Why is the Beavercreek City Council under attack for doing its job?
By David H. Landon
Last week, the Beavercreek City Council voted unanimously against allowing three RTA bus stops to be established along Pentagon Boulevard, a busy highway which runs along the northern border of the Mall at Fairfield Commons. In voting against the RTA project, most members of council outlined their unanswered safety concerns and questioned the need for the expansion by RTA. In their estimate, RTA had failed to address these basic questions of need and safety. The members of the Beavercreek Council are now finding themselves castigated in the ugliest of terms. According to editorials and statements by RTA officials, Beavercreek was displaying their bigotry and racial bias by not wanting “those people” to travel into Beavercreek to work and shop at their mall.
Suddenly, this Greene County bedroom community of 45,000 residents is in the spotlight. What is the truth regarding this controversial vote? Was the vote an attempt by dedicated representatives to do their due diligence by requiring RTA to prove that there was a need for additional buses not being met by the existing Greene Coordinated Agency Transportation System (Greene CATS) and that if there was a need, that the proposed stops along busy Pentagon Boulevard could be operated safely? Or was this a barely veiled attempt by Beavercreek City Council to keep minorities and the poor in Montgomery County and out of their neighborhoods?
The attempt by RTA to paint any of the council members with motives of racism is unfair and unjustified and it has now run smack into a reality check. One of the council members who voted against the stops was Vice Mayor Brian Jarvis, a member of council who served his country in the Air Force and who just retired from 24 years at Northrop Grumman. And yes, Vice Mayor Jarvis is African-American. I think that the RTA has to give the vice mayor the benefit of the doubt on this one. He didn’t vote against the RTA project because he wanted to deny access by minorities to the wonders of shopping at the Mall at Fairfield Commons. So what were his reasons, which were also articulated by the other council members?
The arguments for the three stops articulated by RTA were that riders requested the route to be added for riders to access jobs at the mall, and for students attending the STEM school located on Pentagon Boulevard.
Brian Jarvis was first appointed to a vacancy on the Beavercreek City Council in February 2009. He was elected to the seat in November 2009 as vice mayor. The vice mayor takes his job seriously and he jokes that with his training as an engineer he has a penchant to ask question after question as he tries to find logical solutions to the problems of government, “sometimes to the frustration of my fellow council members.”
When the RTA suggested that they were not inclined to conduct a survey to determine the need for the added three stops or to conduct a study to examine the need by local merchants to bring employees by bus to the Mall to fill unfilled jobs, the engineer-turned-council member followed his training as an engineer and collected his own empirical data. First, he met with the head of the STEM school who shared that the school was moving back to Montgomery County in the fall. During the last school year only six of a 200-student population of eighth, ninth and tenth graders could have used a bus service if one was available. Not a compelling argument for six daily stops by a 50-foot diesel-belching RTA bus.
Next, the vice mayor conducted a store-to-store survey in the Mall at Fairfield Commons asking the management of 18 retail outlets if jobs had gone unfilled for lack of public transportation by potential employees. Not one store indicated they had a problem because an employee couldn’t get there without RTA. It’s no wonder RTA didn’t want a study. The result wouldn’t have supported their decision.
Safety is also an issue of concern for the residents of Beavercreek and the decision undertaken by the council. There are traffic concerns about bus stops along the busy Pentagon Boulevard where RTA insists on placing the stops. There is concern for the safety of the riders of the buses and for those at the destinations. Jarvis and other members of council asked RTA to make some adjustments to their proposal to address these safety concerns. Using smaller buses; establishing police phone boxes at the locations; and the placement of surveillance cameras were proposals all rejected by the RTA.
The irony is that if RTA had negotiated their stops on private property, there would be no need to even involve the City of Beavercreek. Beavercreek would have no authority to make any requests. But if RTA wants to place stops on a busy highway, the council has every right under their local ordinance, and an obligation to the electorate, to insist on safety considerations.
Council members Brian Jarvis and Vicki Giambrone have both expressed a desire to continue the dialog with RTA, but they hope that it could be a two-way discussion. They, along with other members of the council understand that a solution needs to be worked out where all parties’ wishes are considered. RTA has to respect that these elected officials have the responsibility of the safety of their constituents as their first obligation. And can we stop playing the race card for a start.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@daytoncitypaper.com