Quietly and patiently attentive, nine-year old Julia sat with her mother as the municipality went about conducting its normal matters of business. There were reports of various departments including the police, updates from all six councilmembers on their activities last month, scheduled presentations, and even a half-hour question and answer period regarding an issue with the Little League Fields.
One by one the mayor and council went through the agenda for the evening. Then came the moment Julia had been waiting on for over an hour. The words came from 4th ward councilman Modesto Miranda, “I make a motion that the public portion be open.”
With approval from council to open the public portion, Julia stepped forward, sat down, and began, “Hello, my name is Julia.”
A brief interruption followed with Mayor Accardi asking Julia if she wanted her mother or her councilwoman or even the mayor to sit with her to make her feel more comfortable. Julia simply stated, “No, I’m good.”
“Okay,” the mayor responded as those in attendance smiled and paid attention as Julia gave a handout about her important matter.
“Many people drive way too fast on my street and that is very dangerous for the children,” Julia stated, “I would like a speed bump or at the least a sign that says ‘Slow – Children At Play’.”
Julia continued with her presentation and mentioned that she and her friend, Madison, went around and received 137 signatures for her petition to have a speed bump or, at the very least, a sign put up to keep the children on her block safe. To stress the seriousness of the matter, Julia even mentioned that there were two (2) hit-and-run incidents by her house. She then finished by plainly stating, “The safety of Roselle Park’s children depends on you.”
Julia started her crusade to make her block safer in November of last year. As Julia’s mother recalled, over the past decade their street has seen more families with young children move in and as most backyards in the neighborhood are small, the children tend to gather in the front yards and on the sidewalk to bike, rollerblade, and play. Being between two of the main streets in Roselle Park, vehicles tend to use many residential streets, including Julia’s, as a shortcut to avoid stop lights. Cars have also been known to make quick k-turns on her street when they take a wrong turn at the Five Points intersection down the road.
“We are very proud of Julia, not only for her confidence and speaking ability, but also for her writing ability,” her mom stated, citing that Julia wrote the speech she prepared for council herself.
Mayor and council, impressed with the young lady’s willingness to address her government and bring the matter before them, attentively spoke on different ideas to resolve her problem. The mayor stated that he would have Police Chief Paul Morrison look into it to make sure the right thing gets done. Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson recommended that Julia’s matter be forwarded to Union Township since it is a street on the border of the towns and look into having possible joint patrols. Councilman Modesto Miranda even stated he would bring the matter before the Public Safety Committee and take time to have them observe the area.
Councilwoman Torres, who is the representative for where Julia lives, mentioned that Julia came to her with this issue.
“She takes this very seriously as do the other children on her block, ” then turning to Julia, the councilwoman thanked her, “I’m very proud of you for coming here.”
Even veteran citizen activist Jacob Magiera complimented Julia on her public portion, “That was a hard act to follow.”