The four candidates vying to fill three seats on the Royal Oak City Commission— Sharlan Douglas, Diane Hargan, Jeremy Mahrle and David Poulton — agreed to answer five questions submitted by Patch readers, with Royal Oak Patch choosing the questions.
The City Election is Nov. 5.
Below are the answers to the first question from Keith Wissman, who asked:
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?
Sharlan Douglas: A vision for a city should spring from the visions and will of the people, not from the designs of any one elected official. As a Royal Oak planning commissioner, I voted in 2012 to approve the city’s master plan, originally developed in 1999 with extensive public involvement. According to SEMCOG, Royal Oak’s population and average household size will remain stable in the coming years, so the plan remains a viable guide for the city’s future. Its strategies remain viable, notably:
- Maintain the architectural character of our neighborhoods
- Enable non-motorized transportation
- Encourage a mix of uses in a vibrant downtown
- Improve the function and appearance of commercial corridors, especially Woodward Avenue
- Provide demographically-relevant recreation and cultural amenities
While we are seeing some larger new homes being built, Royal Oak will always be a city of primarily smaller homes, appealing to singles, retirees and new families. Our downtown amenities will continue to attract and serve them.
Diane Hargan: Although we have families that have moved away, the recent article in the Patch confirms that Royal Oak is still a very desirable city for young families. I believe we have a good mix of citizens and will continue to attract new and younger people. We are already doing a lot of things right.
I envision a city of tolerance, diversity, and community activism. We have great schools, beautiful parks, and a vibrant downtown. Who wouldn't want to live here?
I would like to see fewer bars and more "family friendly" businesses.
I can't really formulate strategies or tactical ideas until I'm in a commission seat and understand the duties and limitations of the position.
Jeremy Mahrle: 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.
David Poulton: I do not necessarily believe that is the case for our city. Royal Oak is a varied blend of singles, first time home buyers, families with school-age children, empty nesters and seniors. In fact, Royal Oak was recently named one of the best cities in Michigan to raise a family.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed more new housing development and remodeling than has taken place in many years. Each of us has our own specific reasons for seeking out the advantages available in Royal Oak. Very few "outer ring suburbs" or other communities in the state offer the variety that we have in our city. Royal Oak has wonderful schools, a vibrant downtown, a growing arts community, over 50 city parks, an ice arena, popular soccer, baseball, football and hockey organizations, golf courses, and a nationally recognized zoo, which plans to enhance our recreational amenities with a splash pad and outdoor ice skating rink.
In the current economic environment, a "ten year plan" is far outside our ability to accurately forecast the city's needs and abilities. Shorter term planning during these economic times is more feasible. Just a few short years ago, we faced challenging deficits that called for us to bring immediate solutions to the table. However, if we can continue to progress what we see today over the next ten years: increasing property values, improving parks and expanding commercial development, then the future for Royal Oak is very bright.
Come back tomorrow when candidates answer this question from Laura Harrison: "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?"