|Posted on May 8, 2013 at 7:30 PM|
The following is the speech I am planning to give in front of the Oakland Town Council this evening. If you'd like to watch the video, it can be seen here:
Almost three years ago, Public Opinion Polls for Oakland, New Jersey was born. It was the summer of 2010 and I had been immersed in the hype surrounding the congressional mid-term elections. I decided that, just as pollsters were taking the mood of the country on national issues, Oakland should have its own poll to gauge what Oaklanders were really thinking about local issues and the direction of our town.
I opened The Record, the Suburban, I read the local news websites, and I spoke with residents in town to find out what the hot topics were, and what questions Oaklanders wanted answers to. After doing so, I put together my first poll, made copies at Staples downtown, and proceeded to the Oakland Post Office. There, armed with a pen, clipboard, water bottle, and folding chair, I spent four days asking those who entered if they were Oakland residents and if they were willing to take a poll on local issues.
Many passers-by wondered what I was doing, why I was doing it, and sometimes, and a few people gave me a piece of their mind about an issue they were passionate about. (I also received questions about where Motor Vehicles was, but I digress.)
I ended my first poll with 100 responses regarding taxes,schools, downtown improvement, and the upcoming council elections. Fascinated by the results, I decided I would try conducting another poll. I also tried to publish the results in several local publications, but with no success.
After completing several polls, I realized that I needed to do something in order gain greater attention. In addition to creating my own website to publish the polls, I began interviewing candidates for office and then posted the interviews on YouTube. While the candidates were happy to get additional exposure via their interviews, they were also curious as to what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had virtually no experience and no credentials; nobody knew who I was, and the fact that I was a teenager with an interest in town politics was probably mind-blowing to everyone.
I didn’t get much reaction to the videos at first, but gradually people noticed. Soon, my neighbors were pulling me aside while I was walking my dog to say, “I saw your interview on YouTube. Thanks for doing that!” Slowly but surely, people started to recognize who I was throughout town, with some even saying hello to me at Shoprite or waving to me when I visited the Oakland Farmer’s Market.
The last few years were fantastic as I received the most interest and the most video views in 2011 due to the highly contested mayoral race. Then, in 2012 I had the privilege of introducing the candidates for council at their October debate right here in council chambers.
However, good things sometimes have to come to an end. After choosing to continue my education at Waynesburg University, a small Christian college south of Pittsburgh, PA, I came to the obvious conclusion that I could not effectively continue to run Public Opinion Polls for Oakland, NJ while more than seven hours away from my favorite town. In addition, I know that if the plans for the Great White Oak park continue to progress, I will be spending any free time on planning and fundraising for the proposed dog park.
At first, I did consider running all of the polls online,but I wouldn’t get that human element of meeting and talking with people about the issues that mattered to them. Doing a poll online is easy enough, but not as enjoyable or as educational as meeting with Oakland citizens face to face.
So I have decided that at the end of June, I will no longer be operating Public Opinion Polls for Oakland, NJ. The website will still exist with the poll results and videos, but I have no one lined up to take over forme, nor do I think that there would be anyone in the Borough with the time and passion for continuing this work.
However, I would like everyone’s help in making my last poll the best one yet. My record was around 160 respondents over the course of about a month and for this last poll, I would like to exceed that total. I will try to find a day or two to stand in front of the post office, but this poll willbe put online as well. I would appreciate it if everyone in this room and all those watching at home who are Oakland residents over 18 could go to the website www.oaklandnjpolls.webs.comto take my latest and last poll. In addition, I still hope to interview the candidates running for council this year, so if scheduling works out with everyone involved, you can expect to see those interviews up in a month or two.
I would also like to thank those whom I’ve interviewed on tape over the past three years:
Don Burns, Councilwoman Coira, Mike Guadagnino, Councilman Jensen, Peter Kikot, Henry Lesher, Charlie McCormick, Cheryl Piccoli, Councilman Pignatelli, Mayor Schwager, John Szabo,and Councilman Visconti.
All of you have been very kind and supportive with regard to this project and I thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a few minutes answering my questions.
And last but not least, I’d like to thank the residents ofOakland. I must admit that at first, most Oaklanders were somewhat skeptical of my project, but once you saw my dedication, passion, and most importantly the actual results, people throughout the community began to express enthusiasm and excitement about my project. I really did see your interest and felt your support, and I know right now that there are some people who will be sad that the interviews and the polls are coming to a close.
While Public Opinion Polls will be coming to an end in about two months, the memories and the experiences I’ve gained from this project will never leave my heart, and I sincerely hope that they remain a good memory formy fellow Oakland residents.