Matthew Petty was the only incumbent to file for a seat on the Fayetteville City Council, entering the race for Ward 2 in the Nov. 6 general election.
Petty, 28, has held the Position 2 seat since January 2009 after defeating Mark Kinion in the 2008 election.
Since then, Petty has sponsored multiple successful initiatives including a resolution to increase the city’s use of social media, implementation of new residential energy codes based on the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and a resolution opposing a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a century-old ban on corporate and union contributions to federal elections.
Petty said maintaining Fayetteville’s first-place status in Northwest Arkansas would be a top priority if re-elected.
“Our region is growing, and our neighboring communities have issued a challenge to Fayetteville,” said Petty. “I believe we are still the best community in Northwest Arkansas, but we need a strategy to keep it that way.”
Petty’s campaign website lists several ideas he’d focus on if re-elected including dedicating a funding source for festivals and arts organizations, designing and constructing a downtown outdoor civic space, enhancing Midtown by focusing on Township and Colt Square and building more bikeways to connect neighborhoods to one another and to the city’s trail system.
Petty will face Ryan Abshire and Adam Fire Cat in the Nov. 6 general election.
Name: Matthew Petty
Residency: Ward 2 resident since August 2002
Employment: Alderman at City of Fayetteville, full-time student, part-time web consultant
Education: Junior standing at University of Arkansas studying Political Science (major), Mathematics and sustainability (minor), High School: Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science, and the Arts
Political Experience: Ward 2 Fayetteville alderman, 2009 to present
What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?
When I ran in 2008, it was because I had a passion for sustainability and I wanted to drive the conversation and decisions in that direction. I felt like I would be more effective on the inside than on the outside. It took me a while to learn important lessons, like how to be persuasive without being emotional, but still being passionate, how to pick my battles so I didn’t lose the most important discussions, and how to build relationships with my peers so we could move on after controversies passed.
I’m running for re-election because I still have the same passion for sustainability that put me in the 2008 race. I brought the idea of bikeways to Fayetteville and got the city’s first separated cycle track included in the Van Asche street design. I sponsored the new Residential Energy Code, which will create green jobs and lower the costs of living for new homeowners. I’m campaigning for true pedestrian urban development on Center Street and I’m bringing forward an ordinance to create a new food truck economy. Most of these items have only come up in the last two years, and I’m running again because I am excited about what I can accomplish with this momentum if I’m re-elected for another four.
Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 2? How would you describe that part of town?
I live in Ward 2 because I can walk or bike almost anywhere I need to be. I can go to work, attend class, grab a drink, shop for groceries, and even buy a hammer without getting in the car. I barely have to leave the neighborhood.
Describing Ward 2 is difficult to do succinctly. We have both the newest citizens and the oldest neighborhoods. We have both downtown and midtown. We have Scull Creek Trail and Gregg and College avenues, the backbones of our vehicular and bicycling traffic networks. We have the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville High School, and UAMS. We have Dickson Street and the square. I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter where you live in Fayetteville, Ward 2 is probably a part of your life. Chances are you work here, you play here, and maybe you live here. Ward 2 is important to every Fayetteville citizen, and no other Ward encapsulates so much of whatever it is that makes Fayetteville great.
Are there any recent citywide or Ward 2 council decisions you agree or disagree with?
Of course. I’ve voted on most of them and my record speaks for itself, so I’ll use this space to talk about some of the most controversial decisions.
I’ll start with the smoking ban. Last year, I co-sponsored an ordinance that would ban smoking in bars. It was probably the most controversial item the Council has considered since I was elected – even more than paid parking. I was disappointed when we lost that one, but I’ll abide by that decision. There may be an effort to put this on the ballot in the future, but I won’t bring the ordinance back to the Council because (this is going to sound silly) I believe in the righteousness of the democratic process. A lot of people weighed in with their opinions, and people on both sides made compelling arguments. I don’t trivialize anyone’s opinion on the issue, and I think the Council should honor the consensus that was reached last year. If the voters want to pass this, it is now up to the voters to put it on the ballot.
Since I already mentioned it, let’s talk about paid parking. I voted for it, and I did so for a reason that is different from most. Here’s my reason: the Walton Arts Center parking lot is like a desert and it needs to be something different. That parking lot fragments downtown into three distinct zones of activity, and no pedestrian crosses the desert to reach another zone. The WAC lot is a dead weight on Dickson St and we need to cut the chain. We do that by combining urban redevelopment with open-air civic space, a new streetscape for West Ave, and affordable housing marketed to artists. Most people will agree that is a great vision, but how is it tied to paid parking? I think the only reason paid parking is necessary is we can’t raze that parking lot until a parking structure is in place so our existing parking capacity can be maintained. I don’t think there is an emergency parking shortage and I don’t think downtown needs more parking spaces than it already has to thrive. I only voted for paid parking because I think we need to replace the 250+ spaces in the WAC lot before we transform them, and seeing that lot transformed will be my highest priority if I am re-elected. I have already helped write a grant to fund a design effort to that end.