Candidate Questions For John Litten

Occupation: Non-Profit Executive Director, Current Ward 3 Council Member

1.)   Why should we vote for you and not the other candidate? (100 words)

We’ve had four years of structurally balanced budgets, I have a high response rate to calls/emails, I pride myself on building ways for residents to access their city and their local elected council member. Block clubs, going door to door, attending Lakewood events and the like are what it’s all about for me. I think most residents know their Ward 3 council member better than ever and I would plan on that continuing.

2.) Name two things you have learned while walking around talking to residents, first: what are their biggest concerns about their ward, and second, what are their biggest concerns about Lakewood in general? How will you address these concerns as their councilperson? (100 words, or less, for each)

Easily, the biggest concern in Ward 3 is vehicle speed and traffic. I hear it often when I knock on doors. Lakewood is a town designed in the 1890’s with 2019 traffic issues, so our solutions must be creative and comprehensive since we can’t change our road configuration. I think that the traffic calming pilot starting in the next week on Marlowe is a huge step that can be replicated throughout the ward. We’ve also commissioned traffic studies of high accident intersections, installed cameras, budgeted for more speed notification, passed distracted driving legislation, added cameras and more.

Lakewood-wide issues are skewed by ward 3 needs given my higher acquaintance there, but it seems that our greater growth has had an impact on existing residents, so I’d like to continue to find ways to bring developers and residents together. At least three recent Ward 3 development proposals have changed substantially because of resident feedback. That is what I’d like to continue doing. I think affordability in the face of our growth is the next step, which is why I’ve proposed looking at how Lakewood can be nuanced in this regard, sharing affordable housing with market-rate development.  

3.) Since the last major election cycle, Lakewood has lost 1500+ skilled jobs and access to health care due to the liquidation of Lakewood Hospital. What was your position on the hospital closing process: Did you vote for the Master Agreement that closed Lakewood Hospital, or would you have if you had been on council? Why or why not? If you had it to do again, would you do anything differently? (150 words or less)

There is no doubt that the hospital transition has made its mark on Lakewood. What is most important to me is how we react, and have reacted. Lakewood has seen sustained economic growth and balanced finances for all of the nearly four years since. The short answer is that we’ve done better than survived, we’ve thrived since, and even maintained nearly all of the services of the former hospital minus inpatient care. I was a part of the Lakewood Hospital Association previous to my time on city council, and voted there for this transition. If I could change anything, it would be how it was communicated. I know we had an agreement with the clinic to run the hospital longer, but leveraging that agreement to get something new and sustainable built was better, in my opinion, than running out the lease and potentially being left with nothing.

4.) A big complaint from both the elderly and those without cars is the loss of the community circulator. If elected what would you do to make the community more accessible to all? (100 words or less)

I remember hearing one resident mention the circulator in 2015 or so, but in the past couple years we’ve revolutionized how we get seniors around, using both bus/van and taxi/Lyft services for appointments and the like in lieu of the circulator. About 400 trips per month. We’ve been able to solicit grants and been economical with existing funding to provide rides for residents who need them. The circulator is out of our control from all I can tell, with RTA making cuts across the board even since eliminating the circulator.

5.) What will you do to balance the needs of residents and residential neighborhoods with economic (commercial, business) development? (100 words or less)

As mentioned previously, this is what I perceive to be the biggest Lakewood-wide issue. On some level it’s a good problem to have, but Lakewood can’t work if we’ve got too many empty storefronts, nor if we are scaring away existing residents. Almost all of us live with some business at the corner. The key is building relationships and familiarity like with any other neighbor. I’ve enjoyed facilitating these meetings and relationships and would continue to do so. Lighting, smells, construction and shear project mass all have impacts on residents and it has worked where communication was at the center.

6.) Over the past 15 years we have encountered  3 “moments” which have severely divided the city of Lakewood, mostly about social economic issues like health care, eminent domain, land use, land giveaways to developers, etc. If elected or re-elected what are you going to do to help mend fences and bring the community together again?   (150 words or less)

I’ve conducted myself as a council member in a way that either mends fences or never builds them. I acknowledge that the largest change since being in office was the hospital transition, so I worked with Councilwoman George to facilitate tours of the hospital building so that people could say good bye in their own way. Anyone who wants a brick from the old hospital should be able to get one too. I should add that the Lakewood I see and interact with every day isn’t as divided as it might be perceived. By and large, residents love their town, and where they see a need for change, it generally isn’t because of health care or the other issues in this question. It’s because of speeding, sidewalks, an interaction with a neighbor, or a question about the law. For all of it, I just try and be responsive and caring.

7.) The records lawsuit was a moral and legal disaster for our city. What steps will you take to make our public records available and prevent future obstructionism by public officials? Do you support the proposed ethics and campaign finance reform legislation?   (100 words or less)

I don’t agree with the initial statement in this question, but as we move into a new mayoral administration, I would hope that all records would be available in a timely manner. There are aspects of the proposed ethics/finance legislation that I really like (such as some of the campaign finance provisions) and I’d look forward to debating it with council, and I’d also like us to look at what might be duplicative of what the state already provides.

8.) A majority of Lakewood’s street fairs revolve around wearing seasonal clothes while walking between Arthur and Belle on Detroit, creating a burden to those businesses while not highlighting other areas of the community that deserve attention and a turn at putting on the party. Would you be for moving events around, and/or developing new events? (100 words or less)

Most of the fairs are not much in Ward 3 (sometimes they go to Marlowe) but I don’t get many concerns about street fair fairness. I heard much more from residents of Ward 3 about the July 4th parade shift being a fun alternative, which is why I proposed alternating it regularly to council and the administration. These events can also be a burden, so any change or status quo should consider the challenging impacts as well. I bet ¾ or more of the 5K’s in Lakewood are in Ward 3, for instance, creating challenges for residents.

9.) Was the LO fair with this process? (50 words or less)

I appreciate the questions though they sometimes begin with leading statements. I realize they are from readers and anything can come in. I liked that the League of Women Voters forum required an author name to every question, but in the end, I try to roll with things and be accomodating no matter the forum. 

Volume 15, Issue 20, Posted 6:16 PM, 10.02.2019