On Thursday, Village President Alex Torpey spoke with a group of graduate students at Rutgers Edward J Bloustein school of Planning of Public Policy. The event was organized by Rutgers Bloustein students who wanted to bring a local official's perspective to students in their planning program.
Torpey spoke with about 30 graduate students about topics such as affordable housing challenges facing local governments, sustainability initiatives happening in South Orange, like complete streets and bike lanes, EV charging stations, LEED certifications for new developments and more, as well as emergency planning and preparedness efforts, especially in relation to planning and advocating for a more redundant power infrastructure. South Orange has recently taken the lead on advocating for solutions from the state legislature to help fix problems related to utilities response to Superstorm Sandy. Read more about that.
Students asked questions and engaged in a long Q+A session about local planning initiatives, the role that the mayor plays in the planning process, what challenges exist to expanding public transit access at the local level, and the relationship between town development and Seton Hall University.
Brandon McKoy, a South Orange resident and Bloustein student who co-organized the event said that "The event provided an excellent opportunity for students to gain a unique insight into the many issues and difficulties inherent in dealing with land use development at a local level. Alex's perspective was thoroughly appreciated and we can't thank him enough for agreeing to speak with the Bloustein and Rutgers community."
Several students also expressed interest in getting directly involved in the local government process, and Torpey, along with one of the event organizers strongly encouraged students to think about running for office in New Brunswick or locally in the towns where they are from. Taking advantage of online tools to help get information out about their ideas for planning, development and community engagement is a strong factor in making it easier for younger people to run for office at the local level and contribute their energy to the governance process. Torpey mentioned that because the barrier of entry to running for office is lower now than it ever has been, the opportunity exists now more than it has before for people to participate in their local democracy. Torpey recently launched a nonpartisan nonprofit 'Rethink Leadership' as a way for people interested in running for office to start networking and building relationships around innovative ideas for government.