Farmington Voices: Maria Taylor, 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. Local candidates running on November 2, 2021, can schedule an interview by writing to joni@farmingtonvoice.com.


Transcript

Speaker 1

Maria Taylor is a candidate for Farmington City Council. Maria, thank you for taking a few minutes today to tell us a little bit more about yourself and about your candidacy. Let’s start out with a little bit about you. How long have you lived in Farmington, information about your career, your community involvement and, and that sort of thing.

Maria Taylor
Maria Taylor (City of Farmington)

Speaker 2

Sure. I have lived in Farmington since 1999. I am one of the original members of the Warnerettes Parasol Drill Team, and I served on the historical commission back in 2015, 2016. I was elected to City Council in 2017. My day job is managing editor at a trade magazine that covers heating and air conditioning. We keep small business owners up-to-date on new technologies, legislation, and how to run a better business. This background came in handy for me during the height of the pandemic when council was approving temporary outdoor structures like those plastic igloos where you can eat outside, be out of the wind and snow. One of my work contacts is a top ventilation expert in the US, so I asked him about ventilation for these structures and made sure we got language in Farmington’s ordinance requiring igloos to be aired out between users, so diners can have clean air to breathe when they’re out supporting local businesses.

Speaker 1

All right, and why did you decide to run for re-election?

Speaker 2

I ran in 2017 because of the trend of overdevelopment from the council at the time, which was putting pressure on historic houses to be torn down, and because a former councilwoman and mayor pulled me aside as I was running a petition drive to save Victorian houses downtown and said, you know, if you really want to make a difference, you’re going to have to run for Council yourself. So I ran, and I won that time as the top vote-getter. And what I chalk a lot of that up to is Farmington residents agreed with me that Farmington is at its heart a historic town and a family community. And that is a big reason why people move here and stay here for decades. I had the opportunity for a key vote along these lines with the Maxfield Training Center redevelopment earlier this year. The final vote was choosing between two new development options, 59 brownstone townhouses versus high-density, five story apartments located right downtown behind the Methodist Church. Everyone knew it was one of those votes that puts Farmington on one path or another. It asks, what kind of city do we want to be? I voted for the townhouses. The townhouses fit with the adjacent historic neighborhood. It prioritized green space over a giant parking lot with a ton of run off and it will bring new housing options for empty nesters who can then sell their houses to young families who want a big yard and everything Farmington has to offer families. That’s what I look for when approving development, the right development for the right place. I will always put the interests of Farmington residents over those of developers, and I will make sure if the city grows that new development works with and enhances what makes Farmington special and unique.

Speaker 1

And what do you see as the city’s biggest challenge, and what solutions will you propose if you’re elected?

Speaker 2

Modernizing our infrastructure. This summer’s storms have been Michigan’s most violent on record, and it is due to severe weather that is a result of climate change. We’ve seen the effects across Southeastern lower Michigan, across the Midwest and across the country. Some of your listeners may remember that back when Mayfield Street was flooding on the regular, I grabbed my umbrella and walked through the flood to see how deep it was. We fixed that street in 2020, but as we saw in mid-August, when we got 1.5 inches of rain in half an hour, it flooded again, because our water infrastructure is just not able to cope with these torrential downpours that are our new reality. Investing in our infrastructure to deal with worsening weather is going to be my number one priority on Council when I’m re-elected. The sooner we get can get a plan in place, the better off we will be, so our infrastructure can stand up to these storms that are knocking out power and flooding our streets repeatedly because this is not acceptable to continue as-is long term Last year, I joined fellow council members in requesting a plan to tackle Farmington’s aging below-ground infrastructure. Next term, I will add to that a stormwater management plan that involves both gray infrastructure, which is pipes underground, and also looking at green infrastructure, which is ditches, retention ponds, semi-pervious pavement, things like that. We can even do incentives for residents who want to tear out their lawn and do native plants and rain gardens.

Speaker 1

How would Farmington be better by the end of your term? What do you hope to contribute?

Speaker 2

By the time I finish my second term, three projects that I voted to get underway will be underway or complete. One, the brownstone townhouses at the Maxfield Training Center. Two, the Masonic Lodge and the Village Mall at Grand River and Farmington. Both of these are great examples of historic preservation through adaptive reuse, which is basically taking old buildings and upcycling them to cool new uses, keeping the exterior and revamping the interior, and three, the Farmington Road streetscape will be complete. One complaint I’ve heard a lot while campaigning is can’t we get some new businesses in vacant storefronts. We all wish city council could just snap our fingers and make that happen. But the reality is whether buildings are vacant or leased and who they’re leased to is up to the landlords who own Farmington real estate. What the city can do is take steps to make Farmington an appealing place to do business, which will attract investment from the kinds of high quality businesses we want. We saw this happen with the Grand River streetscape. The Farmington Road streetscape will do the same for that section of downtown. The social district, which I voted for, will continue to do the same. So four years from now, Farmington Road is going to be a lot more walkable, and we’ll be seeing businesses open up to take advantage of that foot traffic. The entire southwest strip of Farmington Road from Sipp, the new smoothie place, past CVS down to Alta Loma, plus the old Fitness 19 is going to be full of new restaurants and shops and maybe even new buildings, where right now we have half empty parking lots. Four years from now, Farmington will have high-speed fiber optic internet for every home and business at no cost to residents. I give a lot of credit for this to mayor pro term Joe Larussa. He did the legwork that attracted the investors who are funding this project and I supported him along the way. He is a great colleague and I am proud to have his endorsement for my re-election. One thing I’ve learned during my first term is really the amount of time that goes into serving on city council. It’s not just showing up to vote on Monday nights, just preparing for those meetings involved a lot of time and research. Plus, I have committee meetings, one of them being the Pathways Committee, which I helped bring about to enhance walkability in Farmington. And I’m an advocate for the community. Sometimes, this means speaking truth to power. When cronyism threatened our library, I spoke out publicly against it. Recently in August, I went to Lansing with mayor pro tem Larussa to speak before the Michigan Public Services Commission about the problem residents have been experiencing with power outages. I believe that when you have a voice or a platform by which you can bring about change for the better, you are morally obliged to speak up. That’s my approach. I wasn’t elected to warm a bench.

Speaker 1

Okay, is there anything else you’d like to add anything that we haven’t talked about that people should know about you and your campaign?

Speaker 2

Yeah, another goal of mine I want to mention. I want City Council meetings to include the opportunity for remote public comment. Communication is big to me. I work in that field. I value feedback from the people I represent because I respect their lived experience and I believe our city is strongest when it allows residents to connect directly with local government. Farmington is a diverse city. It’s diverse in terms of ages, cultural heritage, and types of families. Not everyone can take the night off from work or family duties to come to City Hall at 7 p.m. and tell Council about how their street floods every time it rains. That doesn’t make their concern any less valid. I have been working on this since I was elected and I will continue working to make sure Farmington voices are heard now matter which way people want to communicate with us. To that end, I’ve been out knocking doors all summer along with council member David Delind, who is running to retain his seat and Johnna Balk, who is running for the first time. The three of us are working together in this election and hopefully together on Council after the election. We may not always agree on every issue. Actually, I can tell you right now that we don’t. But our core values will always line up. I ran the numbers the other day, and we have knocked 2,150 doors amongst the three of us. That’s good old-fashioned shoe-leather right there.

Speaker 1

So if for some reason you don’t get to somebody’s door, how can people learn about your campaign?

Speaker 2

Sure. My website is Maria for Farmington dot com, and my Facebook is Facebook dot com, forward slash Maria for Farmington, and those fours are both the number four.

Speaker 1

All right. Well, thanks again Maria for taking a little time today. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 2

Thanks for having me.

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