It’s easy, in an election year, to raise a rallying cry like “Transparency!” But I live that word every day, in my Council roles and in business. So when my opponent for the Ward 1 Council seat this fall, Eileen Kelly, suggests I or a Summit colleague have not been transparent or inclusive, I’m compelled to respond.
At the July 8 Common Council meeting, Council approved four traffic ordinances, including three new four-way stops in Summit. The meeting was one of the most well-attended I’ve seen since my term began last November and saw the greatest number of inquiries before the meeting. Residents spoke both in favor of and in opposition to the stop sign ordinances.
For months prior to the meeting, The Safety and Health Committee, which I chair, had undertaken our usual thorough process of studying the need, potential impact, costs, and possible alternatives. The assessment draws on the varied expertise of the whole Committee, which includes two Council members (myself and At-Large Councilmember Beth Little), Mayor Radest, our City Administrator Michael Rogers, Police Chief Bartolotti, and Fire Chief Eric Evers. Committee discussion often includes city subject matter experts and, when needed, voices with deep expertise.
As always, a key consideration is how a proposed change will contribute to (or detract from) the vision of Summit defined in our Master Plan, which was updated in 2016 with extensive public input. There are also NJ State and Union County regulations that act as guideposts in our assessment process. Finally, the information packet with this background is sent to Council members and is posted on the City of Summit website before each meeting so that residents can access it.
Inviting public opinion about a proposed ordinance is always part of the process. It’s not only mandated by State law, it’s welcomed by every member of Summit Council. We want to hear from residents! This particular ordinance was originally slated to be on the March Council meeting agenda -- just as COVID-19 had us transitioning to virtual meetings. So we postponed the hearings to allow residents to adjust to the new method of “attending” a meeting, online.
While we listen to every opinion, we know our decisions won’t always please everyone—that would be impossible!—and public sentiment is just one input to the process. Also, the responsible Committee (in this case, Safety and Health) makes a recommendation but all Council members vote based on their assessment of what’s best for Summit. So it is an inclusive as well as transparent process.
I supported the four-way stops at these intersections because I believe they’ll make our town safer. It’s that simple. One of the priorities in Summit’s Master Plan was to make our city more pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly. We’re working to enhance these qualities that serve both residents and businesses.
Transparency is, if anything, a hallmark of my working style, as is inclusiveness. I’m proud that Summit has such an engaged citizenry, and I support that engagement with an open door policy and active information-sharing. I say this not in defense of a particular decision, but because I want Summit people to know who I am and how I carry out my role in public service. So please, stay engaged! Keep coming to meetings and raising your voice! I promise to not only lead but listen. And when misleading statements appear in public forums, you can bet I’ll speak up, too.
Susan Hairston - Candidate Summit Common Council, Ward 1