The candidates: Where they stand on the issues

September 26, 2019

 

Eight candidates are competing to fill four four-year seats on the Birmingham City Commission in the Tuesday, November 5, election.

 

The names of two incumbents whose terms are expiring, Patty Bordman and Carroll DeWeese, will appear on the ballot, along with the names of candidates Clinton Baller, Jake German, Brad Host, Therese Longe and Matt Wilde. Although the name of current incumbent Pierre Boutros will not appear on the ballot, he has filed to be an official write-in candidate.

 

Candidates were asked by Downtown newsmagazine to address a number of issues facing the city and their responses appear below.

 

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

Voters in August turned down what was proposed as a possible solution to a perceived parking shortage in the immediate downtown area. Do you think parking in the immediate downtown area is an issue? If so, how do you think the city commission should now proceed to address the problem? Please be specific.

 

Possible new location for RH

Although there was strong opposition to the ballot proposal for a new parking structure and the extension of Bates Street, one of the side benefits to the proposal was the commitment by Restoration Hardware to locate their popular RH store in Birmingham. Should the city be working toward a goal of proposing a new location in the downtown area to retain the RH store?

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

One of the components of a successful downtown is maximizing residential density in the immediate downtown area but at more affordable levels than offered by some of the recent developments. Do you think more affordable housing in the downtown area is an issue and if so, is that even an achievable goal?

 

New Birmingham master plan

Urban planner Andres Duany of DPZ partners is expected at the start of next year to present preliminary results of a new master plan for Birmingham, which will include recommendations for the neighborhoods, among other areas. This past spring Duany gave an update on some concepts that may be part of the final master plan product.  Based on that update from Duany, were there any concepts that caught your interest. Please be specific.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

Birmingham created a specific area of the city to award economic development liquor licenses to help spur major development – generally along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Do you think the economic development area should be expanded into other areas like the Rail District to help spur development? 

 

Change in city hall administration

At least one of the candidates running for city commission has called for a change in the city manager position in Birmingham. Do you think there is a need for replacing the city manager or other members of the administration? Why or why not?  If you think change in administrative positions is needed, if elected, what ones would you like to see changed and why? 

 

Senior citizen center

There have been suggestions in recent years that perhaps the city should look at building a senior citizen center. Do you agree or disagree, and why? If you think a center is necessary, how would you suggest construction and ongoing operations be funded?

 

Your special plans for city

What do you consider your special concerns that should be addressed if you are elected?

 

Why vote for you

Why should a voter select you over other contenders for the open seats on the city commission?

 

CLINTON BALLER

 

Clinton Baller is the founder/president of Avid Pay Solutions, and previously was on the city’s Corridor Improvement Authority.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

Parking has long been, and most definitely remains, an issue downtown. One year ago, a national parking consultant delivered a comprehensive Downtown Parking Plan. It has received little attention. It made many recommendations for increasing supply, increasing capacity, decreasing demand and reallocating existing resources. Incredibly, the report noted, “The City has contracted with SP+ for facility maintenance and operations for its five parking structures since 1991. The service agreement has not been subject to competitive bidding or amendment since the original signing date.” That has since been done, but it tells you something: We need to run a much tighter parking ship. Many of the report’s recommendations have not been implemented, and should be. If we expand the system, it should be into the Triangle District, where an all-new, above-ground deck would be less expensive, serve the needs of downtown, and spur much-needed development in the Triangle.

 

Possible new location for RH

Let’s be clear: The city had no commitment from RH. The developers had a non-binding letter of intent, not a commitment. After the election, I spoke to representatives of RH, who said they wanted an iconic location downtown and gave me specifications. Within days, I offered the Birmingham Theatre. It had everything they wanted, and more: frontage on two streets and parking decks on both sides. That was early August. As of early September: crickets. Makes you wonder. But for sure, we should be talking to RH and any entity that can contribute to the city’s prosperity. At one of the master planning sessions, city officials were told they needed to talk to developers. They were asked: “Do you call developers?” The sheepish answer: “We call them back.” That’s not good enough. To get what we want, we need strong relationships and ongoing dialogue with developers and property owners.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

More, and less-expensive, downtown housing is important not only to the health of the downtown, but to the city as a whole, because that is what will a) attract the younger demographic we need to stay vital and b) allow seniors to age in place. It is achievable. It’s all in the planning. Our master planners have suggested loosening the amount of on-site parking we require for residential buildings downtown, and allowing use of our parking system instead. It’s not a new idea; it has been raised before. We should try it on a limited basis. There are other things we can do to tip the balance away from office toward residential. Again, we need to talk to property owners and find out what would encourage them to build smaller, less expensive condos and apartments downtown. Then we need to adjust the regulations to match the planning objectives.

 

New Birmingham master plan

The suggestion that we legitimize neighborhood associations by facilitating their organization is a terrific idea. It aligns perfectly with my theme of doing a better job engaging residents in government. The ideas for taming big Woodward, and knitting together east and west, are a great start in that department. That’s a problem we have ignored for far too long based largely on the false notion that MDOT is unwilling to consider creative solutions. Several years ago, I helped debunk that falsehood by bringing together property owners and others, including MDOT, to discuss a possible bridge across Woodward just south of Maple. The great thing about planners is that they get people thinking, talking and developing visions. But it is important to note that the new plan is nowhere near finalized. I want to hear what residents have to say before anything is finalized.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

Liquor licensing is a reasonable tool for spurring certain kinds of development. But it is just one tool in our toolbox, and unless a property owner (and the city) wants booze to be part of a project, it’s worthless. I think we constantly need to study the tools available to us, and grow our toolbox, for encouraging the kind of development we want, and for discouraging the kind of development we don’t want. 

 

Change in city hall administration

We need a change in culture, if not people. Let’s address three issues: Fear, arrogance and the proper roles of those in government. Fear guides too much at City Hall. Morale is down at every level. No one, least of all commissioners, should fear speaking to one another, to staff, or to constituents. We can’t eliminate fear, but we can recognize and tame it. I tried to find a kinder word than “arrogance” to describe city leadership in the Bates fiasco. But when the administration and commission are virtually unanimous, and 68 percent of voters disagree, the shoe fits. But we can cure the “out-of-touch” syndrome. Finally, the cure to fear and arrogance may start with getting everyone on the same page: The manager (our COO) works for the mayor and commission (our CEO and board of directors), which serves at the pleasure, and represents the interests, of residents. 

 

Senior citizen center

What the city needs to do is follow through on its commitment to lead a group of communities in assuring that the growing demand for senior services is met. Our senior center, Next, does a terrific job, and its biggest contributor is not the city, but the Birmingham School District, which allows Next to occupy a portion of Midvale School rent-free. But those quarters are tight, and the district could pull the plug any time. The Ad Hoc Joint Senior Services Committee, on which Mayor Bordman and City Manager Joe Valentine sit, is supposed to be working on a solution. But it hasn’t met in nearly a year. Next needs a permanent home. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. It may eventually mean simply purchasing Midvale. But the ball stopped rolling nine months ago, and if I have anything to say about it, the committee will resume its work. 

 

Your special plans for city

If I go to another city meeting where the same handful of people show up and comment, my head is going to explode. So my three biggest concerns are resident engagement, resident engagement and resident engagement. In that order. But it’s a tall order. It starts with a belief that our highly educated, affluent community wants to be engaged, and will be if we give them the opportunity. It continues with an understanding that it’s not easy, that you have to give it more than lip-service. And it involves a variety of tools based in both the virtual and real worlds. We have a gigantic untapped reservoir of talent and resources here, and we can and should take much greater advantage of them than we do now. 

 

Why vote for you

Because of the concerns I mentioned above. I want to engage you in city government. That’s what I did when I created the Birmingham Buzz 18 years ago. It’s what I did when I recruited and led a design team for Booth Park in 2004. It’s what I did a few years later when I researched and made a convincing case for the bistro ordinance. It’s what I did when I brought together property owners, city officials, MDOT and others to discuss a bridge across Woodward a few years ago. And it’s what I did this summer when I prompted debate about the Bates project. I didn’t do those things myself. I made them happen by engaging the community. That’s what leadership is all about. So if you want a proven leader who will offer you more and better opportunities for engagement in city government, honor me with your vote.

 

PATTY BORDMAN

 

Patty Bordman is finishing her first term as a city commissioner, and is currently Birmingham’s mayor. She is a retired attorney, liaison to Birmingham Next and served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

The lead-up to the election was very divisive, and the city needs a pause, time to take a breath and reflect. At the same time, downtown parking remains frustrating to residents, businesses and visitors. The city has already assigned to the Advisory Parking Committee (APC) the task of studying alternative ways to manage the parking squeeze. During the pause, however, the commission should prioritize matters that protect the quality of our neighborhoods, and that maintain Birmingham as a desirable community. Once the APC delivers its suggestions, the commission should present these suggestions to the residents through an online and/or mailed survey so that the commission has a fuller understanding of community interests prior to considering any parking remedies, and to ensure that all are heard.

 

Possible new location for RH

Having successful businesses is important for any downtown. Following the bond vote, the city administration contacted RH, and RH indicated continued interest in a Birmingham location. The challenge is identifying another location that accommodates RH’s desired footprint. Discussions with RH, its brokers and downtown property owners are ongoing, a process the city follows with any retailer that shows interest in locating in Birmingham.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

Yes, reasonably priced housing is crucial to a vibrant community. One of the best tools for the commission to use to encourage reasonable housing prices is the zoning code. Current downtown zoning limits building height to five stories and 80 feet. By allowing more stories within the same 80-foot height, say seven stories, more units can be built which could reduce the price of each unit. Additionally, the city should consider incentives to encourage smaller units which mean more units per floor, and therefore, result in lower unit prices. We also need to study the parking requirement for residential units in the downtown core to see if eliminating it would result in a lower unit price.

 

Entry-level housing in the neighborhoods is also becoming a concern. Birmingham should be a place where anyone, at any stage of life, can find a place to live.

 

New Birmingham master plan

I am concerned that Birmingham is losing its entry-level priced housing. Andres Duany proposed changing Birmingham’s zoning to allow small apartment buildings, limited to six units, along neighborhood “seams” or edges. This idea might allow for entry-level family units while not having a significant effect on the feel of the neighborhoods. This plan deserves study and discussion.

 

Also worthy of further study and discussion are Duany’s ideas to blend Birmingham’s east and west neighborhoods along big Woodward. Duany suggested merging districts, so that the Triangle and South Old Woodward districts would be known as “Haynes Square.” Duany also recommended adding many more pedestrian crossings across big Woodward to help unify our City.

 

These ideas caught my interest, and I am interested in hearing our residents reactions to them.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

Expansion to the Rail and Triangle Districts occurred on November 20, 2017, when the commission voted to expand the economic development liquor license option to those areas. I voted in favor of that expansion. A few parcels in the Rail District, however, were not part of the expansion. An applicant is currently seeking to have his property included in the Rail District economic development boundaries. This applicant is likely to come before the commission within the next few months, and I, together with the other commissioners, will examine the request carefully to determine whether it is in the community’s interest to approve it.

 

Change in city hall administration

As a current commissioner, I have closely observed Joe Valentine’s work, and I find him to be an exceptional asset to our town. For those who don’t know, Joe manages the staff and day-to-day city operations. In contrast to managers in other communities, there has never been a hint of impropriety concerning Joe. He is not only trustworthy, Joe is also hard working, knowledgeable about municipal government, financially savvy regarding municipal matters and unusually capable in relating to our residents. Birmingham is a model city that has received many awards, and is the envy of municipalities in this state. In fact, Birmingham is one of the very few communities that can manage capital projects without seeking a special millage to pay for it. This doesn’t happen without an excellent manager of a staff that provides first-rate services. No change in management will be sought by me.

 

Senior citizen center

Birmingham’s current senior center, known as Next, offers a wonderful array of programs for our senior population, and is staffed by friendly, helpful and experienced people. Next also serves the communities of Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin. However, because Next shares a school facility with a preschool, and with increasing senior demand, Next may require more space and stable funding. In June, 2018, recognizing these pressures, the four communities reactivated the Joint Senior Services Committee (JSSC) to evaluate the necessary funding, and whether a permanent building is feasible to effectively provide adequate senior services to residents. Birmingham’s commission appointed me as its representative to the JSSC. The JSSC is in the midst of its work, and I have participated in all of its meetings. The JSSC will soon be presenting an agreement to the four communities that will begin to address the future needs for senior services.

 

Your special plans for city

Making sure that Birmingham has a wide range of housing options, including reasonably priced choices for entry-level homeowners and downsizing seniors is one of my concerns. Therefore, I believe that the commission should consider ordinance changes that encourage more reasonably priced housing units. Another concern is financial: I intend to continue keeping watch on our budget, endeavor to again lower our millage rate (the commission has lowered the millage rate each of the four years I’ve been a commissioner) and retain our AAA-bond rating. And, another issue that is near to my heart is the need for universally-accessible playscapes that allow children of all abilities to participate in Birmingham’s magnificent parks. I will continue to identify potential funding sources to turn this into a reality.

 

Why vote for you

I have continued to learn and expand my knowledge of municipal governance throughout my four years as a commissioner. I am dedicated, thoughtful and open-minded: I listen to every viewpoint when an issue is before the commission. I thoroughly study the voluminous materials that are provided before every meeting. If there is an issue regarding a house, building or street, I visit the site ahead of time to understand the context. I am independent: I make decisions based on my own analysis. Although I don’t always agree with the other commissioners, I am proud that this does not prevent us from working harmoniously. I am attentive to residents, and truly enjoy responding to their emails and phone calls, meeting with any constituent that wishes to meet with me. And, I have no hidden agenda: I care what happens to Birmingham, and want to continue to contribute to Birmingham’s future.

 

PIERRE BOUTROUS

 

Pierre Boutros is the pharmacist/ owner of Mills Pharmacy + Apothecary in Birmingham. He is completing is first term as a city commissioner, and serves on the boards of Birmingham Next and The Community House.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote 

A similar question was asked when I campaigned in 2015, which means parking is clearly still an issue. Many recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Parking Study Committee back then remain unfulfilled, but any visitor, resident or business owner walking down the street could tell you that. So my answer is similar too: We don’t want to be the place people stop visiting – let alone living and investing – because of parking.

 

But putting the burden on taxpayers is still not the solution. Instead, we must continue to pursue public-private partnerships and make this about more than just parking. The value of these partnerships, as we saw in the North Old Woodward parking plan, is that smart ideas emerge to not only address the parking issue but also incorporate residential and retail opportunities that attract local and national investment. With proper planning and public input, we should encourage these opportunities.

 

Possible new location for RH

Absolutely. A major retailer like Restoration Hardware does its homework before selecting a location, let alone a flagship like the one they planned. The mere fact that they made that commitment speaks volumes: Birmingham is a world-class destination for investment.

 

I’ve had countless conversations with folks on both sides of the issue, before and after the vote, and one thing is certain: There was consensus that Restoration Hardware was welcome here. Whether they voted yes or no simply doesn’t matter anymore.

 

So now that the dust has (somewhat) settled, let’s learn from the experience and come together to chart a smart course forward that keeps us in the national conversation while addressing any and every concern that was voiced on a local level. I believe we can do that, because I believe everyone involved ultimately had – and has – the greater good at heart, regardless of how they define it.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

I believe in market forces – not forcing markets.

 

If developers are offering prices that are out-of-step with the downtown housing market, I believe demand will ultimately force their prices down based on what that market will bear.

 

Instead, let’s look beyond the immediate downtown area to explore the untapped market potential throughout the five-mile radius of our city.

 

I envision one Birmingham, where the quality of life for every resident rivals that of the greatest cities in the world. These cities are great because of their diverse neighborhoods and the unique destinations found within.

 

If demand in one area of Birmingham drives housing prices up, then whether it’s in the Rail or Triangle District or even next door to Mills Pharmacy, I want other areas to be equally attractive options because residents know that all Birmingham has to offer is just a short walk or bike ride away.

 

New Birmingham master plan

What excites me most about the new master plan is its emphasis on making Birmingham a truly walkable community – not just downtown but across town – to connect our different neighborhoods without sacrificing their unique character.

 

Specifically, what caught my interest is that the new plan encourages smart development to create retail anchors in each of those neighborhoods. The key is scale: These are modest developments that reimagine the strip malls already found throughout the city. I was flattered to see the plaza where my business (Mills Pharmacy) is located used as an example because it’s actually what attracted me to the location. 

 

These plazas cannot only provide fundamentals like groceries and dry cleaning to residents of the immediate neighborhood, but also shops and cafes that people on the other side of town want to walk or bike to with their families. That’s how we create one Birmingham.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

We had a similar conversation about the bistro ordinance before the 2015 election, and I remain a proponent of anything that spurs smart development in every district to create one vibrant Birmingham to live, work and play. 

 

But smart development is inherently responsible development. I believe we must bring all stakeholders together to arrive at innovative ideas that achieve balance.

 

The Rail and Triangle districts, in my opinion, have the most potential for smart development. More importantly though, they are critical to realizing the vision of the new master plan. The concepts we’ve already seen, grounded in the research and expertise of professional urban planners, encourage development at a reasonable scale in these areas. I believe the commission needs to do its part to align any economic programs or incentives with that vision to ensure we maintain balance in our neighborhoods, yet welcome investment in our community.

 

Change in city hall administration

As a business owner, I take termination decisions very seriously. It’s important to look at the big picture. You need to maintain perspective and move beyond an isolated instance to judge overall performance relative to job descriptions and benchmarks.

 

I also don’t make these decisions alone: I trust my executive team to ensure I avoid any rush to judgment. Similarly, I wouldn’t make such a decision alone on the Commission: I was elected along with my fellow commissioners to make every decision together.

 

As a current member of the commission, I know this issue has not been brought before us, so I don’t have all the necessary information to make an informed decision. Should the issue appear on our agenda, we will give it due process and, with the facts before us, deliberate at length to put the best interests of the city of Birmingham above all else. 

 

Senior citizen center

Gandhi said it best: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

 

I believe it is our responsibility to find a permanent home for our senior center: Its current shared location is too small to adequately serve the needs of our active seniors.

 

Yet the Joint Senior Citizens Commission hasn’t met in nine months. It’s time to make this a priority and arrive at a plan which Birmingham, Beverly Hills, Franklin and Bingham Farms can share the cost to implement.

 

My first choice would be to buy or lease the current building and use all of it. Public Act 39 gives cities the power to tax or bond for senior services, so funding could be raised through a dedicated millage or bond.

 

Whatever the solution, our seniors deserve a facility that lives up to the standards we all enjoy in Birmingham.

 

Your special plans for city

From reducing the tax levy and maintaining our AAA bond rating, to streetscape improvements on Old Woodward and the Chesterfield Fire Station reconstruction, I’m proud of what my fellow commissioners and I accomplished during the last four years – and excited about the opportunity to serve again.

 

When I think about the next four, my concerns are threefold: Our seniors, our youth and everyone in between!

 

First, as outlined above, we need a permanent home for our senior center.

 

Second, all three phases of the library renovation should be completed. For children and adults, this is our epicenter for lifelong learning, and must meet modern standards in accessibility and technology.

 

Finally, we can create one Birmingham by blurring the line between the east and west sides of Woodward. From smart development in the Rail District to citywide streetscape improvements, one vibrant five-mile radius for living, working and playing should define Birmingham.

 

Why vote for you

Above all, voters should consider my record as their commissioner.

 

During my first term, I did my best to serve the citizens of Birmingham not only as an elected official, but as a fellow resident and business owner. The experience has truly changed my perspective and I’ve learned many valuable lessons.

 

Those lessons can be summed up in one word: balance.

 

People are drawn to Birmingham for its higher standard of living, working and playing. It’s why I’m raising a family here. It’s why I own a business here. It’s why I’m running for office again here. I will continue to work hard to find the right balance between maintaining our way of life and maximizing our potential.

 

As a pharmacist, people trust me with their health. As a commissioner, people trust me with the health of this great city. It would be an honor to continue to balance both.

 

CARROLL DEWEESE

 

Carroll DeWeese is retired from General Motors, and is finishing his first term as a Birmingham City Commissioner. He previously served on the city’s Planning Board, Ad Hoc Water and Sewer Board and Ad Hoc Barnum Committee.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

Parking downtown is an issue. One, repair the current North Old Woodward Parking garage. Two, implement parking mitigation strategies, such as was planned for handling parking while the garage was being constructed, to handle increasing permit parking needs in city and to keep space available for short-term parking. Three, accelerate efforts to get a parking structure in the Triangle District. Four, start a public planning process to get public involvement on the longer-term future of the city property north of Willits and west of Old Woodward.

 

Possible new location for RH

RH came to the city and wanted to locate in Birmingham. The city had talked to them about two other locations but they specifically wanted to be on Old Woodward near parking. They have a very tight deadline to get out of Somerset Mall. If RH is still interested the city should continue to work with them, but the parking bond vote may have killed RH wanting to be in Birmingham. The city welcomes all retailers that wish to invest in the city, including RH.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

More affordable or attainable housing downtown is an issue. The current situation is created in large part by the city requirement for onsite parking with apartments or condos located downtown. One, removing the parking requirement will reduce developer cost and price points. These residences will use parking garages predominantly at the time that they are most unused (nights, weekends, and holidays) and not at time when they are most used (mid-day), since many will use their vehicles to get to work outside of Birmingham.  Two, the zoning code can be changed to provide more incentive for residential and less for office. An example is that within the current heights of downtown buildings limited to 80 feet, it is possible to have 6 floors and not just the current five floors that include office floors. A developer could be allowed to build six floors, instead of five, if the first floor was retail and all the other five floors were residential. This would also lower the price point and encourage more attainable housing downtown.

 

New Birmingham master plan

One, neighborhoods need to be strengthened and have more interaction with each other and the city. Two, Birmingham’s population is aging, and the city needs to be more responsive to the needs of its aging population. Three, the city needs to facilitate opportunities for younger families to be able to live within the city. Four, more attention needs to be paid to creating more attainable housing while protecting the basic character of individual neighborhoods.  Five, walkable destinations within neighborhoods should be encouraged. Six, parking issues need to be addressed downtown and in neighborhoods with spillover problems from commercial and schools. Seven, invest in parking in the Triangle District. Eight, do not lose the character of the Rail District. Nine, find ways to integrate the Woodward corridor into the rest of the Birmingham community.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

Economic development liquor licenses are intended to target development in areas that are not otherwise undergoing intended development. The south area of the Rail District could use more restaurants and a development license for this are seems appropriate, especially if some of the current buildings can put to adaptive reuse to keep the feel of the area.  

 

Change in city hall administration

The city manager and other members of the administration work for the city and report to the city commission. They are responsive to the directions and concerns of the city commission. If a person has a problem with the city manager, their real problem is with the city commission. If a person does not like the city manager, change the city commission. They will change the city manager and others if they are not responsive. Continuity in the city manager position is important. Part of Birmingham’s success is having a history of long-term city managers that take the long view and provide a consistency of vision and action.

 

Senior citizen center

Birmingham Next has been serving the growing population of citizens over 50 years of age in the Birmingham area for over 40 years. Citizens from Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Birmingham, Franklin, and other communities are being served. Thanks to the Birmingham School District, a building currently exists but is near capacity. Birmingham should become more proactive and take the lead in assessing the current and future needs and working toward getting facilities and programs in place to meet the needs of those over 50. Exactly how to do this is an open question. Perhaps Next could become a quasi-governmental organization, similar to a public library, that could support itself in part through a millage subject to voter approval in the affected communities. I do not have an answer, except I support Birmingham taking the lead in finding a solution.

 

Your special plans for city

The city needs to learn to listen more to its constituents and their needs. It needs to find better ways to get citizens involved and to communicate with them what it is doing and why. Getting consensus and support is important. Many homeowners, neighborhoods, and others feel that their voice in city government is not sufficiently heard. The city needs to reach out and get more involvement and be even more transparent in its efforts. The new neighborhood focused master plan, once adopted, should be implemented. Phase two of the Baldwin Library should be completed and, once done, efforts made to strengthen the library’s financial reserves and do a phase three when feasible. Address parking capacity in downtown and Triangle District and on dealing with parking issues on neighborhood streets close to downtown and schools. Find ways to accelerate replacing cape-seal street with finished streets that are compatible with their neighborhoods. Increase the incentives to create attainable housing in downtown and the rest of the city. Continue to work on the city’s infrastructure. Build support for a park bond to improve parks across the city so that everyone is served. While doing all of this and more, continue to lower the property tax rate each year and maintain the city’s AAA bond rating.

 

Why vote for you

Having served one term on the city commission, I am experienced. I have national and international financial, diplomatic, and managerial background that I can and do bring to the job. I listen to everyone and support everyone’s right to express their point of view. I can and do act as a bridge between people with different perspectives. I am always prepared and do my homework. I am independent, open, and honest. I do not prejudge or personalize. I try to find solutions that people can consent to and work beyond their expectations. I am a team player. I can and will work with whoever gets elected. I have high standards for myself and love to tackle challenges. I love Birmingham and want to give back to this community.

 

JAKE GERMAN

 

Jake German is a consultant for Dunaskiss Consulting and Development. He is a member of the Birmingham Historic District Committee and a precinct delegate.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

Parking remains an issue; it is an unfortunate problem of success.  One way to mitigate parking issues is to invest in smart signage directing residents and visitors to the garage with the most available capacity, as well as tying meter pricing to parking demand.  Birmingham has already invested in advanced technology to chart parking patterns.  During regular business hours and on the highest peak days, helping drivers to know where those available spots are, and in which garage, would alleviate some parking stress.

 

Possible new location for RH

I believe that this ship has sailed. Birmingham has never been in the business of offering tax incentives to entice businesses to come downtown and I am not in favor of doing so in the future. We also wisely do not engage in so called “spot-zoning.”  Having said that, if RH approaches the city with site suggestions that would work within the edicts of our master plan I’d at least be open to a conversation.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

The recent charrette summary makes this explicitly clear – affordable housing in the downtown area is an issue. Indeed, the 1980 master plan identified the lack of downtown housing as an issue.  Currently, downtown housing requires off street parking on site, which is not required for non-residential use, resulting in large units that are too expensive – e.g. The Forefront condominiums – and that don’t meet market demand.  We need market driven housing supply downtown and in general.  Birmingham will need to grow by nearly 2,000 homes by the year 2040; of those 2,000 households at least 600 will need to be reasonably priced.

 

New Birmingham master plan

I like the ideas proposed about increased awareness of neighborhood identity.  I submit that many Birmingham residents would be hard pressed to identify in which of the 27 current neighborhood boundaries they reside (I’m in the Torry Estates Association).  Reinforcing neighborhood identity and evaluating and making sure that all neighborhoods are equitably and equally receiving services is important. The proposed neighborhood coordinators will act as important bridges between the neighborhoods and the city departments/government. I also like the idea of a permanent farmers market and find the proposed Climate Action Plan interesting.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

I think it should certainly be considered.  Thinking about future trends is important and access to passenger rail will likely be an economic driver on its own for this area of Birmingham. I very much like the idea of a “pink zone” for the lower Rail District so that it can continue to be a hub of new business opportunities for younger, entrepreneurial types who cannot pay downtown rents. Liquor licenses in this section of the city could help spawn some of that development and growth.

 

Change in city hall administration

No. Mr. Valentine works well with the city commission; he is responsive and efficient in dealing with citizen concerns, and he did a fine job presiding over the reconstruction of Old Woodward.  Further, he has done a respectable job making sure that the city is operating within their budget and has delivered lower tax rates five years in a row.  Birmingham is consistently viewed as an exemplar of a well-run city and is ‘primus inter pares,’ if you will, among its neighboring communities. It’s unclear to me how any of this merits his replacement. 

 

Senior citizen center

Birmingham is increasingly an aging community. Sustainability in a city isn’t just economic and sustainability though diversity of age is certainly something of which we all need to be cognizant. Having said that, a senior center would likely be very expensive, and the question of construction costs and ongoing operations need to be considered, as does a potential location.  Would we need a senior center millage?  Remember that Birmingham seniors currently have access to the Birmingham Next facilities on Midvale Street.  

 

Your special plans for city

As a member of the Historic District Study Committee (HDSC) it is important to me that Birmingham continues to preserve its many unique and historic buildings. I’d like to continue to work with the HDSC to reinitiate the Heritage Home Program and to conduct an audit of designated historical homes and buildings in the city so that we can then promote the preservation and designation of these historic properties. If elected commissioner, I’d continue to volunteer my time on the HDSC.

 

Why vote for you

My work as a public affairs and policy consultant makes me well suited to be an effective commissioner. I have first-hand experience crafting, writing, and enacting legislation. I am a proven dealmaker able to bring diverse factions together to get things done.  I think that this is very important in our city at the moment – we need to build some bridges. We need downtown businesses to heed the concerns being brought by the neighborhoods and vice versa. I feel I am well positioned to undertake this work and in so doing continue to make Birmingham the best place in Oakland County to live, work, and raise a family. I hope you will consider me on November 5th.

 

BRAD HOST

 

Brad Host is president and owner of Wolverine Contracting. He is a former trustee of Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education.

 

Parking Solution

Spending the $6.3M on the NOW Parking structure will preserve it for decades. The city should explore adding a floor to other structures (one at a time).

 

Possible new location for RH

If they can find sufficient private land inside Birmingham. I believe we should not do any public-private partnerships without a public vote.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

Yes, it is an issue. One way for affordable housing would be to demand all proposals for a five-story building have retail on the first floor and the above four floors apartments/condos with on-site parking required. Another way would be to demand more money from any developer/builder for demolition of existing housing (and give the added developer/builder fees to that neighborhood). Also the city should encourage homeowners to renovate their homes through monetary incentives.

 

New Birmingham Master Plan

I am concerned about the proposed three hotspots for commercial/office workers to obtain parking permits. I do not think residents want commercial/office workers parking in front of their homes all day. The city should approach these neighborhoods gingerly perhaps offering to give back the commercial permit fees to the neighborhood; this may be negotiable, but the neighborhood decides. Also, Duany suggests seams be created by allowing peripheral single family homes aligning neighborhoods to be rezoned for apartments/condos. I do not think our residents want this in their neighborhood. Certainly, a sure-fired way to decrease property values and compromise neighborhood integrity.

 

Change in City Hall administration

I would be presumptuous either way as I do not know these people.  We have trust issues with the commission and city administration, and I would work hard to re-establish public trust.

 

Senior citizen center

The seniors of Birmingham have “paid it forward” with their yearly taxes, and should be given, within reason, whatever they wish for. I have heard some would like more pickleball courts. We should look into that. I will listen to our seniors’ wishes, act on them and deliver.

 

Your special plans for city

There should be more transparent budget accounting available so the residents of Birmingham see exactly how much of the budget benefits them. The people who live here provide 85 percent of the revenue and are entitled to know how much is given back to the neighborhoods. The “big thinking” of our commission and administration should be toned down, and the quest should be stabilization of our downtown. Further, the city needs to show how our tax dollars benefit the neighborhoods. We are all shareholders and deserve appropriate consideration in all expenditures. I want to build trust.

 

Why vote for you

I will listen to our constituents and will act on their needs and concerns.   I will represent the people who live in Birmingham and represent the neighborhoods. They are my priorities, period.

 

THERESE LONGE

 

Therese Longe, a director of the foundation and corporate relations for Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, has sat on the Birmingham Parks and Recreation board for 15 years, and is the current board chair. She has also served on the Barnum Park steering and ad hoc committees, Shain Park study committee, Parks and Recreation Master Plan subcommittee, parks master plan subcommittee, and YMCA-Birmingham Ad Hoc Joint Venture committee.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

Several studies document that parking is in very high-demand on weekdays. In the evening and on weekends parking is underutilized. Short-term, the city can upgrade and improve the electronic information provided to users about space availability in the system as a whole to better match demand to availability. The city should upgrade and automate the permit wait list system to make more permits available on an equitable basis. Currently, there is no tracking to ensure that unused permits are returned to the parking system when employees leave. The city should also continue to pursue parking mitigation strategies that were identified for large employers for the Bates Street N.O.W. project, such as van pools and circulator shuttles. Long-term, the city should evaluate building a deck in the Triangle District to add capacity to the system. With this capacity in place, a decision about replacing the NOW deck could be made.

 

Possible new location for RH

The city and the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) should continue to work to pursue any national retailer that would be a good fit for Birmingham and would serve as a retail anchor and destination to draw shoppers. The BSD should also pursue interesting smaller retailers that distinguish the Birmingham shopping experience from other suburban destinations. RH was rumored to have looked at many possible locations in Birmingham several years ago before the Bates NOW project, and is likely aware of other possible locations. Certainly, a retailer of RH’s caliber is worth pursuing for a location that works not only for them but for their immediate neighbors.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

Increased residential density in the downtown will help to support the small businesses that are vital to maintaining a vibrant downtown that continues to be a regional destination. Birmingham also needs to attract young families with children to our neighborhoods to maintain healthy levels of enrollment in our school system. Older residents also need accessible housing options that allow them to remain in Birmingham. In order to continue to thrive and encourage a balanced community of full-time residents, Birmingham should look at ways to increase the availability of attainable housing in the downtown and the neighborhoods. Several ideas have been proposed in the initial stages of the 2040 master plan. These ideas should be thoroughly publicly vetted for their impact on the community before adoption. One interesting idea proposes to reduce the parking requirements for residential units in the downtown to incentivize the construction of smaller more attainably priced units.

 

New Birmingham master plan

As chair of the Parks and Recreation Board, the discussion of equitably served neighborhoods caught my interest. I agree that all neighborhoods should have accessible parks, and believe that providing parks for neighborhoods that don’t have them, like Torry, is a worthwhile goal. I also support the idea of shed space for a permanent farmer’s market, although I think that this idea might work better as part of a redeveloped NOW property than in Lot 6 as shown in the DPZ plan. The recommendation to invest in the Triangle District by building a parking garage would not only support development in this area, but would add parking capacity to the system as a whole. Suggestions about improving the connectivity across “big” Woodward also merit more discussion, especially ideas that make crossing easier for walkers and bikers.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

Economic development liquor licenses are a useful tool that the city has available to spur development where long-term planning has determined such growth is desired. This tool should be available for use in defined commercially zoned areas in the Rail District on a case-by-case basis, where each request can be evaluated for merit and in the context of the adjacent businesses and surrounding area. It should not be made available as a blanket entitlement for the entire Rail District. The SLUP process required for establishments that serve liquor ensures that resident concerns will be heard. The Lincoln Yard restaurant proposed for the former BPS bus garage in the Rail District would require an economic development liquor license. This project was revised and reduced in scale from its original concept in 2017, and if approved would be a valuable addition that would provide another walkable destination for families to enjoy. 

 

Change in city hall administration

One very unfortunate outcome from the August 6th election was that many residents felt that their concerns were not heard or respected. These residents felt disenfranchised, and their trust in governance was affected. It was disheartening to see the divisiveness that has affected political discourse in other communities invade Birmingham. We need to change and improve the ways the city engages with residents to increase transparency, responsiveness, collaboration, and accountability. The city needs to re-engage residents and re-assure them that they will be heard in order for the city to move forward on a vision for our future. The city’s increased use of social media has improved the way the city provides information, but it isn’t true two-way communication that facilitates real conversations about issues that are important to residents. 

 

Senior citizen center

The number of Birmingham residents aged 65 -74 will continue to increase and residents aged 75-plus are forecast to be the fasted growing group through 2040. These residents deserve to have access to the resources they need to live fully and independently. A continuum of support services will be needed to allow these residents to age in place in Birmingham if that is their desire. Next is currently very successful, providing numerous opportunities for life-long learning and socialization. It’s location at Midvale is convenient, but space is at a premium and capital improvements will be needed. Funding mechanisms could include inter-local agreements with surrounding municipalities, contractual arrangements, bonds, or a dedicated millage. The next step should be the city commission tasking the already established Ad Hoc Joint Senior Services Committee to quickly develop specific recommendations to address these issues.

 

Your special plans for city

Overall, I’d like to work to develop better ways of engaging with residents so that we can have meaningful conversations about issues that concern all of us. I also think quality of life issues are important. I would like to move forward on fulfilling the promises we’ve made to residents to improve our neighborhood parks. We can do more to upgrade our remaining parks, and to replace outdated play structures. Parks are important to our quality of life, preserving open space and attracting families to Birmingham. Finally, I’d like to bring more focus to improving services and activities for seniors so that they have the resources they need.  

 

Why vote for you

I’ve had the privilege of living in Birmingham for 35 years with my husband, Chris. I’ve been honored to serve on the Parks and Recreation Board for fifteen years, working to protect and improve our parks and recreational facilities. In that time, we’ve made great improvements at Barnum, Booth, Shain, and Quarton Lake Parks, and renovations of the ballfields at Kenning Park are underway. 

 

I care deeply about our community and want to make it work better for all of us. I believe that our quality of life and community prosperity depend on strong neighborhoods, excellent schools, great services, robust community organizations, and a vibrant downtown. I believe that we can work together for a Birmingham that puts neighborhoods first while remaining a welcoming place for those who work and play here. I’m ready to work for you, and I’d be honored if you’d vote for me on November 5th.

 

MATT WILDE

 

Matt Wilde is a business consultant with Tata Consultancy Service.

 

Parking solution post-bond vote

There is without a doubt a parking problem in the downtown area during regular business hours. The best way to alleviate this is to build a new parking structure. Per the preliminary report from DPZ, it was suggested to build a structure near Walgreens in what is known as the Triangle District. This would not only provide more parking but also help spur development in the area generating more tax revenue for the city.

 

Possible new location for RH

A new location for RH would be the southeast corner of Maple and Woodward. It is currently an empty lot that is full of potential. This space is large enough for RH and for parking. If we added a parking structure on the east side of Woodward could also help this come to fruition and create development in the Triangle District.

 

Affordable housing in downtown area

There is a lack of affordable housing in the downtown area. At this point combating the affordability issue downtown should not be the communities’ focus, as it is unlikely achievable at this time. Rather, we need to make sure Birmingham stay a great community for young families, children, and our senior citizens. We need to promote parks and our neighborhoods more then we need rent controls in downtown.

 

New Birmingham master plan

From the preliminary results presented by DPZ, two things really caught my attention. First the need and potential for a parking structure east of Woodward. Second the creation of a city hall position whose job is to connect with the neighborhoods. I would absolutely support the creation of this as our number one priority should always be the serve the concerns of our residents.

 

Economic development liquor licenses

I support economic development in all areas, as long as the residents in those areas are given a voice in the process and are comfortable with more restaurants and liquor licenses near their homes.

 

Senior citizen center

I absolutely support the idea of a senior citizens center. Our senior citizens are what connects Birmingham to our past. Many of them have lived majority of their lives in Birmingham and are the substantial reason why are community has been so great for many years. We would need to investigate our books and carve out funding, albeit this may be a tough task, but I believe it is extremely important for Birmingham and ensuring our wonderful age diversity. 

 

Your special plans for city

My concerns are for our residents, especially our children, and our elderly. I love downtown and all the wonderful restaurants, but many of our parks our outdated, and our streets are in shambles, and we need a senior community center. I would work to see those improvements.

 

Why vote for you

I decided to run as an outsider simply because I care about our city. My Birmingham heritage runs very deep. I am a fourth-generation resident. Two sets of my great-grandparents moved to Birmingham to raise their families 100 years ago. My grandmother and grandfather met in Birmingham, my grandmother grew up on Woodland and attended Holy Name schools, my grandfather grew up on Brown and graduated from Birmingham High. They raised my mother in Birmingham who attended Holy Name schools and graduated from Birmingham Seaholm. I am a proud alumnus of the Birmingham Public Schools (Harlan, Derby, and Seaholm). And now my wife is connected as she is the school social worker at Derby Middle School. I look forward to raising my two young children here, and ensuring Birmingham as a family friendly city for another 100 years.

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Birmingham, Michigan 48009

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