Click on an issue below to learn more about Marc's approach to the issues confronting Belmont today. If you have questions, Marc's contact information is on the Contact Page.
Your Voice, Your Belmont
In the age of the Internet, there is really no excuse for a city council’s inability to effectively communicate with its citizens. Yet in Belmont, too often problems or misunderstandings arise because the council isn’t properly communicating with key stakeholders on decisions that directly affect them. Before enacting major policy changes, the council should request input from all key stakeholders and keep them informed as decisions are made. At the same time, decisions should be made with thought and deliberation – which means if the council needs to take more time to hear from more stakeholders, they should not be afraid to do so. Even outside the formal decision-making process, council members should be accessible, visible, and approachable. Too many people now feel disconnected from the workings of their city government largely because they feel they have no input. As the leaders of the city, it is on the council to reach out and initiate these conversations with the people of Belmont. Your voice matters.
Perhaps the most pressing issue facing Belmont right now is how to manage the influx of new development headed our way from both Gastonia to the west and Charlotte to the east while sustaining our unique identity. Future development requests should be viewed with an eye towards reducing (or eliminating, where possible) additional strain on city infrastructure, traffic, and overcrowding in our schools. It is important that as Belmont grows, it does not lose its essential charm and character which make it such a desirable place to live in the first place. The council should also look for opportunities to reduce the amount of single-use apartment development in favor of more mixed-use or commercial development. This would have the advantage of generating additional investment within the city without all of the costs associated with a full-time resident. Belmont should be a desirable place to work, play, and live.
Externalities of these projects, especially environmental issues such as increased runoff and reductions in the tree canopy, often do not get enough attention during development talks. Given that most of the city is within a 5-minute drive of the river, it is important to consider the environmental impacts of this growth on some of our key natural resources. Other concerns around traffic and congestion also frequently fail to get the attention they deserve. Council should not be afraid to ask that these out-of-town developers cover the costs on everything from road widenings to environmental remediations that would not be happening but for their development projects. Council’s job is to protect the interests of the City and its citizens. The side effects of many of these projects will linger for years after these developers have pulled up their stakes and skipped town, so it is important that Council make better use of its bargaining position before signing off on new development.
Many Roads, One Belmont
Too often, there is a tendency to view the different areas and neighborhoods of Belmont in isolation, rather than as unique and valuable parts of the whole of Belmont. One of the biggest drivers of this is a lack of physical connectivity between these different areas and neighborhoods of Belmont. While much has been done to enhance the core downtown district, more needs to be done in the areas outside the central core (especially North Belmont, the River District, etc.) to enhance the streetscapes, sidewalks, and parks in these areas. Following through on plans to develop greenways and other pedestrian/bike trails that link the many different parts of Belmont together is key. As major changes are planned for some of the city’s most important transit corridors, it is also important for the city to work with transportation planners to enhance, rather than impede, greater connectivity throughout the city. This includes considerations for pedestrian access at key intersections as well as vehicular traffic flow. It is important that as decisions are made, they are made with regard to all of Belmont, rather than a single area.
Being a leader means being accountable to the people you serve, which means that you must have goals that you can be evaluated against and that guide your decision-making. Right now, the city lacks updated long-range plans in several key areas (as an example, the Pedestrian Transportation Plan is over 10 years old) which means that many decisions are being made on the fly and without thoroughly considering their long-term impacts. I will push for greater accountability on city council by encouraging more long-term thinking and goal-setting. It is impossible to make sound decisions without knowing why you are making them, and I believe that this is a key area where the city council can make significant improvements.
The city council can also do a better job of collecting and analyzing data to support its decision-making. Especially given the changes in data science and analytics that are occurring every day, the city needs to do a better job of collecting and analyzing data in order to take advantage of the insights that it can provide. Too often are even simple things like facility usage or vendor numbers not even tracked or stored anywhere where city leaders can readily access them. Just as important as setting goals is knowing if you are attaining them, and you cannot know if you are attaining your goals if you don’t have good data.