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Farmington, Farmington Hills

October 23, 2013

Voters to decide city councils, mayor, bond issue

In the Press’s coverage area, voters will find on their ballots five City Council candidates in Farmington and nine in Farmington Hills, as well as an unopposed, incumbent Farmington Hills mayor and a two-part bond proposal on Nov. 5. Below are profiles for the candidates, as well as the exact bond issue language as it will appear on the ballot. Candidates were asked, in 150 words or fewer, to state the top items they would wish to accomplish if elected and how they would go about accomplishing them. If a candidate went over the word limit, ( … ) replaces the rest of the answer. (I) indicates the candidate is an incumbent. The answers are printed verbatim.

Farmington City Council
Five candidates are running, with the two highest vote-getters receiving four-year terms and the third receiving a two-year term.

Greg Cowley (I)
Age: 56
Occupation: Director of Strategic Sales – Global – Comdata Inc. and partner of John Cowley & Sons
Municipality of residence: Farmington
For how long: 15 years
Education: BS Finance/Accounting – University of Detroit
Previously held elected offices: DDA Member for 9 years, 3 as President
Top goals: LWVOA - Bio - Greg Cowley - Farmington City Council
Question 1 -Leadership - As a resident , Corporate Executive & Business Owner,  11 years ago, I joined the DDA to make a difference!  “ To stem the decline in housing & commercial property values and recruit new investment to Farmington”  I served 9 years (3 as President) on the DDA, working with City Council & recruiting volunteers to the Main Street Program.  We implemented: Grand River Streetscape, The Groves, The Orchards, Pavilion & Farmers Market and even planned Los Tres Amigos.  City Events managed - Founders Festival, Art on the Grand, Concerts in the Park & Harvest Moon.  The past 2 years on Council has been enlightening & challenging, my mission is to balance the budget, maintain services without increasing the tax burden and positioning Farmington for long-term sustainability.

- Question 2
1. Provide continued leadership, execute the Vision (…)

Bill Galvin (I)
Age: 46
Occupation: Financial Planner / Insurance Agent
Municipality of residence: Farmington
For how long: 15 years
Education: Bachelors’ of Science in Economics, University of Dayton
Previously held elected offices: Current Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem since 2011
Top goals: I have three overarching goals for our community; fiscal responsibility, ongoing capital improvements and long term success for Downtown Farmington.

Fiscal responsibility includes implementing a three year balanced budget, managing the millage rate, limiting debt use as an efficient financial planning tool and providing incentives for economic development.

A capital improvements plan will increase property values and tax revenues.  Implementation of the 2013 Farmington Visioning Plan is the first step forward. A facilities and public land use study will allow Farmington to review opportunities, efficiencies and the highest use of public assets for the future. Growth in the tax base needs to be reallocated as a permanent funding source for Farmington’s Capital Improvements Fund.

Downtown Farmington is the characterization of Farmington. Redevelopment of the Maxfield Training Center and expansion and rezoning of surrounding neighborhoods will support growth in this micro economy for our region.

Erica Georgette Reaves
Age: 44
Occupation: Relocation Consultant
Municipality of residence: Farmington
For how long: Approximately 10 years
Education: Attended the Ohio State University; then transferred to Valor Christian College, where I graduated in Pastoral Studies and General Bible.
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: If elected as a member of the Farmington City council my top 3 priorities  would be: Solving the parking issues, Acquiring new businesses to fill the empty spaces in the Downtown area and beyond, all while partnering and collaborating with our current small business owners to see how we can meet their needs; and lastly, working with our current city leadership to implement the wonderful Vision Plan that was recently passed – particularly focusing on how we can re-purpose the Maxfield Training Center to an entity that will best serve our community  in bringing in top revenue and something pleasurable, such as a performing arts center.

Team work! That’s my approach to achieving my goals for council. As a governing body that sets policy, it’s important that council members work together, and keep the best interest of our city and community members in mind; and not any one personal agenda.

Jeffery Armstrong Scott
Age: 56
Occupation: Architect
Municipality of residence: Farmington
For how long: 26 years
Education:  Bachelor of Science – Architecture, University of Michigan, Master of Architecture – University of Michigan
Previously held elected offices: Although I have not been previously elected to public office, for the past ten years I have served on the City of Farmington’s Planning Commission or Board of Zoning Appeals I currently am sitting on both boards. I am also the current vice chairman of the City of Farmington’s Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority.
Top goals: Quality of Life: Without safe neighborhoods all other plans and ideas would be fruitless. I would maintain the current public safety system and response times. I would promote greater bike friendly access, greater river access and expand the community oriented events. I would promote a variety of housing, restaurants and entertainment choices which attracts the millennial generation.

Fiscal Responsibility: Continue to foster and implement ideas to reduce the legacy costs and tax burden on our citizens but do not cut the heart out of the community. Solving problems by increasing taxes is not the answer.

Business Cooperation: Continue to create a positive business environment throughout our city, encouraging private development with existing and new property owners for redevelopment, creating new activity and grow the tax base without raising taxes, reduce vacant storefronts. I would seek to encourage both business and residential property owners to maintain their properties to community standards.

Matthew Christian Wayne
Age: 33
Occupation: Full-time law student; substitute teacher
Municipality of residence: Farmington
For how long: 33 years
Education:  B.A., History, and B.A., Political Science, Bowling Green State University, 2008; J.D., Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 2014 (expected)
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: I would encourage interested voters to direct their attention to my candidate profile at the League of Women Voters’ website: http://lwvoa.org/voter_guides. html
 

Farmington Hills Mayor
One candidate is running for one two-year term.

Barry L. Brickner
Age: 62
Occupation: Attorney at Law
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 30 Years
Education:  B.A. from Michigan State University and J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Previously held elected offices: Councilman for Farmington Hills for 12 twelve years and Mayor of Farmington Hills for two years.
Top goals: (1) I would like to commence re-development of the Orchard Lake and Grand River Corridors. Grand River will be accomplished through a corridor improvement authority, which will allow for the establishment of a corridor plan and the recapture of real property taxes for facade and other street improvements. Also, I would like to establish mixed use zoning to be used on both the Grand River and the Orchard Lake Corridors.

(2) With the state government limiting revenues to cities by the reduction in revenue sharing and a proposed elimination of the personal property tax, the council must be vigilant in making sure that the state replaces those revenue streams.

(3) The Smart millage will be up for renewal in 2014 and I want to make sure that the citizens of Farmington Hills have the right to vote on that millage, assuring them the continuation of regional transportation.

Farmington Hills City Council
Nine candidates are running for three four-year terms.

Michael Bridges (I)
Age: 56
Occupation: Territory Sales Manager
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 1997
Education:  Bachelors of Arts – Business Administration
Previously held elected offices: West Bloomfield School Board Trustee
Top goals: Maintaining our city services – in the face of declining revenue from property taxes, revenue sharing and potential elimination of personal property taxes on commercial and industrial businesses. I believe we have to continue to focus on core services such as public safety and necessary city operations. We also have to continue to investigate sharing services with other communities.

Maintaining our AAA bond rating is essential to keep bowering cost to minimum. Also being one of a few select cities in the state with a AAA bond rating this will help to keep Farmington Hills an attractive place for new families and businesses.

Maintaining our safe city designation – we are the third safest city in Michigan of our size and I believe it is essential  that we always be known as a safe city.  We need to also focus on revitalization of our commercial areas.

Valerie Knol
Age: 43
Occupation: Chief of Staff for the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Michigan House of Representatives
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: Over 20 years in Farmington and Farmington Hills
Education:  I received a B.S. from Western Michigan University and my Master’s from Eastern Michigan University.
Previously held elected offices: I served on the City Council of the City of Farmington from 2003 - 2011 and was the Mayor from 2007-2009. 
Top goals: While on the Farmington Council, I promoted management efficiency, restructuring of pension and healthcare, and shared services with neighboring cities to cut costs without cutting high-quality services. I have the experience to tackle these issues in Farmington Hills without raising taxes.

We must encourage redevelopment of older, underutilized properties to minimize blight, increase our property tax base and attract more customers to support the businesses. We need to have flexible zoning to accommodate modern types of buildings and uses and streamline city approvals. This will allow for public input and city oversight, but will save developers time and hassle. We must work collaboratively and share potential incentives to encourage quality redevelopment.

We must keep our neighborhoods desirable by keeping our city safe, keeping our roads, water, and sewer systems in good working order, maintaining a reasonable approach to code enforcement, continuing the community block grant program and monitoring foreclosed homes.  

Erik Lindquist
Age: 47
Occupation: Attorney, Business Owner, Charity Director
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 7 Years in Farmington Hills; 10 years in the area
Education: Juris Doctorate, California Western School of Law; Bachelor of Political Science, Colorado State University; Interdisciplinary Certification – Latin American Studies; Minor in History
Previously held elected offices: Zoning Board of Appeals Current Member, Past Chair
Top goals: We’ll Enhance our property values by maintaining high-quality city services and standards, and by Embracing our reputation as a “Green” Model City and responsible environmental stewards. We have excellent city services and an environmental policy with room for expansion.

We’ll Establish better transparency and accountability at City Hall, to ensure we Retain our qualified professionals and reward innovation and prudent public policy, and we will significantly Improve hiring and evaluation processes. Periodic top-down city management evaluations will build a stronger administration and attract the best applicants.

We’ll Innovate, coordinate and partner with neighboring communities and school authorities, and pass the savings on to relieve taxpayers as property values continue to recover. It is imperative that we work with Farmington Public Schools, City of Farmington and others, with attention to the combined tax burdens upon residents.

Enhance Value – Provide Transparency – Innovate – Work Better with Others

Chris McRae
Age: 47
Occupation: Orthodontist
Municipality of residence: Sales Manager with a Manufacturer’s Representative Agency for the Commercial Lighting Industry
For how long: 43 years
Education:  Farmington High School ‘84,  University of Michigan B.S.E.  Engineering Physics
Previously held elected offices: Farmington Hills City Council, 1999-2003
Top goals: Explain and enact Redevelopment plans for non-residential corridors to reinvigorate commercial and retail sectors. Benefits residents through increased investment, easing tax pressures. Also lowers crime and reduces blight through higher occupancy. Some areas will be incremental improvements; others need complete revision: Grand River Corridor (in coordination with Farmington) and Orchard Lake Road (rezoning, new concepts). Seek long term solutions to attract new families for stability.

Expand Public/Private partnerships for homeowner assistance. This can be physical (property maintenance and rebuilding), financial (through grants and loans), emotional and spiritual through social and religious programs. This helps seniors stay in their homes, strengthens community bonds, and solidifies neighborhoods. The city can leverage our limited funds to greatly improve our reach.

Focus on Public Safety to maintain service levels. EMS calls increasing dramatically as our population ages. Shift personnel, equipment, and funds as necessary to meet fundamental civil obligations of Police and Fire Departments.

William A Miller III
Age: 33
Occupation: Business Representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 1.7 years
Education:  High school and Three years Apprenticeship With Local 324
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: Number One : To give the voice back to the community. I have dedicated William.a.milleriii@ gmail.com to the residents to have a direct connection with me. Visit our senior homes, push for district meetings outside the normal council meetings and knock on doors after the election to hear the residents’ concerns.

Number Two: To ensure the safety of our city. I will look into the run numbers and calls that our Police and Fire respond to and see if we have the adequate manpower needed to keep our city safe. I will also keep the residents informed of what I find out and if more manpower is needed.

Number Three: Protect and Promote small businesses: Inform the community of our cities small businesses. If it can be done use the Farmington Focus to promote the fine businesses we have in our city.

Facebook: William a Miller III for Farmington Hill city council

Steven Schwartz
Age: 58
Occupation: Attorney, specializing in representation of municipalities in labor relations (self-employed).
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 17 years
Education:  J.D., Wayne State University Law School (magna cum laude),
Masters of Urban Planning, University of Michigan,
Bachelor’s, Clark University.
Previously held elected offices: Former Oakland County Commissioner, Current Member Planning Commission, Current Member Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority, Former Member Zoning Board of Appeals, Former Assistant City Manager, City of Birmingham, 35 years of experience in local government.
Top goals: City Council refused to adopt an ordinance that would require inspections of rental homes. These types of inspections help maintain the quality and safety of these homes, and prevent foreclosed homes from deteriorating residential property values.

Seniors citizens, the disabled, and students rely on SMART bus service, however, the SMART millage will expire in 2014. Advocates of SMART are needed on Council to continue this service.

There are too many vacant, obsolete properties on Orchard Lake and Grand River. As a Planning Commissioner and member of the Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority, I am working on plans to encourage private property owners to reinvest in these buildings.

While Farmington Hills is in good financial condition, it still faces financial challenges.  The next Council’s focus should be on creating long-term financial stability so that essential services will be maintained. My 35 years of local government will be invaluable in this process.

Samantha Steckloff
Age: 29
Occupation: Enrollment Management Coordinator, Wayne State University
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 29 years
Education:  Purdue University, BA 2006, Harrison High School, 2002 graduate with high honors
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals:  a. Economic Development:

Grow commercial tax base through redeveloping strategic corridors. Use overlay zoning to allow for mixed-use projects to refresh commercial areas and enhance local business climate. Showcase city’s natural features (Rouge River tributaries and creeks) to attract new generation of business owners and residents.

b. Keep Farmington Hills one of safest cities in state by maintaining high quality emergency response and public safety through highly trained police officers and fire fighters.

c. Keep tax rate among lowest in the County while continuing to deliver exceptional services. Reduce costs by implementing new technologies and increasing cooperation with neighboring communities. For example, in our Parks and Recreation budget alone, we spend over $60,000 on credit card fees, which can be reduced or eliminated by using EFT technology. We should also jointly purchase and share costs of high cost items like ladder fire trucks with our neighboring communities.

George Varghese
Age: 49
Occupation: IT Program Director
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 12 years
Education:  BS in Mathematics with diploma in Computer Applications, Project Management Professional (PMP)
Previously held elected offices: West Bloomfield School Board Trustee
Top goals:
High Property Taxes

Poor Transit system

Low real estate demand

• Getting alternate funds to the City through State and Federal Grants.

• Economic Development: Incentives to companies and startups thus creating more jobs and taxes coming into the city

• Support for School district to improve curriculum and implement better education practices to attract more families into the City. We need to take advantage of State and Federal grants to bring in technology for teachers and students. This will take the burden away from the taxpayers.

• Assistance for the elderly: Farmington Hills is a mature community today and we need to help the seniors who have contributed their lifetime to society. We need to build programs around them. These are the people that will help tell the story of Farmington Hills.   

• Improve Public Safety: A city is known by its safety and emergency (…)

Thomas P. Wolverton
Age: 65
Occupation: Retired
Municipality of residence: Farmington Hills
For how long: 25 years
Education: B.B.A. Major in Accounting, Masters in Counseling, Juris Doctorate
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: David vs. Goliath – I am independent and have not accepted any money from any individual or group. The only money that I have spent is my own. I do not owe any favors to any person or group. However, I want to be the voice for senior citizens.

Term limitation – the Council should be limited to two terms, just like the mayor.

Fiscal responsibility – I have a B.B.A. with a major in Accounting. I have worked at a CPA firm and I helped do the audit for the City of Taylor. I will analyze every dollar spent and do whatever is beneficial to FH residents. I am also an attorney and have helped clients for over twenty years. Please vote for me on November 5, 2013.
 


Farmington Public School District Bond

Proposal 1 SAFETY/INFRASTRUCTURE/TECHNOLOGY
Shall the Farmington Public School District, County of Oakland, Michigan, borrow the principal sum of not to exceed One Hundred Fifty-Four Million Six Hundred Thousand Dollars ($154,600,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds in one or more series for the purpose of defraying the cost of making the following improvements:
• remodeling, equipping, furnishing, reequipping and refurnishing buildings, including classrooms and media resource centers, and safety and security, technology infrastructure and operational efficiency improvements;
• constructing additions to buildings, including new secure entrances and media resource centers;
• acquiring and installing technology equipment; and
• improving and developing sites, including playgrounds and parking lots, in the School District?
YES
NO
The estimated millage to be levied in 2014 to service this issue of bonds is 1.52 mills ($1.52 per $1,000 of taxable value) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds of this issue is 1.95 mills ($1.95 per $1,000 of taxable value). The debt millage required to retire all bonds of the School District currently outstanding and proposed pursuant to this Proposal 1 and Proposal 2, if approved, is estimated to be at or below 4.33 mills. The debt millage required to retire all bonds of the School District currently outstanding and proposed pursuant to this Proposal 1 only, if approved, is estimated to be at or below 3.88 mills. The bonds may be issued in multiple series, payable in the case of each series in not to exceed 25 years from the date of issue of such series.
(Under state law, bond proceeds may not be used to pay teacher or administrator salaries, routine maintenance costs or other School District operating expenses.)
 

Proposal 2 ARTS/ATHLETICS/TECHNOLOGY REPLACEMENTS
Shall the Farmington Public School District, County of Oakland, Michigan, borrow the principal sum of not to exceed Thirty-One Million Six Hundred Thousand Dollars ($31,600,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds in one or more series for the purpose of defraying the cost of making the following improvements:
• constructing additions to and remodeling, equipping, furnishing, reequipping and refurnishing all high school performing arts centers and adjacent spaces;
• acquiring and installing technology and related furnishings and equipment; and
• improving sites, including high school athletic fields, tracks and tennis courts, in the School District?
YES
NO
The estimated millage to be levied in 2014 to service this issue of bonds is 0.65 mills ($0.65 per $1,000 of taxable value) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds of this issue is 0.55 mills ($0.55 per $1,000 of taxable value). The debt millage required to retire all bonds of the School District currently outstanding and proposed pursuant to this Proposal 2 and Proposal 1, if approved, is estimated to be at or below 4.33 mills. The bonds may be issued in multiple series, payable in the case of each series in not to exceed 25 years from the date of issue of such series.
(Under state law, bond proceeds may not be used to pay teacher or administrator salaries, routine maintenance costs or other School District operating expenses.)