Greenville City Council candidates John DeWorken and Matt Johnson answer our questions

The November 5, 2019 election for the Greenville City Council district 1 seat is being contested between Republican John DeWorken and Democrat Matt Johnson.  This seat is currently held by Amy Ryberg Doyle who has decided not to seek re-election after serving since November 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a 501c3 non-profit Bike Walk Greenville does not endorse candidates. We ask them questions related to our advocacy and provide their answers to educate voters.

Question 1City Council has supported Trails and Greenways with a hospitality tax funded budget of $1 MM a year.  The list of projects that would use these funds is long, including the Traxler St connection into Cleveland Park at Richland Way, the Laurel Creek Trail to Hayward Mall, a route using the Railroad ROW from the SRT to Lois St, and a potential Falls Park Bypass Trail. Please tell us of your position regarding future budgets for Trails

John DeWorken response: I am fully supportive.
In 1999, when I worked at the Greenville Chamber, I was asked to walk the then-rail line from Furman to near downtown to take pictures and provide an analysis of the line. Even with the condition of the line at the time, the vision for a new rail to trail greenway was tremendous. At the time, I, along with many others, were unaware of the effect this trail would have on Greenville. We knew it would be an asset, but we did not know it would have such a significant impact on downtown and the entire region. It has helped spur job creation, economic development, talent recruitment and healthier living. Its
positive impact is immeasurable. Since that day of walking the rail line in 2009, I have been fully supportive of significant
funding for trail and greenways; and will continue to be as a member of City Council.

Matt Johnson response: Trails and greenspaces positively impact communities and must be priorities. Their importance is plain to see in Greenville’s success since the renovation of Falls Park and the opening of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Beyond enhancing quality of life through with recreational options and more connected communities, they strengthen the economies in nearby neighborhoods. Further, their environmental benefits are crucial to a sustainable city. I would continue to increase the budgeted amount for trails and greenways to include anticipated increased revenues from hospitality taxes in coming years.

Question 2: The new 10 ft wide multi use path on Verdae Blvd became reality through the leadership and financial commitment of Hollingsworth Funds.  City Council recently funded a multi-use path on the new PNG connector, and we understand the City is applying for a Grant for a multi-use path on S Hudson to connect W Washington to Unity Park.  Please tell us your position on this new idea for safer active transportation and if you would support a dedicated funding allocation.

John DeWorken response:   I am fully supportive of funding that is appropriated to initiatives that provide for a
more active lifestyle in Greenville, particularly initiatives that couple a safe way for residents to be more active. However, my reasoning goes beyond simply promoting an active lifestyle, which is important on its own. With my experience working in the economic development policy arena, I fully understand that communities that promote a robust array of active lifestyle options are those that can more easily recruit businesses and talent to the area. We now live in a day and age where professionals find quality of life and lifestyle options as important as where they are employed. So, it is important that city leaders understand that options, such as multi-use paths, not only promote healthy lifestyles, but also act as a recruiting tool.

Matt Johnson response: I have always supported alternative transportation options like this. My wife and I met riding mountain bikes and our family regularly enjoys the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Multi use paths are critical for our quality of life, environment, and economy. Greater connectivity will allow Greenville to grow and develop in a more sustainable manner. As such, I fully support dedicated funding toward more multi use paths.

Question 3: The recently adopted Downtown Master Plan has the following short-term mobility action items. 

  • Improve pedestrian crossings and sidewalks along major streets and connecting to Heritage Green
  • Expand the dedicated bike and pedestrian trail network throughout downtown
  • Incorporate a multi-use path system in south downtown and county square to tie into the broader framework

Plan Consultant Ron Robinson of Urban Design Associates told a large group of business leaders on August 14 that “The safety of the Swamp Rabbit Trail does not translate to the city streets,” and that “we need to be converting vehicular asphalt to people asphalt.” All inspiring words for advocates, but the implementation of the downtown plan will take considerable amount of funding that will be in competition with other city initiatives.  As a council member how high of a priority are these short-term mobility needs? What level of funding is appropriate?

John DeWorken response:  Please allow me to take each of these issues individually.
• Crosswalks and pedestrian mobility are major themes of my campaign. Safe crosswalks are needed at major pedestrian crossings to neighborhood parks and school walking routes. They are also necessary in the downtown area to major
attractions, such as Heritage Green. The current system of crosswalks with those ridiculous signs that very few drivers yield to do not work. We need to look to other communities, such as what I saw in Nashville, that safely move walkers across streets (ie – LED lighting embedded in the pavement).
• My previous answers about promoting healthy living, as well as economic development, apply to bike and pedestrian trails and multi-use paths.
• As I mentioned previously, these initiatives are a high priority for me and should be for Council, as they promote healthy living and are good economic development tools.
• As for funding, here is how I look at it: We have long-range objectives that are met each year with short-term goals. Every year, with the help of Bike Walk Greenville, I will help provide the necessary funding to meet the yearly goals that will advance Greenville to its long range plans.

Matt Johnson response: With more traffic on our roads, ensuring safer streets, safer crossings, and more sidewalks, is essential. Alternative modes of transportation like biking and walking are fundamental to addressing traffic congestion and environmental considerations. I regularly see students walking to and from League Academy near traffic on the shoulder of Chick Springs Road and know we can and must do better. Although the City has devoted funds to intersection safety improvements, increasing the number of sidewalks, and addressing ADA compliance issues, the amount allocated to these improvements amounts to only a few percentage points of our total budget—even though these issues are fundamental to the purpose of local government. Given the size of our annual budget and regular annual surpluses, we should immediately increase funding for more and safer bike and pedestrian options.

Question 4: Traffic calming is a big issue for our City, and solutions remain costly and controversial.  We have suggested a city wide “20 is plenty” campaign for all residential streets. Skeptics say that even with education and PR we don’t have enough enforcement of speed limits.  How would you as a City Council Member better address traffic calming? What steps would you take to better enforce existing traffic laws that seem to be uniformly ignored (e.g., excessive speed, distracted driving, stop sign/red light violations)? 

John DeWorken response: One year ago, I penned a letter to Greenville Chief Ken Miller, asking him to consider
lowing the speed limits in Greenville’s neighborhoods.
Slowing cars, along with pedestrian safety and crosswalk as previously discussed, is a major focus point of my campaign and will be a focal point as a City Council member. I am supportive of the “20 is plenty” campaign, particularly for our more narrow neighborhood streets. To slow cars down, I will focus on three points:
• Support “20 is plenty,” particularly among our more narrow neighborhood streets and bring that to Council to support
• Support increased funding for traffic enforcement
• Reduce requirements needed for neighbors to request and implement traffic calming measures (I believe those requirements now are too stringent)

Matt Johnson response: Traffic calming, particularly in the face of increasing development and traffic congestion, will be increasingly important in maintaining our quality of life. This will require a multifaceted approach. First, enforcement by the City of Greenville Police Department will require more officers and more training. Further, the City’s traffic calming program must be enhanced to ensure more traffic calming studies are completed and more landscape medians, traffic circles, and speed humps are in place where neighborhoods need them. City Council should appropriate funds from its annual surplus and identify opportunities to reduce nonessential spending to fund these important safety initiatives.

Question 5: SCDOT currently owns 53 percent of the road network in our state and has jurisdiction over most roads within Greenville city limits. The City has little influence to make SCDOT roads more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.  We understand that initial SCDOT program for cities to become owners has been oversubscribed. What as a City Council Member can you do to change this current situation? What are the specific changes that you will support if and when state roads are absorbed by the city?

John DeWorken response: I have spent my entire career working with the SCDOT executive team and have close
working relationships with those officials, including the SCDOT Secretary, the SCDOT Deputy Secretary of Engineering and the SCDOT Legislative Liaison. Furthermore, I have spent my entire professional career working on transportation policies. For example, I was one of a few lead professionals who worked to pass the “Workzone Safety Act,”which provides more funding to hire “blue lights” to sit at workzones to slow drivers down.
I point that out to say, with those relationships and decades of experience, I can prove to be a tremendous asset when it comes to the relationship between the City and SCDOT.  Furthermore, it is with those relationships and know-how that I will be able to  help the City navigate the political process to help SCDOT understand that pedestrians and cyclsts are a priority in Greenville; and help enact policies that reflect that.

Matt Johnson response: City Council must work with our state legislative delegation and other city and county government officials to push for action to allow local governments to take over more roads from the state. South Carolina ranks near the top in national charts of miles of state road ownership, despite its relatively small size. Other states have successfully put more roads in the hands of local governments, and South Carolina should do likewise. Decisions concerning the relative importance of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic and safety should rest with the people who live, work, and play near (and often on) these roads.

Map of City Council District 1  You can find out if you live in District 1 at this link

For more information on the candidates please visit their websites:

https://johndeworken.com/home/

https://johnsonforgreenville.com/