With just two weeks until Election Day, our beloved city and country face unprecedented challenges — from an emerging third wave of the pandemic and continuing economic uncertainty, to a divisive political environment that has even begun seeping into Summit. You might wonder why, then, I’m still optimistic — and more committed than ever — to serving Summit for the coming three years. Here’s why.

While serving on Council for the past year, I have tapped into all of my institutional knowledge and experience to meet the City’s recent challenges — a health crisis, an economic downturn, aberrant weather and power outages among them — while learning the particulars of day-to-day Council and City operations and the not-so routine responsibilities of governing. As a city, we have risen to the challenge in this unprecedented time: we managed to contain the spread of COVID-19, support our businesses, help people obtain available economic aid, keep our children safe while still learning, address growing food insecurity, respond to neighborhood needs during the power outage, support our seniors, enhance pedestrian safety at key intersections, and keep our taxes nearly flat. Even with so much to be proud of, the challenges persist. We have more work to do while at the same time seeking out new opportunities.  

What I know for sure is that even as this once-in-a-century pandemic — a scourge that none of us were prepared for — continues to impact us as a community and as individuals, we will also continue to have other, unrelated challenges to deal with. Indeed, one such challenge is presented by The Primrose School’s desire to open a facility on Morris Avenue. While I am fully committed to good child care, this is a prospect that I find extremely troubling.

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As a resident of Lowell Avenue since 1992, I have spent nearly three decades enjoying walking and biking in the neighborhood, taking advantage of City gems like Tatlock Field, the Magic Fountain, Sweet Orange, La Focaccia, and Antonio’s. The recent addition of  Lakeland Bank has even allowed me to do my banking just steps from my front door! The increasing gridlock I’ve experienced on Morris Avenue and even on my own street on mornings and afternoons over the past two years, however, has become simply unbearable.  Living amid the campuses of four schools: Washington Elementary, Oratory Prep, Kent Place and Summit High Schools — all of which are terrific neighbors, I know full well both the benefits and pitfalls of residing near such magnets for daily activity. 

Primrose’s new development application is worrisome for our neighborhood as a whole, and specifically as it relates to pedestrian safety. As a long-time neighbor to the proposed site, I am pleased that I can speak to both the process and the community.  I have attended the Planning Board hearings that have already been held on this matter, and have been delighted by how many of my neighbors attended and asked excellent questions. I urge anyone who has questions or concerns about this application to attend the next Planning Board meeting on October 26th. I want to assure you that as both a Councilperson and an engaged resident, I am paying attention and share my neighbors’ concerns about the devastating impact this development would have on our neighborhood.

There is no question that sustaining our wonderful, small city demands enormous hard work, commitment, teamwork, and volunteer spirit. While we don’t know what surprises are around the corner, what we do know is that we have the experience and commitment to face whatever challenges arise. It is not surprising, especially in the contentious political environment that has emerged of late, that a new candidate will make allegations against incumbents — such as those we have heard this electoral season regarding insufficient transparency or a lack of hard work.  But the opposite is true, consistently, of every member of our current Council.  And I am confident that, when Election Day is finally over and come the morning of November 4th, Summit citizens will look around and be inspired to come together to support one another in the pursuit of common goals.

Susan Hairston, Candidate Summit Common Council, Ward 1