McComb looks to continue to develop Stevens Point with a modern mindset
By Joe Bachman and Taylor Hale
STEVENS POINT — The seat for District 9 Alderperson is up for grabs, which will see a three-way primary election on Feb. 19.
The Portage County Gazette asked the candidates pertinent questions relating to their potential spot on council, and why voters should pen them in on Feb. 19. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election in April.
At a Glance: Mary McComb
“I started to become civically active in New York around 1991. From that point on I have been a part of task forces, committees and other local groups.”
McComb holds a Ph.D in Speech Communication, and an Me.D in Adult Education from Penn State University (where she taught), as well as a Bachelors in Communication from UW-Stevens Point. She is a former teacher, writer, and current pianst for Springs Methodist Church. After years in education and out of the state, McComb came back to the Stevens Point area in 2005 and soon after opened Paper Doll, and later Sugar Doll. The local establishment closed during the fall of 2018. Her business experience secured her a seat with the Downtown Business Association in 2008, where her path to Portage County politics began.
“I have worked a lot with historical preservation groups. So I was involved with local government long before I was an alderperson.”
Having worked at Stora Enso, Travel Guard, UWSP, the Springs Methodist Church, and in her shop Sugar Doll, McComb deeply appreciates her hometown.
What changes, if any, would you like to see come to Stevens Point?
“That’s been clear since I was first elected in 2015. I’ve advocated for more housing choices, including affordable living for seniors and working folks. I’ve supported what some call “transportation justice,” policies that open up thoroughfares for bicyclists, walkers, those who use transport such as wheelchairs. Infill development is another change I’ve championed.
Denser development makes neighborhoods friendlier, and more amenable to non-auto users. Also, smaller, denser parcels generate more property tax per acre than do bigger parcels. And infrastructure costs are less for denser neighborhoods. Not to mention that employers and workers are looking for central city living. I’m proud of my contribution to positive change in all these aspects. Our economy is the stronger for our work.”
What changes, if any, would you like to see come to common council and local government?
“1. We need to engage in strategic planning, to articulate a vision for our community, steps to achieve that vision, and policies that help us meet those goals. We need a conversation that makes the community’s differing visions explicit and enables us to come to agreements about what we all want. Council needs criteria (goals and vision) to guide its policy-making.
2. We need to find a way for alders to attend important community input sessions. Our mayor and attorney are overly scrupulous about open meetings laws and discourage more than two alders to attend such gatherings. Other municipalities let their Council members attend such public meetings; so should we.
3. I’ve led in City sustainability efforts, along with one other alder and the cooperation of many City staff. We are a Green Tier Legacy Community. If we are to be serious about a long-term environmental sustainability push, we need a staff person to coordinate.”
What are your thoughts on some of the more controversial local projects? (Stanley Street, Roundabout, New City Hall)
“It’s well-known that I support the 4-to-3 conversion on Stanley. I am also in favor of the roundabout and can think of more intersections where one would be safer . The City Hall issue is in flux and hasn’t been an agenda item in a public meeting for quite a while.
Wise, informed decision-making is the important thing no matter what the project or issue is. Of course, we listen to constituents, and we also must research the issue–what have other municipalities done and how effective was their action? What do studies –the data– show? What do experts say? And, of course, how will this be paid for?
There’s a vocal minority of people, for example, who are still angry about the Stanley Street improvements. I could repeat their objections, so obviously I listened. But others on Council and staff and I researched the issue. We consulted an expert in road design as well as our own Public Works director.
We reviewed lots of data about such conversions. In the end, most of us decided that the 4-to-3 re-design would be positive for the neighborhood and the City. Staff came up with a money-saving idea–buying a striper that will save Stevens Point money over the long run. We listened, but based on evidence, most of us disagreed.”
If elected, what do you promise to do with the power of your position?
“I am going to continue seeking good infill development and affordable housing for both workers and senior citizens. I was involved with local government long before I was an alderperson.”
Progressive planning is also in McComb’s playbook. She supports pedestrian spaces and developing Stevens Point with a modern mindset.
“We have been such a car-centric society for decades. Urban planners are starting to realize that streets devoted entirely to cars aren’t cutting it for everybody. If you have those redesigned thoroughfares in a city, that is going to help people realize this is a fun city to live in. I am glad that we have been moving in that direction.”
For more information, you can visit McComb’s Facebook campaign page at https://www.facebook.com/McCombDistrict9/