By Matt Johnson
Greenville is at a tipping point. Development and traffic are increasing while affordable housing options and diversity decrease. Our neighborhoods, local parks and community centers need an independent voice they can trust on City Council. A voice for improved public transportation and affordable housing options for all income levels is critical. I am the Democratic candidate for Greenville City Council’s District 1 and I am that voice. I ask for your vote on November fifth.
I was raised in Greenville, attended our public schools, and returned after college and law school. I recently served two full terms on the city of Greenville Planning Commission, including as chair, where we made recommendations to City Council on zoning and annexation issues, reviewed new subdivisions, and oversaw comprehensive planning. On the city’s Infill Task Force in 2015-2016, I studied and made recommendations to City Council about infill projects, their impact on existing neighborhoods, and related ordinances. I am a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins law firm and chair the South Carolina Bar’s Employment and Labor Law Section. My work with the city and legal training uniquely qualify me to understand and solve the many challenges we have with growth and urban planning.
I have remained committed to bettering the Greenville community through volunteer work. Currently the most fulfilling work I am doing is as a steering committee member with the Greenville Homeless Alliance, which works to combat local homelessness and increase housing options for at-risk families and individuals. With rapid growth, declining diversity, and escalating costs, housing must be addressed at all socioeconomic levels. Addressing homelessness and our lack of affordable housing is a necessity, not a luxury. We can do this through collaboration with service providers and philanthropies, better use of available public land and buildings, financial incentives for private development of affordable housing, and improved zoning ordinances and permitting processes to incentivize a mix of housing options.
In addition, we have chronically underfunded our public transportation infrastructure. Although Greenlink funding was recently increased, more must be done to offset traffic congestion, minimize parking issues, provide access to affordable housing, and limit environmental concerns given growth predictions for Greenville. Investment in public transportation yields significant increases in job creation and economic returns. Greenville can benefit further from purchasing zero-emission electric buses made in Greenville by Proterra Inc., which provides job to citizens of Greenville.
I am committed to doing more for our community centers, local parks and our iconic Reedy River. I support the proposed Unity Park while recognizing the importance of offsetting gentrification and displacement of nearby neighborhoods. But I am also committed to maintaining City Hall’s focus on funding and supporting our local parks and community centers. The condition of Croftstone Park, Hessie Morrah Park in the Overbrook community, and the North Main Rotary Park in my neighborhood, are unacceptable to me. I will ensure our neighborhood parks have a trusted voice at City Hall.
Finally, my decision to run for City Council came after a tree fell on the Bobby Pearse Community Center, a memorial to the WWII veteran funded by family and friends. The hole in the roof has been covered by a tarp since May 2018, evidence it is not a priority at City Hall. Many children benefited from the diversity and quality programming provided at its summer and after-school programs. The neighborhood deserves a community space for meetings and other programming. I will ensure City Council restores Bobby Pearse, but I will also fight for other community centers and neighborhood parks that deserve our attention and support.
Matt Johnson is the Democratic candidate for the Greenville City Council District 1 seat.