Community Spring Discussion Series: Transportation (1st Meeting)
• Discussion led by Daniel Crawford. Introduced himself with his background in local politics/activism and noted the brief history of the Licking County Progressives.
• Testimonials: Crawford discussed past history of having to walk to and from work at the age of 19 for up to 5 hours round trips (about 3 hours when on a bike) in all weather conditions when taking a taxi or carpooling proved unreliable. Also noted how he has since had to provide regular rides to family, including his ex-wife all due to a lack of public transportation despite a busy schedule. From the others in attendance, we learned stories about how one gentleman living in Newark provided another with a ride from Mt. Vernon to Hebron, another citizen reportedly had to walk 7 miles so that they could participate in mandatory AA meetings and regain custody of their children. Another reportedly had to share a vehicle with their roommate. Another apparently had to ride a bike from Granville to Columbus in order to then take a COTA bus. It was pointed out that in our recent past Newark and Licking County citizens had access to “Park and Ride” service via the COTA bus and that one also used to be able to visit numerous cities by train. An affordable service called “Go Bus” was also mentioned.
• Past Committees and Inaction: we discussed the past efforts led by the Freedom School in 2011 (which inspired an extensive study) and the Newark Think Tank on Poverty after that. In both cases, the City of Newark and other local government bodies chose not to act. Crawford shared his recent experience as a champion for Nonpartisan elections in Newark wherein he served on the Charter Review Commission in 2017 and pushed for action, managed to get consensus on the City needing to create a study group to further explore the issue, but that the City has since ignored the issue entirely. Crawford’s primary connecting concern with these examples is that the lack of public pressure on the policymakers will open the door to the City, the Transit Board, and the County ignoring the need for public transportation – despite the progress of the current “Transport Licking County” committees – much like how they did in the past and like how the City has so far continued to not act on studying nonpartisan elections. Crawford, for an example on a guide for future action, pointed out the success story (which arguably happened because of a grassroots and community-centered lobbying/activist effort) in the Newark Think Tank promoting Newark’s city government to “Ban the Box” which made it significantly easier for returning citizens to at least apply for a job with the City.
• Plan to Take Action: here we discussed a number of possibilities, including extensive community outreach, letters to the editor, contacting local government officials (preferably by phone over by email, since it is harder to ignore a phone call), social media organizing, commenting on relevant news media articles to help draw attention to the need, attending, occupying, and speaking at meetings of each relevant local governing body, and with public demonstrations.
• As an extension of the plans to take action: it was stated that we need to come up with a plan as well as wait for candidates and officeholders to propose a plan that we could then support., the current work of Transport Licking County’s committees was highlighted (including a series of public and business surveys and some research on the cost), it was said that we should find out the local work shifts which could instruct us as to when the need was greatest, expressed that we should survey other beneficiaries such as church-goers, some believe that the number one focus of transportation is a reliable route to and from work, an idea for organizing 10 citizens who need a ride to sign a petition seeking help with a reliable busing service at the same times and same location, it was suggested that we look into “Ask Kent (Mallett…the Advocate reporter)”, another participant pointed out that we can cite the examples of Medina and Mt. Vernon’s transit systems the latter of which you can call for a ride and travel anywhere within the city for a dollar, it was suggested that we organize a number of people (possibly including local politicians) to use and document their use of public transit where it exists, hosting a march or rally was suggested complete with citizens/speakers talking about transportation as well as spots for sign-ups/petitions and some musical entertainment that the organizers to learn ahead of time and partake in, it was noted that we can host a party, and it was noted that we should reach out and ask where people need to be transported and when they need that transportation.
• Next meeting is April 17th, where we will be deciding our first plan of action and delving more deeply into advanced planning.