How I Helped Overhaul Road Paving in Westfield

I ran for office four years ago to make Westfield better. One of my chief focus areas was improving the condition of our town roads, which far too many people likened to the “third world” when I was campaigning.

Over the past three and a half years, I’ve helped lead a complete overhaul of road paving in Westfield through my positions as Chair of the Public Works Committee and Vice Chair/Member of the Finance Committee. This has led to many significant accomplishments including:

  • a tripling of road paving from 2018-2021 -- totaling 47 miles (nearly half of the town) -- versus the prior four years
  • new ordinances that protect our roads from being opened and require utilities that open roads to repave them curb to curb
  • a new analytical approach to paving decisions based on road condition to ensure the town paves the right roads first
  • a unique partnership with utilities that has led them to pave 50% of our roads for FREE and at no cost to you

Here’s how I helped achieve these successes.

First, I figured out the issues. After talking to Town Officials and benchmarking other towns, the chief issues affecting Westfield’s roads were:

  • Not enough funds were being budgeted for road paving
  • Utilities were opening our streets and not fully repairing them, causing more patches and more uneven road surfaces
  • The Town didn’t use an objective approach to determining which roads should be paved each year

Then, I worked with Town Officials and other members of the Town Council -- especially Code Committee Chair Dawn Mackey and Finance Committee Chair Linda Habgood -- to solve these issues.

First, we increased investment in road paving in the capital budget. By using some of the bloated surplus to invest in much needed town equipment and technology, this freed up capital spending for road paving.

Second, we changed how the town developed its paving plans. Previously, the town relied on qualitative feedback from the DPW, Police, residents and if you can believe this, elected officials. Not hard data. Instead, we hired a well-known engineering firm to objectively grade every town road and subbase, assigning each a PCI score – or Pavement Condition Index. That way, the town could focus on paving roads in the worst shape first. Note: You can see your road’s PCI score on the town website.

Third, we passed ordinances to protect our roads including an ordinance that mandates that any utility that opens a road must pave the entire affected area curb-to-curb. In other words, no more patching.

By taking all these steps, the town was able to accelerate paving in town and build a unique partnership with utilities who have fully paid for half of the town’s paving -- meaning this road paving was FREE to you as a taxpayer.

This proactive approach to road paving is the same approach I take along with my Westfield Together counterparts to address every other issue facing our town. If you want Council representatives who proactively address issues and implement solutions, please vote to re-elect me for Ward 3. Thanks. Let me know if you have any questions ([email protected] or 917-589-1197).

Stay well,

David Contract, Ward 3 Councilman

 

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Making Our Streets Safe By Making Our Sewer Drains Cleaner

Being a Councilman in Westfield is not all about big promises and big solutions. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference in everyday lives. While I have achieved some big solutions like tripling road paving and reducing municipal tax increases by 44% as your Ward 3 Councilman for the past four years, it’s a simple solution that I want to discuss here.
When I ran for Ward 3 Council four years ago, I promised that if elected, I would address residents’ concerns about never seeing a street sweeper in their neighborhoods to keep their streets and sewer drains clean, which helps prevent localized flooding. I’m proud to say that I successfully implemented several new initiatives that are now keeping our streets and sewer drains cleaner.
When I address a problem, the first thing I do is learn the cause. Then I work with town officials and my Council colleagues to identify solutions. This is exactly what I did in this case.
As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I asked Public Works officials why the town wasn’t sweeping streets in residential neighborhoods. The answer was simple: It couldn’t because its two street sweepers only functioned well enough to sweep the downtown. While the previous Council did purchase surplus military vehicles, it wouldn’t authorize the purchase of new street sweepers which are essential to keeping our streets and sewer drains clean even though it had built up an unnecessarily large budget surplus.
I immediately advocated for purchasing two new street sweepers in the 2018 budget through my joint roles as Public Works Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the Finance Committee. The Council agreed and decided to use some of the excess budget surplus to fund the purchase. The street sweepers were delivered in spring 2019 and have been used ever since to clean every street during the summer, a town-wide effort which takes 8 weeks. The street sweepers are also used to sweep all town streets after leaf collection ends beginning in January (weather-permitting since sweepers can only operate when the temperatures are above 40 degrees F).
I also worked with Town Officials to post regular updates on the town website and social media about the sweeping program so residents have a chance to move their cars, allowing the sweepers to do their work more effectively. This year, residents can now sign up on the town’s new website to receive email or text alerts about street sweeping at https://www.westfieldnj.gov/list.aspx. Residents will then receive regular notifications either by email or text about where the street sweepers are operating and going next.
The Public Works Committee also realized that even if year-round street sweeping were possible, it wouldn’t be sufficient to keep nearly 3,000 sewer drains in town clear year-round. The reason is that even if both street sweepers were used 5 days a week year-round, at most they could make 6 passes. Unfortunately, sewer drains can clog up with debris in as little as a day, especially after a rainstorm. I decided to research additional solutions to make a difference.
I discovered a non-profit program called “Adopt-A-Drain” that makes it easy for residents to help by volunteering to keep sewer drains clear, reporting the number of times they clear the drains, the estimated weight of debris collected and even “name” the sewer drain they adopt. I contacted the organization that runs Adopt-A-Drain, learned they successfully operated in dozens of municipalities in Minnesota and offered a technology that Westfield could license to launch a similar program here. I presented this to the Town Council and Westfield became the first municipality outside of Minnesota to launch the Adopt-A-Drain program in 2020.
In its first year, nearly 130 residents have adopted more than 250 drains. Their volunteer efforts are keeping debris and pollutants out of the sewers and watersheds while helping to prevent localized flooding. These residents deserve to be celebrated and they will when the first Adopt-A-Drain Awards are presented in September.
I’m proud of these initiatives. They are addressing your concerns by making smart investments in technology and equipment, which is one of the ways I’ve helped make Westfield better. I look forward to continuing to do the same for the next four years. Please vote for me on Nov. 2 for Ward 3 Council to keep moving Westfield forward. Let me know if you have any questions by emailing me at [email protected] Thanks.
Sincerely
David Contract, Ward 3 Councilman and Chair Public Works Committee
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Mackey making things happen for Westfield !

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Statement of Westfield Democratic Committee on Local Republican “Push Poll”

June 25, 2021

The Westfield Democrats have today called on local Republican candidates to reject a “push poll” that was widely circulated throughout the Town this week, which disseminated misleading information to voters about Mayor Brindle under the guise of a legitimate poll.

 According to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a push poll is not a poll at all, but rather a form of negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. “Push polls” are actually political telemarketing, disguised as research that aims to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions.

 “The Westfield Democrats will continue to talk about the issues that matter to Westfield’s residents; focus on the progress we’ve made in moving the Town forward like never before; and clearly communicate all of the good things we seek to accomplish in the years to come. What we will not do is engage in the type of Trumpian, unscrupulous campaign tactics that the Westfield Republicans have apparently now resorted to,” said Rupa Motwani, Chairperson of the Westfield Democratic Committee. “I would expect a slate of candidates who claim that ‘root(ing) out divisive politics from local government’ is central to their campaign would be quick to denounce this ‘poll’ and the Republican operatives who are behind it.”  

According to Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, “Our Westfield Together team will focus on the issues, and we will campaign like the friends and neighbors we are, with a positive and inclusive vision for our community. We expect our friends, neighbors, and former colleagues to hold themselves to higher standards.”

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Public Safety is Critical to Your Quality of Life

Read this candidate statement as it originally appeared June 9, 2021 on TAPintoWestfield.

Public safety is a crucial component of quality of life in a community. I’ve heard from a number of my neighbors about concerns they’ve had over the years related to street safety and listened to their suggestions about how to better protect themselves and their families while getting around Town. As the Chair of the Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee, I’d like to share some of the steps we’ve taken to improve street safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

From 2018 -2020, the PSTP Committee approved 17 road striping projects that were completed throughout Westfield. Road striping narrows the roads, encourages drivers to slow down and adhere to the speed limit, leading to fewer accidents.

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How I Helped Westfield Focus On The Needs of Seniors by Starting Lifelong Westfield

When I ran for office four years ago, I said would focus on ensuring our town’s government met the needs of all residents regardless of where you lived, your age, how many years you have lived in town, who you knew or your political affiliation. To me, we are all Westfield residents interested in moving our town forward.

One group of residents Mayor Brindle and I quickly discovered felt left out by previous administrations was Westfield’s seniors. We knew it was critical to engage seniors and listen to their needs if we were going to make Westfield a successful community for young families to come to raise their families but also a place where grandparents could live close to their grandchildren. I quickly learned that approximately 15% of Westfield 30,000 residents are aged 65+ and that Ward 3 is the home to Westfield Senior Housing, a complex of two buildings off Boynton Avenue that consists of 303 apartments for seniors. This totals up to 4,500 seniors living in Westfield and likely more than a thousand seniors living in Ward 3 alone.

When the Mayor asked me to launch an effort focusing on seniors, I jumped at the opportunity to make a difference for this large group of residents.

I approached this goal the same way I approached rejuvenating the Green Team. First, I sought volunteers among Westfield residents who shared a passion for issues affecting seniors and/or had expertise in this area. To my delight but not to my surprise, eight volunteers stepped up immediately to form the Mayor’s Senior Advisory Council in March 2018, which is now known as Lifelong Westfield and has 12 members.

Since our first meeting, this talented group of volunteers – made up of seniors who have never volunteered before, high school students who have never participated in government before and adults of varying ages in between has gone above and beyond for Westfield’s seniors to help them more successfully age in place and have a voice in the town’s government.

I am incredibly proud of the impact this group has had and proud of my role as their Council Liaison, ensuring that they get the support they need from the Westfield Town Council to fulfill their mission. Some of their accomplishments include:

  • Building a sense of community among Westfield Seniors, especially during COVID, that now includes sending out weekly emails, quarterly newsletters, and a weekly online chat.
  • Launching an online calendar that lists events for seniors occurring in our community across at least a dozen organizations.
  • Holding dozens of events for Westfield seniors including activity fairs, walking safety presentations, scam-prevention webinars and even a COVID Vaccination Fact vs Fiction presentation with local doctors.
  • Going out of their way to meet the needs of seniors, including picking up storm debris, taking seniors to get vaccinated, and calling them regularly to check on their well-being.

As Council Liaison, I participate in all meetings, offer strategic input, and help with many of the group’s events, while occasionally leading some efforts too like the Westfield 300 Milestone Awards. I realized that the Westfield 300 celebration provided Lifelong Westfield a great opportunity to honor residents, businesses and even pets who have achieved amazing milestones here in town. And by doing so, we discovered the oldest living resident in Westfield (Silveo Colletti, aged 101), the greatest number of children raised in Westfield (Elizabeth Avis with 10), the longest active business in town (the Westfield Leader for 130 years), and even the oldest dog (Carole Payton’s dog Kelly who was 17).

To me, Lifelong Westfield is a great example of the governing philosophy that I, and the entire Westfield Together team, have followed which is to make sure our administration and town government meets the needs of all residents and leverages its talented citizens to make a positive impact on our town. I look forward to continuing this approach for the next four years and to earning your vote on Nov. 2.

Lastly, if you are a senior living in Westfield and not a member of Lifelong Westfield, please contact me by email at [email protected] or call me at 917-589-1197 so I can add you to our mailing list.

Thank you!

 

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Westfield Students Volunteer to Help Promote Mental Health Council’s CAKE Trail

This story originally appeared in TAPWestfield on May 24, 2021

Westfield High School students were at the farmers market in Downtown Westfield Saturday to help get the word out about the Westfield Mental Health Council's CAKE Crumb Trail.

To reinforce the commitment to being a stigma-free community, the CAKE Crumb Trail invites residents and visitors to participate in a self-guided tour of the downtown area with stops designed to highlight the importance of compassion, acceptance, kindness and empathy as part of an ongoing focus on mental wellness and behavioral health.

For full details and a guide map, visit westfieldnj.gov/mentalhealthevents.

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Candidate Statement: Tamaques Pavillion Restoration

This candidate statement originally appeared May 17, 2021 in TAPintoWestfield and Westfield Leader on May 13, 2021.

As a girl from Brooklyn, I am not a nature girl. To be honest I prefer asphalt and concrete to grass. I do not often take time to “stop and smell the roses.” But 2020 happened, and nothing was the same. My calendar, always full in quarter-inch increments was suddenly wide open, untouched, and forgotten. Confined in my home, with my family like all the other families in this town, in this state, we watched the world from the inside out.

I remember the moment when the parks were allowed to open, and it felt like a portal appeared. Suddenly, I was at Tamaques, not because I had a flag football game but because I had time to take a daily walk with my husband and even ride a bike for the first time in years. I love this park. I have loved it from the sidelines, but now I was not a spectator I was a part of it. And I was seeing things differently without the rush of the children in their opposing colors, the blur of a ball, and the cheering of the parents. I was not seeing the park in action. I was seeing it at rest.

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Being a Councilman is All About Delivering Excellent “Customer” Service

This candidate statement originally appeared in TAPinto Westfield and the Westfield Leader on May 13.

“Holy Crow David, the men from the DPW are here, and they are fixing the potholes on our street. David, you are a Man of Action. Couldn’t have asked for more. I truly appreciate your help. YOU GOT MY VOTE! And my husbands too! You are the best. An appreciative member of the Third Ward.”

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Programs Planned to Mark Mental Health Awareness

This was originally published May 6, 2021 in the Westfield Leader

WESTFIELD – The Town of Westfield will recognize Mental Health Awareness Month throughout May by launching The CAKE Crumb Trail — a free, month-long, outdoor event for
participants of all ages organized by the Westfield Mental Health Council.

The CAKE Crumb Trail invites residents and visitors to participate in a
self-guided tour of the downtown area with stops designed to highlight Westfield’s commitment to being a stigma-free and inclusive community.

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