Two candidates are running in the Tuesday, November 7, election for the Rochester Hills open council member-at-large seat, a four-year term.
Kevin Brown is in the incumbent council member-at-large, a position he has held since 2013. He works as a senior manager, and is active with the Rochester Rotary.
Jenny McCardell works as an investigator for the Food and Drug Administration. She has been involved with the Clinton River Watershed Council and Rochester Area Neighborhood House.
Rochester Hills has witnessed an explosion in developments in recent years, with an increase of more than 60 percent in new homes in the past year. While that development brings with it new revenues in the form of fees and property taxes, it also poses new challenges, such as increased demand for city services and infrastructure, as well as concerns about appropriate land use. Do you believe the city and council are addressing future needs and concerns adequately? Why or why not.
BROWN: I have served on the Strategic Planning Committee for the city council for the last 4 years and I believe that the council is providing the proper guidance and oversight and the city staff and administration are doing an excellent job addressing the future needs and concerns related to increased development. The primary goal of local government should be safety/security of our residents and infrastructure to support their needs.
Over the last four years we have upgraded the fire stations to 24/7 co-ed operation and added 14 new full-time firefighter/paramedics and added three officers to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. The city council monitors emergency response time and crime statistics for trends and collaborates closely with the Rochester Hills Fire Department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Department to ensure we are staffed accordingly.
Funding for local roads was reduced during the economic downturn as a means to defer spending and avoid tax increases to our residents. Since 2013, the city council has made a conscious effort to improve the conditions of our roads and has made incredible progress. We now have nearly $5 million budgeted for local road improvements annually for the next three years.
Regarding appropriate land use, Rochester Hills maintains the Master Use Plan which identifies zoning requirements and types of developments that can be used in each area. For those areas that may have conditional use restrictions, the planning commission and city council review each instance case by case and make a decision for the best use of the property. I believe we should encourage development that improves the “walk-ability” of our community, paying close attention to traffic patterns and congestion, and maintain the appearance and feel of the Rochester Hills’ community.
MCCARDELL: In 2007, after I completed my service with the US Navy, my family and I moved to Rochester Hills because of the amazing public schools and the connected family atmosphere. It comes as no surprise to me that other people have chosen to lay down their roots in Rochester Hills. I wanted to add value to the decisions being made to deal with this growth in the city, so I applied for and was selected by the current city council to be on the city’s Public Safety and Infrastructure Technical committee in 2016, which has provided me with additional insight into our growth and infrastructure.
The city continues to invest in our local roads, and council should seek a professional third-party evaluation of our current ordinance codes and municipal plans to ensure that we are meeting the needs of both the residents and the businesses in our community.
It is vital that we consider the residents in regards to our growing city. The character of many areas in our city could change as a result of the growth, and residents aren’t just a key group to consider, they are the community.
With a Masters in Public Administration, I have a unique understanding of project management, government budgeting and soliciting public input ,and when elected I will bring this perspective to Rochester Hills City Council. As a wife and mother of three children in our public school district, I want to see the future of our city reflect the community atmosphere that we moved here for and that we love.
Rochester Hills City Council in January 2017 approved the $385,000 purchase of about 10 acres of land for the preservation of green space in the city. Similarly, budget plans include millions for the development of Innovation Hills, formerly known as Riverbend Park. Most recently, the city announced plans to create a Natural Resources Division within the Parks and Forestry Department, which will focus on parks and green space opportunities. Do you believe the city's commitment to outdoor spaces reflects the wants and needs of the public? Do you believe too much money is being spent on parks and green space, or does this reflect residents’ values? As a council member, would you continue this initiative?
BROWN: I am a strong supporter of our parks and green space properties within the city. I believe it draws residents outdoors to experience nature, to socialize with friends and family, to exercise, and improves our residents’ overall quality of life. In recent surveys, parks, trails and green space are always highly rated by our residents and the funding we are allocating to those initiatives reflect those priorities.
Specifically regarding the recent purchase, the money used was allocated from the Green Space Fund and can only be used for the purchase of green space property. The Green Space millage was passed by a city-wide referendum for the sole purpose of creating that dedicated fund and was later modified by voter referendum to allow those funds to be used for the maintenance and care of green space property. The 10 acres purchased in January, just south of Avondale Middle School, was one of the largest remaining opportunities for the city to secure green space on the southeast side of the city. It was rated very highly by our green space committee and provides an excellent educational opportunity due to its proximity to the middle school.
Innovation Hills Park is an excellent opportunity for the city to leverage matching funds to create an amazing outdoor experience for our residents. It is bordered to the north by green space property and has some beautiful wetlands and wooded areas within the park. We have already received significant private contributions and state funding to allow our local funds to make an even bigger impact on the park.
If I were re-elected to council, I would continue this effort to invest in our parks and green space because they contribute immediately to quality of life for our residents and maintain a community feel for future generations.
MCCARDELL: Recent resident parks surveys make it clear that investing in our natural areas and green spaces are a priority for residents. I will continue to support this effort if elected to city council. I do believe, however, that we can solicit the collaboration of local conservancy groups such as the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), and others, to keep it a community effort. While completing my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science, I interned with the CRWC, and I remain involved – my husband, children and I lead a team of CRWC volunteers twice a year to monitor the quality of our watershed at Rochester Municipal Park. Also by collaborating with other groups, the city could save money and spend less while still prioritizing the concerns of the residents.
Plans to improve the Auburn Road Corridor call for more than $2 million in road improvements and other investments into the city's Brooklands neighborhood, between Adams and Dequindre roads. Do you support the current council's desire to implement the plan? Is the effect to consolidate business and investments into the Auburn Road Corridor a good focus for the city? What other areas, if any, do you believe should be considered for future redevelopment?
BROWN: The Auburn Road Corridor study is an excellent way to attract redevelopment to the Brooklands neighborhood. I am a strong supporter of the plan and believe we should work closely with the residents and local businesses to address their questions and concerns, and then move forward with the investment. The plan has some very innovative ideas relative to parking, traffic control, pedestrian use and commercial look and feel of the corridor. We have recently seen the success in Auburn Hills with their redevelopment of Auburn Road near Adams and I believe that this portion of Rochester Hills has even more potential.
This is a solid investment for the city and although it is a significant investment in capital, the budget for 2018-2020 is well balanced and I don’t believe that the expense will detract from other critical areas and is not expected to have an impact on our general fund balance. The Brooklands area has a significant number of curb cuts (business entrances), limited parking and a disjointed look and feel.
The Corridor study has some solid recommendations for creative ways to improve parking, curb appeal for businesses, walking paths and community gathering areas. By engaging the residents and business owners in the planning process and implementation this area of the city will see some amazing benefits.
MCCARDELL: The first home that my husband and I purchased in Rochester Hills was in the Brooklands sub. The Brooklands subdivision area is one of the oldest areas in Rochester Hills, and I believe that the Auburn Road Corridor will draw attention to this rich history. As a third generation resident of Rochester Hills, I value the history of our city. It is a beautiful area and there are many great stores and businesses on Auburn Road that would benefit from investment and attention from our city.
As part of the Safe Routes to School committee through the Rochester Community Schools PTA, I was able to support a grant writing initiative in partnership with our city that will support sidewalks being put in the Brooklands neighborhood for students to improve children’s safety. This project is in the city’s budget for 2018.
By finding grants and collaborating with other government entities, and also soliciting resident and business comment and participation, the Auburn Road Corridor will be a fantastic revitalization project which will draw all Rochester Hills residents to shop and play. As for other areas for redevelopment, I would like to see the corner of Avon and Rochester road where the K Mart building used to be, addressed by the city. It is a large space that could be used more effectively.
In terms of priorities, what do you believe are the top three issues facing the city, and how do you propose addressing those issues as a member of city council?
BROWN: The top three priorities for Rochester Hills are 1) ensuring the financial stability of the city 2) ensuring the security and safety of the community and 3) attracting/retaining businesses and residents to the city.
Financial Stability – Rochester Hills was the first community to initiate a three-year budget cycle and this long-term conservative financial planning is the key to enable our local government to continue to provide the services that our residents deserve. Maintaining a sound fund balance position ensures that as we experience economic cycles that we can continue municipal operations without placing any additional tax burden on our residents.
Security and Safety – Rochester Hills owes a debt of gratitude to those that serve in our local Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the Rochester Hills Fire Department. We must continue to monitor the staffing, equipment and service levels of both departments to ensure our residents are safe and have the best possible response time for emergency services. We will add additional Oakland County Sheriff’s and Firefighter/Paramedics in 2018 and focus on efficient means of service to our residents for all emergency services.
Attracting Businesses/Residents – Rochester Hills should continue to look for creative ways to attract businesses to our community. We are home to corporate headquarters like Fanuc, Janopic, Molex and A. Raymond; we welcome the additional professional jobs and corporate partners in our community. In parallel we should focus on the development of Innovation Hills Park (formerly Riverbend), support the maintenance and care of our green space property and our local trail systems. The combination of top quality employers and activities for our residents will ensure the long-term prosperity of or community.
MCCARDELL: I believe the top three issues facing our city are public safety, infrastructure and community transparency. We as a community need to continue to prioritize our public safety resources including our police and fire employees, infrastructure, our roads and sewers. Second, the ongoing infrastructure and green space projects including Auburn Road Corridor and Innovation Hills, as well as pathways, parks and green spaces, will be priorities for me.
And last, the issue that drove me to run for city council, communication with our residents and providing a transparent and accessible local government, will be top on my list.
For example, our city website is wonderful resource, however, very few residents that I’ve spoken with know what is on the site or that they can get city updates on their phones and email accounts.
Our mayor does a great job of communicating to residents, but, our city council members could also educate and inform residents about city programs and resources. For instance, I currently distribute a biweekly e-newsletter that shares what I have learned at city council meetings and city events. I believe that our elected officials should also like to hold public forums in a more informal setting so residents can address their concerns or offer feedback. When a resident has a problem or concern, they may contact the mayor, however, many don’t even consider their local elected district or at-large representative. A government with input from our very intelligent and professional residents is the best government, and I think city council can create a better platform to retrieve this input.
If elected, what do you feel your role and responsibility as a city council member should be, and why should voters choose you to meet those expectations over another candidate?
BROWN: When I was sworn in as a city council member in November of 2013, I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States of America, the constitution of the state of Michigan and the Rochester Hills charter. My primary role and responsibility as a city council member is first and foremost to uphold that oath.
Additionally, city council members have an obligation to engage our residents and address their concerns regarding a variety of issues. Over the past four years we have encouraged the city staff to make information more easily available to our residents, created smart phone apps to simplify communication with residents and held open public meetings with opportunities to address city council on scheduled and unscheduled topics, and our emails our publicly posted on the city website.
Most importantly, I believe we owe it to our constituents to review all of the information provided to us, ask thoughtful questions to gain further insight, prepare well for our scheduled meetings, and ultimately make factually based fair decisions that are consistent with the charter and constitutions we are bound by. I believe that over the last four years I have drawn upon my business experience, relationships with the mayor, other council members and the city staff and have made good decisions on behalf of our residents.
As a public representative, I am available to residents when they want/need to voice their concerns, but they can be assured that I will vote with their best interest in mind. I believe I have a strong voting record over the last four years and would like to ask for the residents’ trust and confidence to serve on their behalf for four more.
MCCARDELL: The city charter outlines the job of a city councilor as to pass ordinances and resolutions and maintain a fiscally responsible budget. While that encompasses the formal duties, I propose that council members should be present and be an active participant on city council. I am willing to commit the time and effort required of this important position for the city, listening to residents about key issues like oil and gas drilling, business growth and infrastructure. I have shown up, been active and involved in these issues and with the council for many years.
My demonstrated passion for and involvement in this city is a strong reason to consider voting for me, Jenny McCardell, on November 7th. As a wife and mother raising her three children in Rochester Hills, you can trust that I am invested in the success of this city. Also, as a veteran I am a committed patriot, who believes in serving her country. As a Master of Public Administration I am formally trained in government budgeting and project management, which gives me a keen eye for creating an efficient and compliant government and is incredibly valuable to a city like Rochester Hills. I am committed to being your voice on Rochester Hills City Council.