Farmington Voices: Jacob Nelson, Farmington City Council

The Farmington Voices: 2021 Elections podcast offers candidates for city offices in Farmington and Farmington Hills an opportunity to provide information about themselves and their candidacy. To schedule an interview, write to joni@farmingtonvoice.com


Transcript

Speaker 1

Jacob Nelson Farmington City Council
Jacob Nelson (contributed)

Jacob Nelson is running for a seat on Farmington City Council, and Jake, I want to thank you for taking a few minutes today to talk with us about yourself and about your candidacy. So tell us about you. How long have you lived in Farmington, a little bit about your career, your community involvement, that sort of thing.

Speaker 2

All right. Well, thank you, Joni, I’m glad to be here and super excited to talk to the voters of Farmington, so I appreciate you making this opportunity available. I moved to Farmington from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in October of 2019, right before COVID hit. So, I this past year for the first time am really getting to experience what Farmington is all about in terms of, you know, the festivals and the events downtown and seeing everyone out and about. It’s been a fantastic summer, and I know that next summer is going to be even better. I moved here with my twin daughters, they are ten years old, and my partner, Eric, who is a school teacher and teaches fourth grade out in Brighton, Michigan. And yeah, we love Farmington. We live in the Belair subdivision, right across from Lady of Sorrows, and absolutely love our neighbors, our neighborhood, hearing the sports practice in the fields across the street. We really enjoy it. I work in Washington, D.C., and have worked there for the last it’ll be thirteen years in November. I work for the AAA, the auto club, the AAA national office, and I am their chief media spokesman and, uh, federal lobbyist on all transportation safety issues. So that includes roads and bridges in good repair, autonomous vehicles, it includes all the behavioral highway safety stuff, so drunk driving prevention and drugged driving prevention, distracted drivers, teens learning to drive, all of those kinds of things. And so my background is in public health. I’m an epidemiologist, and for the last year or so, I have been doing work that I never thought I would, working at AAA. So before working at AAA, I worked at a health department, actually practicing infectious disease epidemiology, and so I’ve really helped guide the Federation, the AAA Federation, in its return to work planning, uh, all of our business lines, you know, providing, you know, towing people and rescuing them from the side of the road, how to do that in a way that protects both the tow operator and also the stranded motorist, to do all the things that we do at AAA with public health precautions in place to protect everyone from getting COVID-19 disease. So that’s been super rewarding and obviously very important and has been a big shift at least in the last year and the kind of work that I do. The other big change in my work has been with the social unrest in our country. There has been a push to remove traditional law enforcement operations from highway safety enforcement, so enforcing the kinds of laws that AAA lobbies for, you know, drunk driving laws would be one example of that. And so for the last six months, I’ve worked closely with a lot of national stakeholder groups and federal agencies to try to identify, you know, policy proposals that would effectively work to mitigate the racial disparities and traffic law enforcement without sacrificing or degrading highway safety, so without more people being injured or killed off-road in traffic crashes. And so that has been super interesting, not something I thought I would ever work on, but so grateful for the opportunity to have worked on that and to partner with the people across the country that I have. So in a nutshell, that is my background.

Speaker 1

Okay, that’s very interesting. Have you had a chance, you didn’t mention, like, any community involvement. Have you had a chance yet to, to get involved with volunteering or anything like that?

Speaker 2

So in Farmington, I have not because of COVID, but that is actually the reason why I am now running for city council. So Sarah Bowman, our mayor in Farmington, and I had a conversation. I was asking her about boards and commissions here in Farmington that I could volunteer and serve on. We spent some time together so that she can understand my interest and my background and areas of expertise, and at the end of that conversation, we mutually agreed the best use of my time and talent would be on city council. And so that’s why I’m running. And, and I agree with my work on Capitol Hill and lobbying for the last thirteen years, you know, the policy analysis training and expertise that I have, I really feel like I can offer a lot to the work that we do in Farmington on council. So super looking forward to doing that. You know, my motivation for having that initial conversation with Mayor Bowman was to find a way to give back to the community. It’s something that I’ve done everywhere that I’ve lived. In Miami, Florida, when I lived there, I worked with the Miami-Dade School District to develop and implement an intervention to help reduce the number of kids getting hit by cars when they walk to and from school, which was a big problem in that county at the time. Living in Mia-, or excuse me, in Chicago, Illinois, and also, in Washington D.C., I raised money with other folks in the community for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. And then for Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., and in both cases, both organizations work to provide medical care and housing and treatment, access to treatment for people living with HIV or AIDS. And so love to give back to the community, always have to work on an issue that’s important to me. As a public health guy, I like to work on public health issues and already through the process of launching my campaign and interacting the community, I have already identified a local non-profit that I’ve been working with and it’s been super rewarding so far. So even if this council thing doesn’t work out for me, I have accomplished what I was gunning for, which was to find a local organization to volunteer with. So I’m super glad to have achieved that.

Speaker 1

That’s awesome. And does that basically cover why you decided to run for, for the council seat?

Speaker 2

Yeah. Absolutely. It’s looking for a way to give back, and a realization that the way I could have the greatest impact here in Farmington is on council. That’s why I’m doing it.

Speaker 1

Okay. What do you see as the city’s biggest challenge and what solutions would you propose if you’re elected?

Speaker 2

Great question. So one of the things that I’ve learned through my campaign so far is that most of what I had jotted down as, you know, ideas for Farmington, Farmington’s great already, but that’s not to say that we can’t be better. And you know, the same is true for a lot of the, the asks and wants of the other six candidates for the three seats in Farmington. A lot of what we’re all asking for are already built into the Master Plan that is posted on the City of Farmington’s webpage. Everyone wants these kinds of things, a more beautiful city, more art installations, murals on the sides of buildings, you know, to fill the vacant commercial real estate in town, to redevelop different parts of the city. This is all in a blueprint. So the big problem for Farmington is figuring out how to pay for this really fantastic Master Plan for the city. And I think that there are two ways that we can do that. The first is to boost the businesses that are already here. We have to grow our local economy. And the way that we can do that is to bring some new ideas and new breath and energy into the kinds of special events, festivals, and other events that are planned in Farmington that bring not only the residents of Farmington outside their homes to spend money at local business, in restaurants, and to be outside, living, working, and playing, but also to bring people from the surrounding communities into Farmington to spend money and to do the same, and we need them stay here longer than just for a meal. We need to give them businesses, shops, shopping opportunities, reasons to spend the whole day here in Farmington. It needs to become a destination. So that’s a really important way to boost the business that we already have. But if we can do that, we also help make Farmington more attractive for new business, which brings me to the second way that I think that we can fund the Master Plan. There’s lots of vacant real estate throughout town. And I, you know, I live close to the Grand River Corridor, and I’m not a fan of driving down that, that part of our community. There’s lots of vacant commercial real estate. It’s in disrepair. The grass is long. The paint is peeling on the side of the wall or the side of the building. And that’s not, that’s not what Farmington is. That’s not who we are. We have a beautiful town and, you know, that imagery sends the wrong message, I think, to people who don’t live here and who are visiting our community. And so I want to work with the DDA, I want to work with the experts that we already have in our city government who work on economic development, to find opportunities to fill that commercial real estate. We need to take advantage of state and federal development grants to help fund the redevelopment projects in our Master Plan. if we can be successful at doing that, then we find more tax revenue, new tax revenue to help fund all the nice thing, the nice to thing, nice to have things in our Master Plan, without raising taxes on property owners here in Farmington. So, you know, one of the things that I expect to have to do, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to being able to do, as a council person is to roll up my sleeves and to get out there and to be a vocal advocate for the city. While we have experts in city government, who do this work every day, it’s a department of two people. And as a councilperson, I want to take advantage of my time and my talents and expertise as a lobbyist and as an advocate and as a media spokesman and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them, go to Lansing, meet with potential businesses, and advocate for Farmington, help make it an attractive place to do business, and I’m ready to do that. And I feel like I’m super prepared for that kind of work and I’m excited for the opportunity to join in.

Speaker 1

So if you’re elected, how would Farmington be better by the end of your term? What would you expect to contribute?

Speaker 2

Yeah, you know, beyond what I just mentioned about, you know, showing that vacant real estate and helping to source new tax revenue without raising taxes on homeowners here, you know with that money, we redevelop parts of the city. We are able to afford to put beautiful art on the sides of buildings, to install new sculptures around town, to develop community gardens, and um, small urban farming operations in and around town that can help bring communities together and make Farmington even more beautiful. Another important issue for me is diversity, equity and inclusion. I mentioned the work that I’ve done at AAA on the racial disparities that exist in traffic law enforcement in some parts of the country. You know, I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I want Farmington to be a safe, diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for people from all walks of life. That’s one of the things that I really enjoyed most about Ann Arbor is, it’s very diverse, very equitable, super inclusive. I always felt safe there. I always felt like I was a welcomed member of the community, and I don’t see Farmington, you know, having, you know, Pride events at Riley Park. I don’t see a lot of, you know, racial diversity in town. And we have a huge Asian population here. There is an African American population here, and I think we need to be celebrating those members of our community and learning about art, music, culture from them and celebrating these kinds of community members, myself included. So I’d like to see that kind of stuff here in Farmington as well. So if I’m elected to council by the end of my first term, whether it be two or four years, I hope to see some of those things ‘cause that’s what I’ll be working toward every day of my term.

Speaker 1

And is there anything that may have come up in your mind that you wanted to mention about your campaign during the conversation? Anything you’d like to add?

Speaker 2

Well, I mean, I think that I did mention that there are seven of us running for three seats. Two of the seven are incumbents, and you know, this job doesn’t pay very much. Certainly no one, this is not a career for anybody, so we’re all running for city council for the right reasons, ‘cause we want to give back and support our community and help it to become better. So I don’t think that the voters in Farmington can necessarily lose through the choices they make, and who they vote on to council, but what winning looks like with the voters of Farmington depends on what they’re actually looking for. And if what the other residents here in Farmington want is a vocal advocate for their city to bring new tax revenue into town to make it more beautiful, to redevelop the spaces that need redevelopment without raising taxes on them, then vote Jake Nelson for Farmington City Council on November 2nd.

Speaker 1

And how can voters find out more about you and more about your campaign?

Speaker 2

I have a Facebook page for my campaign. If you just go to Facebook and Google, or Google, search on Facebook, for Jake Nelson, for Farmington City Council. You’ll find my webpage, links to other resources, and a lot more information about me and my background.

Speaker 1

All right. Well, Jake, thank you so much for taking a few minutes today to let people know about you and your campaign.

Speaker 2

Thank you so much for the time and the opportunity.

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