Having been on Council now for more than nine months, many folks still ask me “how’s it going?”
My response is that, despite being a relatively small community, we have a number of challenges that need to be addressed -- such as ensuring that there is affordable housing for seniors, young couples, and middle income folks; creating a unified community when division is becoming the norm at the macro level; ensuring that new development is consistent with the scale, character and needs of our town while boosting the vibrancy of our downtown; and using tax dollars in a prudent manner.
In Ward II, there are two good gentlemen who are running for Council this election season. Let me respectfully suggest whom I think will fill a need on our City Council and why. My recommendation is that Ward II residents cast their votes for Greg Vartan. My reasoning is three-fold.
First — on the subject of Summit’s housing needs:
Hundreds of residents have been involved in the revision of the Master Plan -- either by volunteering their time or by attending one of the public forums; and thousands of comments were submitted. One major theme that emerged is that many people who have lived in town for their entire lives feel that they cannot retire here because of the lack of good options for downsizing. At the same time, young couples / families are finding it increasingly difficult to buy a reasonably priced home. For Greg, this is not an academic issue. Three generations of his family live in this town. From watching his own grandparents and their friends, Greg understands the concerns of seniors. At the same time, he lives in an apartment, and can therefore relate to the challenges facing young people who wish to live here.
Second — with regard to creating a unified community:
With our country sometimes seeming on the verge of coming apart at the seams, in our own community, we must ensure that all residents feel that “we are in this together.” I do not believe that there is anyone currently on Council who grew up in the Jefferson school district, or who has lived in that area of town for most of his / her life. Residents in the eastern part of Summit have, at times, felt that their concerns are not being listened to. Being a former resident of that area, and one who still has immediate family living there, Greg would understand and appreciate the concerns of these residents. Moreover, this would be of benefit to all of us — even those who live elsewhere. Having Council members from all parts of the City is an advantage because what happens in one area has impacts in other areas.
Third — with regard to fiscal stewardship:
Greg has demonstrated that he understands that the way to achieve strong fiscal management is by questioning how monies are being spent. He has been the only candidate to actually question how Council is spending money. While recognizing that proposed gateway signs were beautifully designed, Greg questioned their $27,500 cost, and why there was no public-private partnership for funding. We need individuals on Council to ask tough questions, because that is the only way to ensure that we are fulfilling our fiduciary responsibility to properly allocate tax dollars.
Residents in Ward II have two good choices for Council. But, based on his life experiences, the choice that will bring a more diversified and needed perspective to Council is that of Greg Vartan.
B. David Naidu
Note: B. David Naidu is currently a member of the Summit Common Council, representing Ward I.