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.
Joe LaRussa, 43, is an automotive engineer. He has been a Farmington resident for 14 years.
City Council (2 years); Downtown Development Authority Design Committee (3 years); 2016 Downtown Master Plan Update Committee; 2017 Mary Martin Service Award Nominee; Volunteer at various Farmington Events (Founders Festival, Harvest Moon, etc.)
Why did you decide to run for a seat on council?
I’m running for re-election because I have the experience, expertise, and leadership ability to deliver results for Farmington. We have several transformational re-development projects on the horizon, and my engineering background, coupled with my leadership skills make me the right choice to help guide Farmington into the future. I’ve demonstrated that I can achieve MORE by bringing people together, motivating them, and collaborating to achieve results. I’ve led several community development efforts during my time on the council, and I want to continue in service to my community.
What unique strengths will you bring to the table?
First, I’m a registered (licensed) professional engineer, which uniquely qualifies me to evaluate development and re-development proposals as well as infrastructure spending. Second, my leadership experience includes success in business, non-profit organizations, and now public service. Leadership matters, and I’ve used my skills to get results like driving Council’s adoption of the Downtown Master Plan Update that languished short of the finish line prior to my joining the Council, supporting the LED streetlight project that went beyond maintenance of our streetlights and provides a savings to taxpayers, and leading the way on 21st-century infrastructure projects like municipal broadband internet. Third, I have a strong record of service in the community, connecting me to stakeholders and volunteers with whom I can collaborate to achieve big things.
What one issue do you plan to address first if you win a seat in November?
I plan to continue addressing the adoption of technology to help Farmington become more efficient, and generate new services and revenue streams for our city. We’ve all seen how tech can revolutionize the way we travel, shop, and work. Services are the second-highest revenue source for the city, and this is an area where new ideas can be tested quickly and inexpensively while generating revenue for the city and unique benefits for residents. Need to find an open parking spot? How about an app that notifies you where there’s available parking? Forgot a basketball or soccer ball at one of the parks? How about checking one out from an internet-enabled kiosk you can unlock with your mobile device or using facial recognition? These scenarios and so many more are enabled by internet infrastructure, and that’s something that can set Farmington apart from other communities.
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?
The arts enhance a community by engaging, educating, and memory-making. I can’t count the number of selfies or traditional photos I’ve taken at public art installations that not only create visual interest for a city like Farmington, but also touch peoples’ hearts and minds in ways not possible otherwise. As an amateur musician, I’ve seen first hand how music can conjure fond memories and familiar mental pictures. Visual and performing arts draw people in; they are sometimes the “first touch” a person receives from a community. As a Council Member, I can and will ensure that public art and artistic programming remain a priority for our city through existing efforts like Art on the Grand and Rhythms in Riley Park. I will work to bring these experiences into all our neighborhoods to ensure that all residents benefit and enjoy the artistic talents on display in our city. I will collaborate to bring new public art to Farmington and support local artists who call Farmington home.
What measures would you support to make the city, and especially downtown, more walkable and bike-able?
As a current member of City Council, I’m proud to have supported our new ordinance requiring motorists to STOP for those intending to enter a crosswalk. This ordinance goes further than current state laws requiring motorists to simply yield to those already in a crosswalk (but not in the oncoming traffic lanes). This ordinance sets the tone that pedestrian safety is a priority in Farmington and increases walkability. My goal for Farmington is that we use our redevelopment projects to increase the pedestrian and bicycle network in our city, providing complete connectivity for residents so they can get to/from their destination in town using a scenic and healthy mode of transport. I also want to see us provide services like bike-sharing that can allow all residents to enjoy a ride without owning a bike, and also reduce gasoline consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and parking congestion.
Both cities are looking at whether it makes sense to create a municipal broadband system. What’s your take on this idea?
Municipal broadband internet infrastructure is the single biggest strategic investment Farmington can make in its future. Just like roads and water infrastructure transformed cities in the 20th century, broadband internet will power the growth and prosperity of cities in the 21st century. Currently this infrastructure is controlled by private companies that have bypassed residential service in favor of high-density business internet, which is of course more profitable and provides a higher/faster return on investment. Owning this infrastructure will enable Farmington to ensure that all residents receive high-speed internet that is priced competitively and enhances property values in our city. Residents are connecting more devices to the internet than ever before, and providing the underlying hardware to enable the internet of things, smart homes, remote work, and autonomous vehicles will enhance Farmington’s image and attractiveness as a place to live and work.