I concluded my seventh year on Ferndale city council and my third year (non-consecutive) serving as Mayor Pro Tem in 2016. City council and city staff made significant progress in 2016 with so many great projects and experiences to choose from. Alas, this is a list of five, hence only five choices. Here are my top five things of Ferndale 2016 that I’m proud of to have championed, been involved or participated in or supported that moved Ferndale forward.
1. Paid Parental Leave Policy
I championed a new paid parental leave policy for city employees that city council unanimously approved in January 2016, one of the first policies across the state for local government. In addition to supporting family life for our dedicated employees, this policy is important because it’s a benefit that attracts and retains talent to work for our local government. A positive change to make our employees feel valued and results in better customer service for our residents.
The Michigan Municipal League invited me to speak at their Women in Government session and the League of Women in Government just listed me as a top guest blogger post of 2016 on this topic!
2. Public Engagement for the City’s Master Plan & Parks Plan
A forward-thinking master plan reflects the community’s vision. The hard part is getting residents out to engage in conversation. Ferndale city staff and council tried something new this year, hosting a 4 hour Saturday event at the Rust Belt Market in February 2016. Meet the people where they are instead of hosting a boring city meeting inside city hall. Over 150 residents connected with city officials and staff on what they wanted to see for Ferndale’s future. Residents also shared their ideas on My Sidewalk; city staff engaged our seniors and held focus groups. We heard you!
And, it still makes me giggle— I love the poo emoji stickers residents used to indicate their displeasure for what they didn’t like. Totally #ferndalenormal.
City council approves the master plan January 2017.
3. Ferndale Love March
Three women (Allison Alexander, Mindy Domke, Laura Hameson Rice) organized the Ferndale Love March event in short order after the November election. Over 1,200 people showed up to walk together in solidarity in different faiths, gender and viewpoints. Mayor Dave Coulter gave a rousing speech as did Sidnie Jackson, a Ferndale High School student, who inspired the crowd with her passion for community.
4. Ferndale’s Neighborhood Bike Network & Walk Your Wheels
You all know I love biking. For me, the Ferndale Neighborhood Bike Network project is a no brainer to make my list—connecting our residents by bike and by foot are essential to building safer streets for everyone, providing another choice to get around (biking) and strengthening our neighborhoods. The 17.2 mile bike network makes linkages to Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak, our adjacent cities. Credit and kudos goes to our city planner and Ferndale resident, Justin Lyons, for making this project come to life.
My favorite elements are the new wayfinding signs for the bike route and bike tool kits with an air pump, which I had to use to get back home on my bike from Western Market.
The Be A Pal, Walk Your Bike signs are a direct result from residents voicing their concerns to their council members, city staff developed a response and launched a new education campaign.
I received many complaints from residents about people riding their bikes on the sidewalk in downtown Ferndale. It’s a tough issue to tackle because people feel safer riding on the sidewalk compared to in traffic on Nine Mile even with bike sharrows.
Riding your bike on Woodward is a “death trap”. I get it.
Until Woodward becomes safer and more friendly to people riding bikes and feels safer for pedestrians, folks will choose the safest route for themselves and their children, which happens to be our downtown sidewalks.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way on the sidewalk. Traveling bikes on the sidewalk creates an unsafe environment and increases potential for collisions with pedestrians. The Be A Pal campaign is the start of a broader bicycling safety education campaign for 2017.
5. Regional Transit Authority Ballot Proposal
The defeated RTA millage on the November ballot was a big disappointment, personally and professionally. With support from County Commissioner, Helaine Zack, we advocated to make sure Oakland County RTA board members allowed the proposal to move forward on the ballot.
I admit, I had an Oprah ‘ugly cry’ moment a day after the election, mostly about the ongoing need to continue advocating for the need for improved transit. It’s exhausting to advocate for the same thing every year when the need is so great across the region. Employers need workers to get to work and residents need reliable options to get where they need to go.
Other cities and regions are expanding their transit network like LA, Seattle and Atlanta, whereas Metro Detroit continues to struggle to make major investments. Our region spends the least on transit per capita. Yet, I understand the many reasons why the millage was defeated, including cities that I know support transit investment, but felt the service offered in the plan and funded through the millage lacked coverage to job centers within their city. In my role on city council and in my professional capacity, I will continue to work with the RTA, and regional stakeholders to improve transit options for Ferndale and regionwide.
I have no doubt 2017 will be bigger and bolder than 2016!
I’m grateful to have the trust and confidence of our voters to serve as your Mayor Pro Tem. It’s an honor and privilege to represent Ferndale.