The last three months has been the most enjoyable period I’ve had in my years in Summit – all because I’ve been out on the campaign trail.
Running for Common Council has provided me with the opportunity to talk to hundreds of Summit neighbors. I have knocked on doors across Ward One and spoken to residents about my hopes and goals to make Summit even better. But more importantly, I’ve asked them what is on their minds.
Not surprisingly, people love this town. I’ve lived in nine different cities in my life, and I’ve spent substantial amounts of time in 48 states and a dozen countries while working on television or film productions. I’ve never heard so many people express a love of a place as Summit’s residents do.
That said, here are two concerns people have raised repeatedly:
1. Safer streets.
People feel that they can’t walk comfortably in Summit, and they’re afraid to let their children walk to their schools alone. People want more sidewalks, bike lanes, four-way stop signs, speed bumps, and stricter enforcement.
Walking down streets like Woodland, Butler, and Hobart, I sometimes felt like my life was in jeopardy. That’s not good.
Afterward, I reviewed traffic data for the city, and I must say it’s rather puzzling. The data does not point to dangerous roads. For instance, there were 13 pedestrian-involved accidents in 2016 compared with 27 in 2004. So, the trend is going in the right direction. But the data doesn’t reflect the feeling of being unsafe while walking. I’ve personally experienced the terror of seeing a car race down Webster Avenue while my 8-year-old is out biking or skateboarding. And I’m certain there are many people who don’t walk but would if they felt the streets were safer for them.
There are three E’s to safe streets – education, engineering, and enforcement. I’ve heard great ideas from residents for all 3 of the E’s, and I’ve also come across some good ones through my work.
Here’s one of my favorites: A speed-camera lottery. We’d install speed cameras on roads that have a problem. Cars that are speeding would be photographed and given citations. But cars that are going at or under the speed limit would be photographed as well, and the car license plates would be entered into a lottery. Each month, the money taken in through the citations would be given back out to one of the responsible drivers!
You can see a video about the speed camera lottery here: youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA.
2. Transparency of local government.
People often feel that they don’t know what’s going on. This feeling applies to those seeking permits to make improvements to their houses who can’t find out when their permit will be approved, or why a request was rejected.
It also applies to actions taken by Common Council.
A good and recent example of this was the proposal put forward to open up the Summit Family Aquatic Center to corporate membership. Residents learned of this through a short mention at the end of an article in TAPinto Summit, and thanks to a post on Councilman David Naidu’s Facebook page. Within hours, concerned citizens started a petition objecting to the proposal, and at the next Council meeting, the measure was voted down after overwhelming public sentiment was expressed against it.
This demonstrates that our residents truly do care about what happens in their community, and that we need a better mechanism for alerting residents to key issues being discussed.
If elected, I promise to take on both these issues straight out of the gate. With creativity and perseverance, I’m sure we can make major improvements on both fronts in short order.
I look forward to meeting more of you as I continue to go door-to-door. Also, please feel free to reach out to me via my website gouldforcouncil.com, Facebook page, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know what else is on your mind.
Matt Gould is the Democratic Candidate for Summit Common Council, Ward I.