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On the Ballot: Jeremy Mahrle, City Commission

Royal Oak Patch looks at the Royal Oak candidates who are seeking a four-year term in the Nov. 5 election

Answers to Key Issues

Following are Mahrle's answers to questions asked by Patch readers.

As our City's demographics continue to change with a smaller and older population (many young families move to outer ring suburbs when the kids show up) what is your 10 year vision for the city? With that vision what are your strategies and tactical ideas to get us there?    

We are actually beginning to see an influx of new, young families moving to Royal Oak with our good stock of smaller starter homes and newly constructed larger houses.  In order to keep these families, we need to do what we can to make Royal Oak more family-friendly: maintain our great parks and playgrounds, begin developing a plan for a downtown park as called for in our Master Plan, continue the implementation of our non-motorized vehicle plan to make our streets more pedestrian-friendly, and – most importantly – keep providing quality city services so those moving here, and those already here, will stay and invest in their homes and in the community.

Royal Oak still has a half dozen outdated and dangerous motels that are havens for parole absconders. Do you have a plan on disposing the remaining?    

Having grown up in Royal Oak, I know that these motels have been an issue in our city for many years.  It’s important to note that these motels can sometimes provide an important safety net for families going through a transition period, for example after suffering through a foreclosure on their home.  However, we have seen some stark examples of how the motels are abused.  We saw this come to a head in 2011 with the murder of a local resident by parole absconders who were staying in a Woodward motel.  Our Police caught those who committed that horrible act and they are now in prison.

We have been fortunate over the years to have some of these motels closed, and I believe there to be a pending development for the motel on 11 Mile and the Sagamore Motor Lodge on Woodward, two of the remaining motels.  While these motels may sometimes serve a purpose to families in need, I feel very strongly that their downside far outweighs the positive and that they negatively impact our quality of life. 

Much of what could potentially be done is hampered by state and federal law.  We cannot simply shut down these businesses.  What we need to do is step up the efforts that the city is already engaged in – regular police sweeps and increased code enforcement – and continue to look at other ways to make it a difficult business environment for motels so that we can replace them with new, more dynamic businesses.

How are you going to address the problems with rats throughout the City?

First, I think it is important to point out that a rat population is a problem that is not unique to Royal Oak – many surrounding cities have this issue as well.  What you see, however, that it is largely not a citywide issue and is actually isolated to a few neighborhoods.  I think that the best way to combat rat issues is to have a strong code enforcement department.  Not only will allow us to remove the habitat and food sources for the rats, ultimately leading to the end of the issue – it will help to make our neighborhoods more attractive to potential home buyers and subsequently raise the values of our home.

Some citizens are concerned that in recent years the City Commission has been majoring in the minors. The dog ordinance, the human rights ordinance, the fence ordinance for examples. What is your opinion on this? Regarding your opinion how does that get implemented in the coming years?    

I don’t think that any of those issues can be considered “minor.” 

While there may have been better ways to go about it, enforcing the dog license ordinance is an important issue.  Now, if someone were to be bit by a dog, it is significantly less likely that they will have to receive a painful series of rabies shots. I do not see a dog census being an annual occurrence – as the City Manager has stated it is more likely a 5-year cycle – but it did indeed serve a purpose. 

Even more important is the Human Rights Ordinance.  Currently in the State of Michigan – and in Royal Oak – a person can be fired or denied housing or employment on the basis of their sexual orientation, for being transgender, for being HIV positive, or even just appearing to fit any of those categories. 

If Royal Oak hopes to be a family-friendly, forward-thinking community that is seen as a leader in Southeast Oakland County, we cannot shy away from difficult issues like the HRO.  I believe we should join our neighboring communities – progressive cities like Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge to affluent cities like Huntington Woods and Birmingham – and nearly 30 communities across Michigan in passing this important ordinance.  In fact, most large businesses, and even the Boy Scouts of America, have begun instituting policies of inclusion. 

Royal Oak cannot be left behind by abandoning the values of fairness and equality.

The fence ordinance is an issue that did get a little out of hand. While it is still an issue that we need to remedy – we have documented examples of pedestrians and bicyclists being hit by cars backing out of “blind” driveways – there certainly was a better way to go about it.  The Commission acted wisely to cease the enforcement of the ordinance while alternatives such as parabolic mirrors or sensing systems are researched and considered.  It is unfortunate that some residents had already proceeded with fence modifications before being informed that the changes were not necessary, although their driveways are certainly safer than they were before. 

What is the most important thing you would like to accomplish if elected?  

As a candidate who is deeply involved in the community, there are a number of important things that I would like to see happen in Royal Oak.  A few that come to mind as I write this: 

I would like to see a satisfactory development at the I-696 property, the gateway to our city.  I would like to see Royal Oak be a partner in the construction of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial at Memorial Park so we can better honor our WWII veterans before it is too late.  As I mention above, I would like to see the development of our downtown park and the continued implementation of our non-motorized vehicle plan.  The tough decision will be surrounding the financial realities of these goals.  We must do what we can, with what we have.

We need to our neighborhoods strong and safe, responsibly grow and diversify our downtown, and protect our community assets like the Public Library, the Senior Center, and the Farmers Market.  If we do this, I will consider my time as your City Commissioner a success.

About Jeremy Mahrle

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