square miles (0.80 km2) is water.
The former Pontiac Township included what are now the cities of Pontiac, Lake Angelus, and Auburn Hills. The township incorporated as the City of Auburn Hills in 1983. Although the township no longer exists as a civil entity, it is still used as a survey township for land use purposes.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $31,207, and the median income for a family was $36,391. Males had a median income of $31,961 versus $24,765 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,842. About 18.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.3% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 59,515 people, 22,220 households, and 13,365 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,980.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,150.7 /km2). There were 27,084 housing units at an average density of 1,356.2 per square mile (523.6 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 34.4% White, 52.1% African American, 0.6% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 6.2% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.5% of the population.
There were 22,220 households of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.4% were married couples living together, 27.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.9% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.28.
The median age in the city was 33.4 years. 27.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.2% were from 25 to 44; 24.2% were from 45 to 64; and 9.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.1% male and 50.9% female.
Residents are zoned to the School District of the City of Pontiac. The district runs one main high school, Pontiac High School. There were once two high schools, Pontiac Northern and Pontiac Central, but both were combined at the Pontiac Northern location in 2009. This combined high school is known simply as Pontiac High School today. Which is now Associated with International Technology Academy, a program/school which requires an 3.0 to be admitted.
The district currently serves about 6200 students.
There are four charter schools in Pontiac which offer a school choice to residents of Pontiac and the surrounding cities. The four charter schools are: Pontiac Academy for Excellence (K-12), Arts and Technology Academy, Walton Charter, and Great Lakes Academy.
Pontiac is also home to Notre Dame Preparatory High School, a private, Catholic school located in the North East area of the city.
Early expeditions into the land north of Detroit described the area as having "extreme sterility and barrenness". Developments and exploration were soon to prove that report false.
The first settlers arrived in what is now the city of Pontiac in 1818. Two years later the fledgling settlement was designated the county seat for Oakland. The Pontiac Company, first chaired by Solomon Sibley of Detroit, comprised the first landowners in Pontiac, consisting of 15 members. Sibley, along with Stephen Mack and Shubael Conant, Pontiac Company members, also formed the partnership Mack, Conant & Sibley to facilitate the business of building a town. The first buildings were largely financed by Solomon and Sarah Sibley. It's important to note that while Solomon was the first chair of the Pontiac Company, for two years, it was Sarah who was the go between for him and those at Pontiac. Solomon Sibley was constantly traveling as a Territorial Congressman and later a Territorial Supreme Court judge.
Its also important to note that Elizabeth Denison, an unmarried, free Black woman, worked for the Sibleys in the 1820s and it was they who made it possible for her to buy land in Pontiac in 1825. Stephen Mack, agent for the Pontiac Company at the time signed the deed, at the bequest of the Sibleys, conveying 48.5 acres to Elizabeth Denison that is believed to make her the first Black woman to purchase land in the new territory of Michigan. The proposition to sell land to Ms. Denison was also brought before the Pontiac Company, as noted in their minutes.
In 1837 Pontiac became a village, the same year Michigan gained statehood. The town had been named after the famous Indian chief who had made his headquarters in the area decades before. Pontiac was Michigan's first inland settlement.
The village was officially recognized by the state legislature in 1837 and it incorporated as a city in 1861. From the beginning, Pontiac's central location served it well. It attracted professional people, including doctors and lawyers, and soon also became a center of industry. The city became the location of choice for woolen and grist mills which made use of the Clinton River as a power source.
Abundant natural resources led to the establishment of several carriage manufacturing companies, all of which were thriving at the turn of the century when the first self-propelled vehicles were introduced. Pontiac quickly became a capital of the new automotive industry. Throughout the 1920s and 30's, Pontiac experienced tremendous growth in its population and size as tens of thousands of prospective autoworkers moved here from the South to work in its GM auto assembly plants. As the small "horseless carriage" manufacturers became consolidated under the mantle of the General Motors Corporation, Pontiac grew as the industry grew, suffering the same setback as other cities during the depression years of the 1930s.
In order to prevent flooding, the Clinton River was buried underneath concrete in downtown Pontiac in 1963.
In late 1966, Pontiac-born and real estate developer A. Alfred Taubman tried to build a large-scale shopping mall in vacant downtown land where the Phoenix Center now stands. This unsuccessful plan would be the catalyst that would push Pontiac resident C. Don Davidson and his University of Detroit architectural class to create a more comprehensive plan that would benefit the city and the entire region around it. In 1969, the city of Pontiac adopted the Pontiac Plan as the official plan for rebuilding the vacant area of the downtown district.
In 1968, Davidson overheard news by the Detroit Lions of their desire for a new football stadium in Southeast Michigan. Professor Davidson and city leaders made a push for a new multi-purpose stadium in the area that became known as the Silverdome. Construction began on the 80,000-seat stadium in 1972 and it opened in 1975 as the Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium. This too was a part of Davidson's vision for Pontiac.
Construction began in the 1970s on an urban renewal project known as the "Pontiac Plan". The initial phase of this plan included the Phoenix Center, three office buildings, a transportation center and a high-rise residential complex. The "Pontiac Plan" was a vision of Pontiac business owner and U. of D. Professor C. Don Davidson. The remainder of the plan was never completed. In July 2012, mayor Leon Jukowski and Emergency Financial Manager Louis Schimmel announced plans to demolish the Phoenix Center due to disuse, maintenance costs to the city and a physical block preventing Saginaw Street to re-connect to the downtown area. Owners of the connecting Ottawa Towers filed an injunction, claiming the demolition would devalue their property and lose parking. On December 2012, a judge granted an injunction for the Ottawa Towers on an "expedited calendar" which prevented the demolition of the Phoenix Center for the time being.
In 2010, city leaders and business owners launched "The Rise of The Phoenix" initiative. This plan was aimed at businesses interested in downtown retail space. The applicants selected would be given free rent in exchange for multi-year leases (two years or more) as well as one-year of free parking in city lots. This plan led 52 new businesses to locate in downtown Pontiac. Further plans to bring mixed-use developments and loft living into downtown were announced in September 2011 by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA). MEGA estimates the development could generate $20.4 million in new investment and create up to 107 permanent full-time jobs in downtown.
On January 26, 2012, West Construction Services began the renovation and restoration of the former Sears building in downtown Pontiac for the Lafayette Place Lofts, the largest construction investment in Downtown Pontiac in approximately 30 years. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) project is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified residential and commercial mixed-use development which will consist of 46 new urban rental lofts, a fresh food grocery store and café, and an Anytime Fitness center. Construction was done during 2012 and the loft and market opened its doors on December of that year.[dated info] 10 West Lofts, another development in the area, will bring more loft living to downtown Pontiac.
Regionally, the city was known for the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival, a widely attended summer festival featuring an art show, musical concert venues, and a sampling of food from numerous regional restaurants. In 2010, the festival was moved to nearby Royal Oak.
The city is at the north end of the famous Woodward Avenue, known in the 1950s and 1960s as being popular with young people who would "cruise" and drag-race their hot-rods in the area. Pontiac participates in the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, an event celebrating Woodward's hot-rod history, stretching from Pontiac to Detroit. The downtown area is also known for its nightlife with nightclubs and music venues such as Club Visions, Tonic and The Crofoot.
The city is also host to two of the nation's renowned haunted houses: The Realm of Darkness and Erebus. The Realm of Darkness has in previous years been chosen as America's Best Haunted House. Erebus held the world record for "Largest Haunted House" from 2005–2009, at 4 stories high.
Pontiac is the location of the Motown Motion Picture Studios, formerly known as Raleigh Michigan Studios. Pontiac was one of the cities in Michigan used to film the 2012 remake of the film Red Dawn, recreating Spokane, Washington. Additionally, downtown Pontiac in August 2012 was the filming site for the forthcoming tornado-themed disaster movie Black Sky. The 2013 fantasy adventure film Oz the Great and Powerful was filmed within Motown Motion Picture Studios. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest movie to be filmed within the studio with the bulk of filming taking place in Pontiac.
Commuter rail service was once provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) and later Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) from Pontiac to downtown Detroit. This service ended on October 17, 1983, after subsidies were discontinued. Efforts continue to this day to restore such commuter service.
Class one freight rail service is provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW), which also operates a large classification yard in Pontiac serving the local auto industry. The Grand Trunk Western Railroad (reporting mark GTW) is an important subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway (CN), constituting the majority of CN's Chicago Division (itself part of CN's Southern Region). It currently operates in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, forming the CN mainline from Port Huron, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois, as well as serving Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.
Oakland County International Airport services the city and surrounding areas with commuter air service. The airport previously was owned by the city of Pontiac and was known as the Pontiac City Airport, despite being located in neighboring Waterford Township and not on land contiguous with Pontiac's city limits.
Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) operates local and regional bus transit.
The major thoroughfares in the city are: Woodward Avenue (M-1), Huron Street (M-59), and Telegraph Road (US 24). Portions of Woodward Avenue were once known as "Saginaw Street" and "Wide Track Drive" (the portion of Saginaw Street that runs through the downtown business district remains under that name).
- I-75 provides a connection northwest to nearby Flint. Detroit is to the south.
- BL I-75 runs through Pontiac.
- US 24 ends north of Pontiac in at I-75. Southbound, US 24 serves suburban Detroit and Monroe before crossing into Ohio.
BUS US 24 serves local business traffic through the city.
- M-1 (Woodward Avenue) northbound ends in Pontiac. Southbound, the highway routes directly to Downtown Detroit.
- M-24 (Lapeer Road) southbound ends in Auburn Hills at I-75. Northbound, the highway connects to Lapeer. Note: M-24 does not intersect with US 24.
- M-59 runs west to Howell and east to Utica and several other Detroit suburbs.
- State officials
- Federal officials
At present, the mayor is nearly powerless because of the state-imposed "Emergency Financial Manager" (see below).
The Mayor of Pontiac is Leon Jukowski, who is serving his first term to which he was elected in November 2009. He narrowly won over Sandy-Michael McDonald, the Downtown Development Authority director. Jukowski previously served as Deputy Mayor, an appointed position under then-Mayor Willie Payne. He ran for mayor unsuccessfully in the 2001 and 2005 municipal elections, losing in the primary elections. Jukowski is an attorney who has various real estate holdings in downtown Pontiac.
Recent history has shown a high rate of turnover for Pontiac mayors. The previous mayor was Clarence Phillips. Phillips had been the State Representative for all of Pontiac and neighboring Auburn Hills from January 2001 until his inauguration as mayor following his landslide November 2005 win over incumbent Mayor Willie Payne. Payne had narrowly unseated incumbent Mayor Walter Moore in November 2001.
Emergency financial manager
In 2009, the state government of Michigan appointed an "Emergency Financial Manager" to make day-to-day executive and financial municipal decisions. The position is not subject to the usual checks and balances, and has no need to seek re-election. The first and second managers, Fred Leeb and Michael Stampfler, were appointed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Each lasted less than a year.
The third, and current, manager is Louis Schimmel. He was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder. He is paid $150,000 a year and previously had been serving as Emergency Manager under Michigan Public Act 4, but will be appointed as Emergency Financial Manager by the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board in the interim leading up the November 2012 statewide ballot referendum that will determine whether Public Act 4 is overturned.
In order to balance the budget, state-appointed emergency managers have drastically revised labor union contracts, sold off city assets such as parking meters, and privatized most public services. The Oakland County sheriff's office handles all police (saving $2 million a year) and nearby Waterford township deals with fires (saving $3 million). Pontiac sold its water treatment plant for $55 million. Pontiac now outsources garbage collection, animal control, vital records and street maintenance. Many people still working in City Hall are employed by outside companies. The city payroll has declined from 600 to 50 employees. The Silverdome Stadium, once valued at $22 million, was sold for $583,000. The emergency managers have reduced the city's annual spending to $36 million from $57 million and erased almost all of its long-term debt. Schimmel says his work is nearly finished, and plans to hand control back over to elected officials by summer 2013.
Elected officials currently have limited decision-making power; the City Council meets every week but cannot conduct any official business. The City Council President is Lee Jones and President Pro Tempore is Patrice Waterman. Public comment is permitted at the beginning of council meetings, but is limited to five minutes per citizen and requires a card submission before the meeting begins.
The seven member council is elected from evenly populated districts. District 1, which covers the southwest corner, is represented by Waterman; she was elected to her first term in 2009 over W. Charli Yarbro. District 2, which covers the central western part of the city, is represented by George Williams; he was elected to his first term in 2009 over write-in candidate Irma Hayes. District 3, which covers the northwestern part of the city, is represented by Mary Pietila; she was elected to her first term in 2009 over now-School board member Sherman Williams II.
District 4, which covers the northern portion, is represented by Randy Carter; he was elected to his first term in 2009 without opposition. District 6, which covers the central portion north of downtown, is represented by Jones; he is currently serving in his second term and is the most senior council member, as a result. District 5, which covers the northeastern corner of the city, is represented by Donald Watkins; he was elected to his first term in 2009 over Ron Harmon. District 7, which covers the southeastern corner, is represented by Kermit Williams; he was elected to his first term in 2009 without opposition.
2013 Municipal Elections
The 2013 primary election took place on Tuesday, August 6. The 2013 general election will take place on Tuesday, November 5. The mayor position and all seven council district seats, as well as all six library board director positions, will be determined.
At the January 10, 2013 Pontiac City Council meeting, Mayor Jukowski announced his intention to seek re-election as mayor. Other announced candidates for mayor are Pontiac News Editor R. Frank Russell, Library Board President Dr. Deirdre Holloway Waterman and City Councilman Donald Watkins.
On April 30, 2013, resident Dubrae Newman filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 1 and incumbent George Williams filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 2.
On May 1, 2013, resident Mike McGuinness, the former chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party, filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 7.
The filing deadline for the 2013 municipal election was May 14, 2013.
The five candidates for mayor that competed in the August 6, 2013 primary for the top two placement are Jukowski, Waterman, Russell, Watkins and a last-minute filing of former city employee Eric A. Johnson.
Deirdre Waterman placed first in the primary, followed by incumbent Jukowski; they both advance onto the ballot for mayor in the general election. Watkins placed third, Russell fourth and Johnson fifth. Watkins has formally filed as a write-in candidate for mayor in the general election.
In District 1, incumbent Patrice Waterman and challenger Dubrae Newman advance to November. However, Newman announced at a City Council meeting prior to the general election that he withdrew as an active candidate and is supporting Waterman's re-election; due to the withdrawal deadline having passed, his name remains on the general election ballot.
In District 2, incumbent George Williams and challengers Donald Woodward and Demar Byas will face off in the August 6 primary. The top two vote-getters advance to November.
In District 3, incumbent Mary Pietila and challenger Colleen Kavanagh advance to November.
In District 4, incumbent Randy Carter is unopposed. Yohannes Bolds had filed, but withdrew his name from the ballot.
In District 5, open due to Councilman Watkins' mayoral bid, features candidates Sam Anderson, Jr., Mark Holland, Sr., and Joe McAllister in the August 6 primary. The top two vote-getters advance to November.
In District 6, open due to Council President Lee Jones' decision not to seek a third term, features candidates Vanessa D. Coleman, Marnese Jackson Wilford, Doris Burks Taylor and Maicol Ivan Rivera-Torres in the August 6 primary.
In District 7, incumbent Kermit Williams and challenger Mike McGuinness advance to November.
For Pontiac Library Board, nine candidates filed for the November 5, 2013 general election: Incumbents Joyce Allen, Roger Derby and Deirdre Waterman, as well as challengers Vernita Duvall, Juliene Dixon Jenkins, Ronnie Karpinski, Evelyn LeDuff, Rosie Richardson and Deveda Travis. The top six vote-getters will earn the four-year Library board director positions. Waterman dropped out of the library board election and was elected Pontiac's first female mayor on November 5, 2013. Patrice Waterman, who is her niece, became mayor pro-tem.
- Albert J. Campbell, United States Representative from Montana
- Jack Kevorkian
- Kirk Gibson
- Elvin Jones
- TJ Wharry
- Images of metropolitan Detroit
- The Crofoot building in Pontiac
- Saginaw Trail
- Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic
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- Official City Website
- History of the City
- PONTIAC MASTER PLAN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- Tocqueville in Pontiac – Segment from C-SPAN's Alexis de Tocqueville Tour