Those who know of Mike Flores in the city of Ferndale likely recognize him from his work as board president of the Affirmations LGBTQ community center. Now as of his official campaign launch party last week, he’d like the Flores for Ferndale slogan to catch on as he runs for one of two available spots on the city council. When asked about his running platform his answer was a simple abbreviation: GPS.
“So, the GPS plan is basically what I’m going to use to guide me in my decision-making if elected to serve the city of Ferndale,” Flores said. “And what GPS stands for is growth, public investment and services. And when it comes to growth, we need to make sure that it’s balanced, fair and inclusive. When it comes to public investment, we need to make sure that we do it in a responsible and sustainable way. And when we’re talking about services we’re focused on strong city and community services.”
Flores himself is a Ferndale resident and he said he developed this plan from his own experiences living in the city and from talking to his neighbors and other residents across the city. He sees Ferndale as something of a beacon of inclusivity along the Woodward Corridor, but he also sees areas where the city can improve in its overall plan for fostering community: namely, in citizen retention.
“Especially when families start to grow and start adding to their families and when they’re evaluating things like schools and is this the right neighborhood to raise a family,” Flores said. “And that’s where a lot of the GPS [aspects] do come in, because families are evaluating that and saying, ‘Does this make sense? Does this align with the environment that I want to raise my family in?’ and so forth.”
Flores also believes that the city should collaborate with local communities more than it’s doing now, too, in order to boost that community retention. He said that this could be transferred effectively to ensure more services positively impact things like Ferndale schools, public safety and even for seniors. Beyond that, he said that if elected, he will focus on appropriate fund allocation, which translates directly into issues affecting the city currently like affordable housing.
“When it comes to public investment, Ferndale is one of the top 10 communities with the highest tax rates in Oakland County and that tax millage has a direct impact in terms of affordability of housing in our city. So, if we continue to either to maintain this high millage rate that we have or if we continue to increase our millage rate, the city is having a direct impact in terms of who can and cannot afford to live in our city,” he said. “With that being said, it’s important that we have a strong tax base and tax revenue to invest in our city and that’s where the public investment element comes in: we need to make sure that what we’re investing in is done responsibly, effectively and efficiently. We need to make sure that whatever we’re investing in has a high rate of return to justify the high millage rates that we have in our city and that’s one of the things that I’m actually very, very passionate about.”
The Neighborhood Candidate
When asked about prior political experience, Flores said that this will be his first run for any public office.
“And I think that sends an important message to make sure that I truly am running as somebody who is not part of the bigger machine that kind of exists in politics,” he said. “I’m a first-time political, I’m someone who has come back to Ferndale, I’m active in my neighborhood, I am active at Affirmations. … [And] when you’re looking at the candidates I do feel that I most represent the neighborhood. I strongly believe that I will be the right candidate to elevate neighborhood issues at the city level.”
He emphasized that his work in the private sector in the automotive and aerospace industries along with his nonprofit work make him a well-rounded candidate with a solid understanding of finances.
“So, I think there’s definitely a lot of transferable skills and knowledge that I would be able to bring from the private sector and from my experiences on the board [of Affirmations] to public service,” he said. “My whole career has been focused on strategy, being able to have foresight, looking into the future and trying to determine how we’re going to achieve goals in the future.”
Beyond simply having that foresight, however, Flores said that in helping to deal with Affirmations’ near-bankruptcy late last year, he’s put those skills to the test effectively.
“When I decided to volunteer at Affirmations on their volunteer board, I took my knowledge of strategy and applied it at Affirmations as well. But something that I learned a lot during my time at Affirmations is the need, the requirement to be transparent. And it was something that under my leadership, the board committed to, which necessarily isn’t required in the private sector,” he said.
He also said that his background as a first-generation American will give him a unique perspective that is underrepresented in Ferndale politics.
“Ferndale has definitely been one of the most welcoming communities in Metro Detroit, but one of the things about inclusivity is visibility. It’s making sure that everyone is being represented at city government and everyone is involved in decision-making. So, one of the things that I hope I’ll be able to do if elected to serve is that I will not only be a resident representing neighborhood issues, but I’ll also have the LGBT experience that I’ll be able to bring to the table,” he said. “And in addition as a person of color, as a person who is a minority, I would be able to bring in that minority perspective as well.”