Matthew Petty / Courtesy photo
Council Member Matthew Petty is seeking a fourth term on the Fayetteville City Council.
Petty, 36, hopes to keep the Ward 2, Position 2 seat that he first won 12 years ago.
Challenging Petty this year is William Chesser, who ran for a Ward 4 seat in 2012.
Petty was first elected to the council in 2008 after defeating Mark Kinion, and was re-elected in 2012 with a victory over Adam Fire Cat and Ryan Abshire. Petty won a third term in 2016 with 60% of the votes against Gary McHenry.
As of late August, Petty has been present for 268 out of 294 council meetings for a 91% attendance rate.
Petty said his longtime priority of fighting climate change and inequality will continue to impact his decisions if elected for another term.
“In my next four years I am going to view policy decisions through two lenses: does this make climate change better? And, does this expand opportunity to those who have been left out?” he said.
Petty said he believes in the concept of “the 15-minute city” and will advocate for a local plan to embrace the model, which envisions everyone being able to meet most of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home.
“Even if we could only do a little — if we could put just a few jobs and homes and errands closer together — it makes a big difference for climate change and improves the quality of life for us all,” he said.
When asked about his dozen years on the council, Petty said he’s most proud of the things he did behind the scenes, including his work on the city’s Civil Rights Ordinance, initiating and securing funding for various master plans, reconstituting the City Board of Health, and writing Fayetteville’s mask ordinance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ward 2, which is typically associated with the downtown and Dickson Street areas, includes portions of the University of Arkansas campus and stretches west past Garland Avenue to Asbell Elementary School, and north to the Washington County Fairgrounds. The ward also includes the businesses along College Avenue in midtown, and many historic districts including Wilson Park.
The election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Profile: Matthew Petty
Residency: Ward 2 resident since August 2002
Employment: City planner, facilitator and educator with Infill Group and the Incremental Development Alliance
Education: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Political Science, University of Arkansas
Political Experience: Three-term City Council Member, Ward 2; Chair of Transportation Committee; Chair of Advertising and Promotion Commission; Ordinance Review Committee; Equipment Committee
Meet the Candidates
The following candidates are running for election this year. All candidates were sent a request for more information about their candidacy. Responses are posted in the order they’re received.
Why run for a fourth term? Is there anything in particular you plan to introduce or continue working toward?
I’m running for a fourth term because I feel called to help our city address current events and prepare for our future. I was raised to believe our purpose in this life is to reduce suffering and make life better for our friends and family and even all human beings. It may sound contrived or silly, but the best way I have to do that is to keep serving on the City Council. It hasn’t always been easy for me, personally, but I feel as though I have worked hard to become a better, more effective Councilmember every year.
I get to work on so many projects and initiatives as one of Ward 2’s representatives, but I have been frustrated that we still haven’t invested in transit like I believe we should. And our affordable housing problem keeps getting worse. The most frustrating part of it all to me is that it feels like so many of the decisions we make aren’t real choices because the systems have already been set up.
The reason I ran for office the first time is pretty much the same reason I’m running now. I can’t sit idle while our laws and policies make inequality worse and while climate change becomes more dramatic every season. I feel compelled to act and to convince others to join the cause. I generally focus on what we have the power to fix locally. For those issues that we can’t fix without state or national help, our city can still choose to be a leader and shift the narratives holding our state back.
In my next four years I am going to view policy decisions through two lenses: does this make climate change better? And, does this expand opportunity to those who have been left out? I don’t have any particular proposals now, but I’m eager to finish the design of College Avenue sidewalks and improvements. I advocated for a new agreement with the state for nine years, and with funding now in place for these improvements, the end is finally in sight! This project will help us put housing where we need it most (directly on the corridors) and will set the stage for a better transportation system.
How would you describe Ward 2 these days?
Ward 2 has much of what defines Fayetteville. Ward 2 has the University, Dickson Street, Woodland Junior High and the high school. It has the square and the Farmers’ Market. It has Scull Creek Trail and Frisco Trail and the castle at Wilson Park. Virtually every public event, whether it is a game, a parade, or a festival takes place in Ward 2. Downtown Fayetteville and everything that happens within it is like the heartbeat of our city. Everyone owns a piece of it whether they live in this ward or another.
But, Ward 2 is also home to rising home prices. They are rising faster in downtown than they are anywhere else in the city. That’s because so many people want to live close to the action. It doesn’t mean absolutely everyone wants that for themselves or for their families, but it’s true there are more people that want to live close than we have homes available.
That’s one of the reasons I am advocating for a 15-minute city initiative. The idea is that everyone should have an option nearby for all the day-to-day stuff. Need to grab some ingredients for dinner or want to share a sandwich with a friend? You should have an option for that at the edge or corner of your neighborhood.
Having a 15-minute city is an idea that links together a lot of what we wish was different in our society. Think about it: don’t essential workers deserve to work nearby the jobs we ask them to do? Unfortunately, the housing just isn’t there today. In a 15-minute city, there would be an option for them, too.
Even if we could only do a little — if we could put just a few jobs and homes and errands closer together — it makes a big difference for climate change and improves the quality of life for us all.
Are there any council decisions you are especially proud of or frustrated with during your most recent term?
I’m proud that Fayetteville is a leader when it counts. I was part of the team that worked on our Civil Rights Ordinance and I led the effort to pass the state’s first mask requirement. (By the way, we won our faceoff with the governor.)
Most of my proudest moments are the things that don’t grab the headlines. Because of my experiences and the skills I’ve developed along the way, I feel like I’m able to put the wheels in motion for issues that would normally get stalled in the system. Here’s a list of some of the things I reflect on to stay inspired to keep working as hard as I can:
- I initiated and secured funding for the Recycling and Trash Master Plan, now being implemented. This resulted in the expansion of our recycling program to small apartment buildings and a new composting program with grocers and restaurants. Mark Kinion co-sponsored this with me.
- I initiated and secured funding for the Mobility Plan (Transportation Master Plan) and 71B Master Plans. This is a major overhaul of all the “firmware” of the city’s transportation planning decisions. We moved the annual workplan development from a political process to a data-based process. And, we got funding and are working on design details now for major improvements to College Avenue!
- I organized and proposed reconstituting the City Board of Health so we could have a better response to the pandemic. I recruited most of the members and helped them establish their rules and their purpose.
- I didn’t just vote for the mask ordinance; I wrote the law. Then, I called for a model mask ordinance from the state for other cities to adopt (it took a few weeks for the pressure to mount, but we got that, too).
- I personally negotiated trail connections to connect Woodland Junior High to the West and to connect Wilson Park to the VA Hospital and Evelyn Hills.
- I called for and won support to create a new division at the city: Economic Vitality, which has been critical for our business response to the pandemic. Sarah Marsh co-sponsored this with me.
- I supported making bus fares free across the city no matter which bus system you are riding.
I have always been an active Councilmember. My very first proposals came in my third meeting as a Councilmember ever, in 2009, when I proposed a marijuana arrest oversight committee (failed 7-1) and for the city to establish new and active social media accounts for direct citizen engagement instead of just using the newspapers (which is all state law requires to this day).
I never stopped working hard to improve the work we are doing. Some people get offended when I say this city could be better, but I don’t think there is any shame in admitting that we have to keep making progress. We have come a long away, far enough to be proud, but not far enough.
Every day still counts.