Our F2H Votes series brings you candidate interviews and information about the 2019 local elections in Farmington and Farmington Hills. Follow local election news on social media with the #F2HVotes19 hashtag.
Steven Schneemann, 51, is an architect and 20-plus year Farmington resident.
Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, City Council, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors, DDA Design Committee, Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Commission on the Environment
Why did you decide to run for a seat on council?
There is a genuine sense of optimism in Farmington right now, but there is also much work to be done. Residents of Farmington have repeatedly voiced their support for positive development in the city as well as maintaining the high level of services that we enjoy. In my current role as Mayor, and in many other civic leadership roles, I have a lot to offer as we continue to make progress in, and preserve, what we all love about Farmington. That’s why I am asking the voters of our great city to allow me to continue to serve them on council. I want voters to know that I will continue to help guide Farmington in smart growth and redevelopment for all areas of the city, while maintaining our excellent fiscal responsibility and AA bond rating.
What unique strengths will you bring to the table?
As an architect and planner, I’m trained to think both creatively and critically. So, I am always looking for ways to improve this great city for its residents, businesses and guests. Applying my skills and experience has improved the “walkability” and “street life” our downtown. My contributions have also helped create unique spaces for gathering, recreation and public art. Over the years I have been instrumental in the redevelopment of Grand River, Riley Park, and many other public amenities that help make Farmington so desirable. My vision for Farmington builds on our strong historic architecture, our robust and diverse businesses, the excellent community resources available through both Farmington and Farmington Hills, our community events and, most importantly, the positive, friendly, and gracious character of our residents.
What one issue do you plan to address first if you win a seat in November?
Of course there are many issues that need to be continually addressed by city leadership including public safety, our aging infrastructure, business attraction and retention, costs of city services, etc. However, having to choose just one, the vacant MTC property in downtown Farmington represents the single most important opportunity for redevelopment. That property has languished for years without any favorable plans that positively inspire our residents. I plan to help secure readily-available grant funding to help the city revitalize this site. Redeveloping the MTC will enable us to tie together two of our greatest assets; Riley Park and Shiawassee Park. Imagine a gentle, beautifully landscaped pathway that makes traversing the hill accessible to people of all abilities. Residents and businesses have been repeatedly asking for this type of improvement, and I believe that they are justified in doing so. Redevelopment of the MTC property will also simultaneously addresses numerous issues for Farmington such as additional public parking and new residential opportunities for downtown. I envision this endeavor as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make an historically significant change that will improve the quality of life for everyone who visits, works and lives in Farmington.
There’s a new emphasis on arts in Farmington, particularly downtown. What role do you believe the arts play in building a stronger and more resilient community, and how will you support the arts as a council member?
In every healthy community, public art plays a vital role. Engagement with the arts provides opportunities for everyone to explore their community in unique and creative ways that are not possible through the typical municipal environment. The arts bring people together, fostering community and camaraderie. I have supported the arts for many years in Farmington. I initiated the art-sharing program that we have with the city of Novi. Direct results of that effort include the three sculptures by internationally renowned artist David Barr that we recently installed in Riley Park. I have also donated my time and professional skills to design the compass rose at Riley Park, the 911 memorial at city hall and numerous other projects that add to the creative fabric of our community.
What measures would you support to make the city, and especially downtown, more walkable and bike-able?
This is a passion of mine. Personally, my experience as a pedestrian downtown has given me numerous “close calls” with automobiles over the years. As a longtime resident of downtown, it is extremely important to me that we create an environment that feels safe for multiple modes of transportation to cooperate. If automobiles are traveling too fast, it can make walking unsafe. When pedestrians feel unsafe, they aren’t going to walk through our town. So, it’s been my mission to work to make the entire city (not just downtown) as safe as possible for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. I have personally walked our downtown alongside Dan Burden, recognized as the nation’s top walkability expert. He shared his comments and concerns about the walkability challenges in Farmington. I’ve worked to address them, including collaborating on the transformation of Grand River Avenue. It is now much safer for walking than it used to be. I knew this would also encourage a vibrant sidewalk culture for dining and entertainment. And it has! Take a walk any evening of the week, you’ll see people enjoying life in Farmington in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. In addition to our work on Grand River, we have implemented numerous strategies around town for calming automobile traffic to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. It’s an ongoing effort, but it’s one that I will continue to focus on.
Both cities are looking at whether it makes sense to create a municipal broadband system. What’s your take on this idea?
We are currently in an investigative phase for this idea. We need to gather all available information and weigh whether or not this is in the best interest of our community. Then we will decide whether or not to pursue this infrastructure. This would be a significant investment for our city, so the benefits for our residents will have to be substantial in order for me to support it.