By Brandi Makuski
City Council candidate Tori Jennings held her first campaign event on Thursday at the downtown Hi-Rise.
The meeting was open to the public–though outside attendees could only gain access to the locked building by Hi-Rise residents–and lasted a little over 90 minutes, with about a dozen people in attendance, mostly residents of the building.
The meeting was not widely advertised and was billed as a “community listening session and presentation on better streets.”
Jennings asked those in attendance about their concerns for the city, and repeatedly probed about the city’s public transportation offerings and access to computers at the Hi-Rise.
But residents said they worried about a proposal to remove the traffic light at the Strongs Ave./Centerpoint Dr. crossing–that project has since been postponed–due to safety concerns for the building’s elderly and disabled occupants.
Other concerns centered around poorly-cleared sidewalks in the winter, and unkempt rental properties in the area.
Jennings said she was “very, very concerned about rental properties” in the city, and the issue was one reason she decided to run for office.
Jennings’ suggestions to combat the problems, posed in question-form for those in attendance, included requiring landlords to obtain a license for rental properties, expanding the city’s historic district and offering “incentives for new professors if they buy a house to fix it up.”
“Things I would work on immediately are these issues…enforcement and inspection, and figuring out how we can make that system more efficient,” she said.
Jennings also spoke several times on the lack of computer access at the Hi-Rise, which she said was an obstacle to the building’s residents getting their concerns in front of city officials.
“If you’re going to effectively report sidewalks being plowed, it’s really set up through the computer system,” Jennings said. “If a lot of people aren’t using computers, how do we make it easier to report? That’s what I need to figure out. I think if more people have to report things to the right people so they get addressed, you can increase enforcement.”
Another concern discussed on Thursday was traffic enforcement, which Jennings used as a segue to her “Better Streets” presentation, comprised of two videos Jennings has previously shown during public meetings promoting a four-lane to three-lane conversion.
One video showed a successful four-to-three lane conversion–known also as a “road diet”, or “lane reduction”, depending on who you ask–in Tomahawk, and included interviews with city officials there talking about how the new design had improved traffic flow.
The second video was taken on Division St. near Belts’ Soft Serve, showing pedestrians trying to cross the street in heavy traffic.
Both videos were previously featured at public meetings held by Jennings. One meeting held at Washington Elementary supposed a re-striping of Stanley Street; another at Whiting Village Hall discussing a re-stripe County Hwy. HH. Both meetings drew strong, mixed reviews from the public.
Jennings also told the group she’s already been an active public servant since becoming involved with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in 2015. She proposed the bike hitches in the Downtown District, she said, and gathered signatures from Downtown business owners before it was brought before the City Council.
She also proposed additional garbage cans on the Downtown Square and said she helped change garbage pickup in the downtown to Fridays. She also co-authored a grant to bring in a $400,000 grant for painting about 14 miles of bike lanes throughout the city.
Jennings had some ardent supporters in the audience on Thursday who were very vocal about their support, as well as some critical of her, including one man in the audience who said he was “suspicious” of what he perceived as her “personal agenda”.
Jennings is challenging incumbent George Doxtator for Stevens Point’s 1st District.
Listen to the full audio here: