HOUGHTON — Since attending city council meetings for a merit badge during his scouting days, Michael Salmi has been interested in civics.
“Certainly with the big decisions that have taken place over the past few years, as a taxpayer and a citizen of the Town of Houghton, I just thought it would be part of my civic duty to give of my time and talents and to attend some meetings and begin to familiarize yourself with the structure of the city council and what happens at city meetings.”
Michael Salmi, along with Robyn Johnson and Craig Waddell, is one of three candidates running for Houghton City Council in the May 3 ballot. (Interviews with Johnson and Waddell will take place later this week.)
Salmi, a registered nurse anesthetist certified at UP Health System – Portage, has lived in the city for 14 years. He graduated from Gladstone High School and the University of Miami before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. After a three-year stint, including a deployment to Bosnia, he earned his master’s degree in anesthesiology. He returned to active duty for five more years, including deployments to Kosovo, Uzbekistan and Iraq.
He and his wife, an army nurse, returned to the area in 2004. They have four children.
Other community service in a variety of community roles, including as a Mount Ripley ski patroller, soccer and baseball coach, and Elder at Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
Salmi also applied for the vacant council seat in November, when council members deadlocked over a nomination. In getting petition signatures this year, Salmi mainly heard about one problem: the Lakeshore Drive parking lot.
Last year, the city council voted to begin the process of demolishing the aging bridge, as well as to begin planning what will replace it. The council will have the final say on whether or not the city-owned property is sold to another party. When asked how he would assess a potential sale, Salmi said he would like no burden on taxpayers.
“When (Marquette developer) Veridea was coming, it seemed like a good idea for every taxpayer, not having to put something on a mile, not having to get bonds that we might have to pay for decades”, he said.
Salmi agreed with the general consensus of the citizens’ meetings held last year on what should go into it: mixed residential, commercial and green spaces. He said he would let the free market decide the type of commercial space, although he said “we probably don’t need a mall there.”
“Certainly, property has a tax base”, he said. “So if there are residences or businesses there, the city, by selling real estate, will receive money. And that’s kind of a lifeblood to keep coming in, especially if you’re building something that tastes good to citizens and tourists, and ultimately user-friendly spaces to run a business from our condos or apartments.
Green space is also crucial for the region, Salmi said. He recalled a conversation with a visitor to Traverse City who, after seeing the waterfront between Kestner Park and Super-8, said Traverse City could learn a lot from Houghton.
The parking garage should also remain part of downtown, Salmi said. He had liked the 270-space parking structure included in Veridea’s plan.
To improve parking on Shelden Avenue, Salmi suggested businesses designate loading spaces, which would allow for curbside pickup.
As for other priorities, Salmi suggested adding more basketball courts in town and fixing potholes along the waterfront path.
Salmi said he supported rezoning the R-1 property along Houghton Avenue to R-3 to allow for denser development.
“There is probably concern that it will spread further,” he said. “These plans (are) for the council to decide in conjunction with the landowners around this area. But I suspect Michigan Tech students will be happier to have more housing options available to them.
In the case of the Houghton Avenue rezoning, Salmi said residents in that area would also benefit from the landlord’s plans to develop more parking spaces in the driveway behind homes, which would move cars out of the way. street.
If elected, Salmi would like to function as a bridge on the board.
“I like to think, with the experience of life, that I don’t dwell on a lot of things”, he said. “I mean, I know what I believe. But I feel like I can listen. And I was persuaded of ideas that weren’t always dear to me, just by listening.
Salmi said voters should consider him because of his objectivity and openness to change.
“Who knows what big decisions are going to be made next, but I know that if we run away from them or get stuck in the past, maybe it lessens people’s interest in wanting to call Houghton home,” he said.