GoERIE PUBLISHED: MAY 15, 2013 12:01 AM EST UPDATED: MAY 14, 2013 2:42 PM EST
BY LISA AUSTIN Contributing writer
I need your help to help greater Erie. I am running for the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat on Erie County Council.
I have a successful record of collaborative and creative problem-solving. Let me share with you a little of my record and my hopes for Erie County.
-Safe neighborhoods: For several years, I led my local neighborhood watch while working with law enforcement, code enforcement and on such issues as litter, blighted homes, crime and fostering community. If elected to County Council, I would continue work with the Neighborhood Watch Council to expand its membership via a social media presence, which would permit young parents and busy professionals to build neighborhood communities online.
-New jobs: I co-founded Innovation Erie, a regional product-design competition for “new ideas” that has incrementally increased Erie County manufacturing. Since its inception, we have gathered together engineers, attorneys and marketers and, in four years, jump-started four new businesses with the help of local manufacturers, the Erie Technology Incubator and the Startup business incubator affiliated with Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It’s time to bring jobs back to Erie.-
Improved transit: I co-founded All Aboard Erie, a regional transportation group, and have brought in experts to educate and advise planners and the general public about the economic, land use and health benefits of improving bike, bus and rail options. I am working with Julie Minich, the director of All Aboard Erie’s bus division, on a proposal for future bus routes that would link all the universities in the region. This kind of physical connection has the potential to reduce costs while supporting a higher-education consortium, further benefiting Erie County. If elected, I’ll also work to provide secure parking for Amtrak riders. Right now the only way to get to the train is on foot, by cab or by having a friend drop you off at the station.
- Preservation: I co-founded Preservation Erie, because I believe reuse of buildings (instead of tearing them down) makes economic development sense. Why? First, the inherent energy used to create the materials and construct the buildings is wasted when the structure is demolished and becomes landfill. Second, each historic site — no matter how modest — contributes to a neighborhood’s sense of place, which has a measurable economic value. Third, and most directly impacting local pocketbooks, is the fact that hiring our local masons, electricians, metalworkers, painters and others to undertake renovations supports good-paying jobs. Because of Civitas, which I also co-founded, and Preservation Erie, three local landmarks — Roosevelt Middle School, the Edinboro Boiler House and the Villa Chapel — are still standing today.
- Regional planning: Preservation Erie and Civitas recently hosted architect Charles D. Warren to review the 1913 John Nolen plan for greater Erie and to meet with local Erie leaders to further discuss which of Nolen’s ideas are worth reconsidering today. Civitas is conducting a yearlong public study of the Nolen plan with the intention of publishing the results in 2014. If elected, I would work to advocate for those ideas that would benefit greater Erie.
- Land use: By serving on the Lake Erie Region Conservancy board and the city of Erie Zoning Hearing Board, I have had an education in rural, suburban and urban land use. When I first arrived at the Zoning Hearing Board, meeting agendas and minutes were difficult to locate and the meetings were rather perfunctory; most requests were approved quickly. Today, after my advocacy, the agenda and minutes are online. Meetings involve more thoughtful questioning of the property owner and neighbors before decisions are rendered. I applaud efforts such as Destination Erie, Erie Vital Signs and Erie Together, which are essential both to educating the public about the need for planning and to obtaining buy-in and suggestions from the community to facilitate needed change.
I am an enthusiastic Erie ambassador but I know our regional potential has not yet been realized. We need to embrace our diverse communities (the poor, our senior citizens, our youth, our vital immigrant population, our differently abled folks, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, our creative artists of all types, our college students, our varied religious and faith communities, and many skilled workers). We must take stock of our institutional assets and support and promote them: medical centers, cultural institutions, colleges and universities and manufacturers. We must preserve and enhance our physical environment: water, open land and historic architecture. This election could be a game-changer for Erie County. If I’m elected, I will use my skills and contacts to foster the kind of collective optimism and pride that led to the creation of John Nolen’s 1913 plan for greater Erie. Therefore, I am asking for your vote on for County Council District 2.
LISA AUSTIN lives in Erie. She is running against incumbent Joe Giles and challengers Andre Horton, David Pamula and Renee Vendetti for the Democratic nomination for Erie County Council’s 2nd District seat.