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Summit Common Council Ward I

Candidate is running for the Common Council seat representing Ward I. It is a three year term.

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    Susan D. Hairston

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    Eileen P. Kelly

Biographical Information

What plans can be put in place to ensure Summit can respond efficiently to future power failures?

The year 2020 will be remembered for Covid-19. What should Summit be doing to ensure the public well being of its residents? What measures should be put in place to assist residents/businesses adversely impacted by Covid 19?

Racial/Social Justice is another movement that is coming out of 2020. What measures should be taken to make town government more representative of its diverse population? What services should the police force implement in order to work closely with the community to improve race relations?

Our ad hoc committee will assess response to find gaps and opportunities. I anticipate three possibilities: 1) Exert influence via the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Does the Utility have contingency plans and partnerships with outside providers? Are incentives leveraged to raise the bar on restoration? PSE&G users are lodging complaints, so switching providers may not be the solution. 2) Ensure the safety and capability of residents/businesses during a crisis; assess costs/benefits of our overall infrastructure. Targeted solutions recognize diverse needs. We’ll review city-wide services and ensure special needs like those of the elderly are met. Are costly below-ground lines feasible? Despite underground lines, downtown businesses were affected because power stations went down. Solar should be part of our plan, yet that has its own hurdles. 3. Draw upon County/State resources and join forces toward goals. Decision-making must account for short and long views -- and financial impact.
It takes us all to ensure diverse needs are met during a crisis. Neighbors helped neighbors. SDI and Council fundraised for businesses. Restaurants donated food for health workers. It’s important to call on expertise: the City loaned staff/locations to support GRACE, our food and essentials pantry, in expanding service amid crisis conditions. Education is key: stressing the power of health practices like hand-washing, social distancing, and masking. Our current mindset will help manage/avert future pandemics and health awareness will help us avoid common illnesses like cold and flu. We need data-driven, targeted interventions because crisis affects everyone differently. As COVID cases rose, we targeted actions: I worked with the Library to support people filing for unemployment. Our Safety and Health Committee (which I chair) looked at mental health initiatives to help residents address anxiety and isolation. We’re still looking at ways to support families with kids learning remotely.
Building inclusion, diversity and equity requires us all. We are ahead of the curve on diversity: we have a Mayor’s Forum on Diversity and a Dialogues on Race group, which grew from our Interfaith Council. We are intent on welcoming all, so we’ll look at retention, recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training and support. SPD focuses on improving race relations, accountability, community policing, de-escalation training, body camera use, and fair and equal policing. There’s enormous opportunity in linking mental health services and policing to address the unprecedented increase in adverse mental health effects. Our schools allow police and kids to grow in respect and understanding via D.A.R.E., but we can go further. SPD is making an effort to connect with our community--particularly in times of stress. For example, Police Chief Bartolotti posted a video supporting local demonstrators.
A week after our last power outage, I hosted a community forum with residents. I knew that within our community the answers, ideas, and way forward could be found. Firstly, I would call for managing our relationship with JCP&L differently. Currently, our representative services multiple municipalities. During severe outages, this representative is understandably inundated. We need JCP&L to provide additional resources for our city. I would ask that reps attend one council meeting each quarter. During this meeting, our community should receive a report on the health status of our electric infrastructure. Lastly, I would establish a volunteer Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. One of the challenges I witnessed during our last outage was resident confusion on how to best report outages or non-emergency issues. CERT volunteers could report directly into the Summit Fire Department and play a pivotal role in feeding information in and back out to their districts.
When COVID-19 first unfolded and the city called for volunteers to assist small business owners with their PPP applications, I raised my hand. With over twelve years of experience in the finance and technology industry, I knew skills that I had learned in operations, strategy, and finance would translate well to supporting this group. As the daughter of an Ecuadorian immigrant who speaks fluent Spanish, I also knew I could be of help for our Hispanic business community. The vitality of our small business owners not only affects the vibrancy of our community but the affordability of every resident in Summit. I would call for a local business mentorship program, ask that SDI work to welcome our Hispanic business owners and customers, and search for resources to host training sessions on social media engagement and e-commerce strategy. As the world continues to change, our residents and business owners need the support to move at a new and safe pace.
When my husband and I first moved to Summit one of the many things that attracted us to our community was its diversity. As a Latina woman I enjoy connecting with residents from all backgrounds. One thing I consistently hear while chatting with residents is how excited they are to see a Hispanic woman running for our Common Council. If elected to Council, I’d like to help create a more participatory environment where residents from all socio-economic backgrounds and schools of thought feel welcome to bring their ideas and concerns. Community outreach has been a big component of my campaign and if elected, I would continue it. On the topic of our Summit Police Department, I believe they are an exemplary local institution. One of its strengths is community policing especially with our minority residents. If elected, I will continue to help build a bridge with all members of our community by suggesting programs like, "Coffee with Cop" and encouraging Spanish language training for officers