Two candidates are running in the November 7 Rochester Hills election for one council member seat for the fourth district, a four-year term.
Ryan Deel, a judicial staff attorney to Oakland County Probate Court, was appointed as a member to the Rochester Hills Public Library in 2014 and elected in 2015.
Ryan Smith did not respond to our questionnaire.
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.
DEEL: Overall, Rochester Hills is appropriately managing the city’s growth. The city must focus on developing and maintaining our infrastructure, while building the fund balance to secure the city’s future. The city should address increased traffic resulting from new development.
The city has several tools it uses for strategic planning. The Capital Improvement Plan helps identify needs and financing sources for infrastructure improvements. In addition, the city engages in a seven-year financial forecast and three-year budget planning to aid in long-term planning and maintaining reserves. Forecasting expenditures and revenues can present a challenge and no forecast will be completely accurate, but it is wise to engage in this kind of long-range planning. Council can safeguard itself against forecast errors through a regular budget review process and budget amendments.
City staff does a fantastic job of preparing a budget that reflects council’s goals and objectives, but city council must be diligent in its role of providing oversight. Council members must thoroughly review the proposed budget and make proper inquiries to staff when they have questions.
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?
DEEL: Our parks, green space and trails are some of the things residents love most about living in Rochester Hills. I support maintaining and developing our parks. My twin sons use these parks weekly for play and organized sports. I live near Bloomer and Borden parks and they are almost always in use. Innovation Hills presents a unique regional recreational and educational opportunity. While the city is spending funds for the park, it is also attracting private contributions. This private/public partnership demonstrates our community’s dedication to Innovation Hills. These amenities make Rochester Hills a desirable place to live and improve our property values and overall quality of life.
I support city council’s decision to create the Natural Resources Division within the Parks and Forestry Department and the creation of the Natural Resources Manager position. This will bring forestry, green space, wildlife operations and outdoor engagement programs under one division. In my view, this is sound fiscal management. Also, as a parent, I support our investment in outdoor engagement programs to help residents experience the full benefit of our parks and green spaces. With the prevalence of technology and handheld devices, it is important for our residents and children to have a place where they can connect with nature.
In 2005, residents passed a 10-year millage to acquire and preserve natural green space in the city. I believe our residents continue to value the commitment we have made in green spaces and future generations will also.
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?
DEEL: The Auburn Road Corridor is in my district and I have a vested interest in the outcome of this project. I fully support the city’s investment in the Auburn Road Corridor. This is one of the oldest areas in the community, so it stands to reason that it would be the first in line for redevelopment. I will work diligently with residents to make sure we have a quality outcome that will be beneficial to the residents and improve their overall quality of life. I believe the residents and business community will reap the benefits of this investment. Past attempts at redevelopment along Auburn Road did not come to fruition. There is enthusiasm for this project on city council and I would like to seize this momentum.
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?
DEEL: We live in a thriving community filled with wonderful people, safe neighborhoods, fantastic amenities and dedicated public servants. We need to keep Rochester Hills on the right track by focusing on the following:
1. FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: As we recover from the economic recession, it is important to continue to build our fund balance, reduce expenses by collaborating with local stakeholders to secure private funding and invest in our infrastructure (roads, parks, green spaces and water system).
2. PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to continue to be vigilant and look for innovative ways to keep residents safe by consistently evaluating the effectiveness of police and fire services.
3. QUALITY OF LIFE: Rochester Hills is a vibrant and prosperous city. We need to keep up the momentum by continuing to attract and retain businesses in high-growth sectors. This will drive property values up and keep unemployment low. We also need to continue to invest in the things our residents love, like our parks, trails and green spaces.
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?
DEEL: City council has a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to spend their hard-earned tax dollars wisely. To this end, council members should be prepared for all meetings and have the knowledge and experience to be effective. I have been an attorney for 16 years. As an elected member of the Rochester Hills Public Library Board, I have experience providing high-quality public services, while being a good steward of our tax dollars. I also serve on the city’s building authority and am the president of the Arcadia Park Homeowners Association. I have the skills and experience to work with the mayor and city council to keep Rochester Hills moving in the right direction.
As a 14-year Rochester Hills resident, I understand our community’s values. I am highly invested in our city as a homeowner and the father of twin sons, who attend Rochester Community Schools. In addition, my wife runs her law practice in the city. On city council, every decision I make will be based on my education and experience to make our city the best place to live and raise a family.