2021 League of Women Voters Candidate Interviews

2021 League of Women Voters Candidate Interviews

I was interviewed along with the other candidates for Berkley City Council by the League of Women Voters.

The video is at the League's Vimeo site, or you can read a transcript of my comments below. 

Opening Statement

I want to thank the League of Women Voters for holding this forum, and I especially want to thank everyone taking the time to watch this.

Having access to information is crucial to a functioning democracy. Programs such as this help, but it's also why communication has been a cornerstone of my work on council.

I've worked tirelessly to keep people informed about what's going on in the city, either by sharing and interacting on social media, via my newsletter, or by holding in-person meetings.

I also make sure I'm available to offer help. I try to respond to everyone who reaches out and answer their questions, direct them to the resources they need, or in some cases, craft better legislation to offer protections that were missing before.

This hands on approach not only helps Berkley's residents, it helps keep me informed about what people are thinking, which leads to better decisions.

Being able to help people has been the most satisfying part of the job, and with your vote, it's something I hope I'll be able to continue in a second term.

What specific things do you think Berkley can do to tackle its infrastructure challenges, particularly when it comes to stormwater and flooding?

Tonight I’m calling in just after a power outage. Clearly we need to continue to put pressure on DTE to do their part.

The city already has a program in place for road and water main replacement.

As for stormwater, there's a number of things that are being done.

We've had a sewer inspection, cleaning, and relining program for decades.

Trees are an important part of stormwater management, and with the help of the tree board, we've more than doubled the number of new trees we plant each year.

Adding restrictive covers, which slows rain from heavy downpours from entering the sewer, has helped reduce basement flooding.

I'm also a strong advocate of backwater valves, which reduce or eliminates sewage in basements. They're probably the most cost effective tool we have, and I introduced a resolution to reimburse permit fees and educate people about them. I continue to look for ways to fund their installation. 

And finally, I've been working with staff to look at the feasibility of separating stormwater from our sewers. While that would be the gold standard, the first step is to work with regional players to see what's possible.

With the City’s Master Plan nearing completion how should the Council implement the goals it outlines and what would your role be in that process?

I'm the only member of council and the only council candidate trained by MSU as a Master Citizen Planner.  This background is going to be key in making good planning decisions.

The first big task is going  to be a multi-year review of our entire zoning ordinance—keep what's working, fix the things that need fixed, and clean everything up.

As a member of council, my role is at the the final approval, but it's our Planning Commission that does most of the heavy lifting.

That's why I've made sure they have adequate training  and attendance policies.

But just as in the master plan, any implementation requires extensive community input.

I definitely have things I want to see, but it doesn't matter what my priorities are—if there isn't a consensus in the community, things just won't work.

Anything we do is going to continue to need public outreach, education, and involvement to ensure that what's planned reflects the values of the community. That's why my overall commitment to communication is so important.

Demographics show more young families moving into Berkley. How does this influence your budget priorities for Berkley over the next 5 years?

Looking at data from the Census Bureau, we in fact  see the number of children in Berkley decreasing. While the number of young adults is increasing, those aged 60 and older is increasing even faster.

So it's important that whatever we do,  we make sure it has broad appeal.

For both young and older adults, housing affordability is important. As part of the Master Plan implementation we need to look for ways to make it so our children can afford to remain in the city and our seniors can age in place.

I also want to see the community center question come back. Properly done, this can provide amenities for all ages.

And investing in the growth of our downtown, while still keeping our small town feel, can offer something for everyone.

But to do any of this, we need to build on a strong financial foundation.

For example, we need to stop giving away revenue on unnecessary tax breaks, we need to pay down our pension obligations, and when we buy or build something, we need to make sure we have the resources for maintenance.

Closing Statement

Shortly after my wife Jennifer and I married, we started looking at where we wanted to put down our roots. We made big spreadsheets of area cities with all the pros and cons. This helped us narrow it down to a few cities we might want to visit. 

When we came to Berkley, we fell in love. We love the small town feel, the walkable community, the excellent schools, and the excellent services and public safety. 

While I've worked to encourage new development in city, I ran for council in large part to make sure we protect the characteristics that make Berkley Berkley - those things that attract so many people here and make them want to stay. 

I think my record over the last four years demonstrates not only my commitment to preserving Berkley's character, but a commitment to open communication and to helping as many people as I can.

I hope that you'll vote for me on November 2nd so that together we can continue to work towards a prosperous Berkley.