When I took my oath of office two and a half years ago, I was honored and excited to help lead our beloved city, but also ready for the challenge to not simply maintain Summit’s excellence, but improve upon it. Never could I have dreamed the direction our city--and our country--would take during that time. Before this past January, Council’s most pressing issues included our work to maintain and improve upon our vibrant downtown, maintaining a lean budget, supporting the excellence of our schools, and planning for a revitalization of the Broad Street West area. That work continues apace, but now it is amid the effects of a global pandemic, national economic distress, and the justified outcry against systemic racism. This is a time when each of us must use our talents and resources to help advance our society forward, and which is why I am seeking re-election to represent Ward 2 on Summit Common Council.
As the past few months have shown, our community is remarkably resilient and despite the devastating losses, we have worked together for the common good. We have supported our healthcare and essential workers, donated and volunteered to help feed the growing ranks of hungry people in our own community, shielded our seniors and immune-compromised from exposure to the virus, rallied around our local businesses to help keep them afloat, and stood together to peacefully protest police brutality and racism. I have never been more proud to be a member of our generous, open-minded community. But there is more work to be done.
Governing a city like Summit has become even more complex as we face unprecedented challenges in this health emergency and time of social unrest. Council has been working since the early days of the pandemic to plan for a safe reopening that will help our beloved businesses succeed. We have worked with them to expand sidewalk cafes, create dining areas in parklets, the Bank Street parking lot, and portions of Maple Street that have been closed to traffic for the summer. We have passed measures to allow for sidewalk sales and outdoor fitness classes in City parks. These measures will assist our businesses in weathering these very challenging times.
Council has been proactive in asking Summit’s newly appointed police chief to provide information on current policing practices and use of force statistics, all of which is now available on the City’s website. The police chief has committed to a comprehensive review of Summit’s policing procedures and Council will play an active role in this process to ensure equal justice for all. The work necessary to heal our community will take time and effort, but I am confident that Summit, as we always have, will rise to the challenge.
Especially in times of crisis, leadership matters. I hope that those of you who don’t yet know me will take a minute to consider my qualifications and support my candidacy. I have lived in Summit for the last 21 years with my husband Jeff Naiman and our two sons. As we’ve raised our children, we’ve tried to teach them the importance of giving back to the community and caring for others. Together, we cleaned up local parks on Earth Day, played board games with homeless children being hosted by Family Promise, and made lunches for the homeless served by Bridges. While I have always believed that if you see a need, you should step up and do something, I also believe in the power of government to improve the lives of residents. I dedicated my professional life to these ideals, having spent seven years as an attorney for the City of New York and, after moving to Summit, serving for twelve years on City committees including the Environmental Commission and the Recycling Advisory Committee. This commitment to my community is why I ran for Council three years ago and why I am running for re-election now.
I am honored to serve as Council President this year, thanks to the unanimous support of my colleagues. Our team has accomplished so much since I took office in January 2018, but there is still more to do. Re-election would allow me to carry on helping to execute our plans while continuing to promote six important goals: fiscal responsibility, government transparency, public safety, economic development, education, and sustainability. Responding to the community’s needs in the midst of the pandemic has been a learning curve, but these last few months have compelled us to draw upon our skills and experience in new ways, and I am immensely proud of the results. We achieved many of our initial goals, and have set some ambitious new ones as well.
One topic that is top of mind for Council and residents alike is our budget. We are always looking for ways to keep the municipal portion as lean as possible, focusing on needs, not wants, and spending taxpayer funds efficiently. Not only have my 2017 running mates and I delivered on our original campaign promise to rescind the approval for faux cobblestones on Beechwood Road (saving taxpayers more than $450,000), but we collectively succeeded in keeping the 2018 municipal budget flat (0%) and, in 2019, we had an increase of only 1%. This year, we passed a lean 2020 municipal budget with a 0.14% increase. This budget takes into account the fiscal implications of the health emergency and still gives us flexibility should we have any unexpected, pandemic-related expenses during the remainder of 2020. Following on those successes, I will work hard to ensure that we continue to exercise fiscal responsibility going forward.
One of Council’s biggest undertakings in the last few years is our work on the Broad Street West Redevelopment project, which will include residential, retail, entertainment, and parking components. My previous experience as an attorney for the City of New York has served me well as we work through this process. We are currently negotiating a redevelopment agreement that will include our two main goals: expanding the City’s tax base (relieving residents of some of the tax burden) and creating an area that complements, rather than competes with, our wonderful downtown. We are in continuing negotiations with the redeveloper to ensure that we make decisions that benefit our community and preserve its character.
During the first two years of my term, I served as chair of Council’s Capital Projects and Community Services Committee, and we accomplished a great deal. Some of our projects included:
Creating the Hometown Heroes program, which currently recognizes over 200 veterans or active duty military members with banners throughout the City each year.
Adopting a Sidewalk Master Plan to expand the sidewalk network in Summit -- thus making Summit safer for pedestrians -- and relieving property owners of the costs of sidewalk installation.
Adopting a comprehensive revision of the City’s Development Regulations Ordinance, which will govern development and land-use decisions in the City of Summit. The new Ordinance streamlines regulations and incorporates improved design standards and sustainable development.
I believe strongly in smart growth while preserving what is special about our community, and was able to advocate for that in my appointed role on the Planning Board last year. As Council President, I will continue to work on sustainability, incorporating solar power, energy efficiency, pesticide reduction, and tree protection measures.
Finally, I am proud that as a member of the Board of School Estimate last year, I supported and voted for universal Full Day Kindergarten, which gives Summit’s youngest students a strong start in school. As a parent of two sons who attended Summit’s public schools, I am well aware of how crucial this early learning boost can be.
I am looking forward to continuing to help shape Summit's future and am confident that I have the skills and experience necessary to shepherd it through these turbulent times. If you’d like to learn more about me and my platform, please visit www.foxforsummit.com.
While I won’t be knocking on doors to meet residents personally given the current health emergency, I hope you’ll feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you!
Marjorie Fox – Candidate for Summit Common Council, Ward 2