Mayor Ron Corbett says he hopes residents will wave or honk, but he’s outfitting himself in a traffic-cone-orange shirt and yellow neon running shoes just in case.
Even the bright colors, he concedes, won’t help if an angry constituent wants to run him over.
Corbett on Tuesday took to the city’s streets to run the first four miles of what he said will be 200 miles of running in the next five to six weeks in a campaign to see up close just how bad the city’s streets really are and to drive home the point that he wants to fix them and has a plan to do so.
Corbett said the day after Labor Day, which was Monday, has been something of a traditional start of the City Hall campaign season, and so he decided to begin his street-running escapade on Tuesday. In so doing, he is launching two campaigns — his bid for re-election to a second four-year term as mayor and his effort to convince voters to extend the city’s 1-percent local-option sales tax for 10 years to fix streets.
The risk of getting hit by a car on the city streets seems less than taking a hit in the mayoral race by pushing a tax issue while trying to win re-election.
But Corbett, who is not expected to have a substantial challenger, said the greater risk was in not having ideas for the future to better the city.
“I have a bias toward action,” Corbett said with one foot in a pothole on Eighth Avenue SW by Veterans Memorial Stadium and Kingston Stadium. “When I ran for election four years ago, I told people we would end the culture of delay and replace it with the culture of action, that we would make some decisions.”
He said people haven’t agreed with all the decisions, but he said he has delivered on promises to use local contractors and local labor to rebuild the city’s flood-hit public buildings and to reduce the City Hall impediments to private investment and development.
“This time I’m campaigning heavily on fixing our streets,” Corbett said.
The mayor said he has studied the city’s street map, and plans to run 40 miles of streets in each of the city’s five City Council districts. The city has more than 650 miles of streets, but he plans to touch most of the streets at intersections as he runs 200 miles of them.
“It’s the residential streets that I really want to focus on because that is the major focus of our plan to fix our streets,” he said.
Corbett said he expected to schedule and hold a few campaign forums as he reaches certain milestones along the way. He also plans to create YouTube videos about his runs and air them on his campaign website where he calls them “Corbett TV.”
The mayor said District 1 council member Kris Gulick and District 3 council member Pat Shey, both who are seeking re-election, likely will join him along the way.
Gulick on Tuesday said he was eager to see which streets in District 1 that Corbett planned to take on.
“I hope he doesn’t have me on every hilly stretch of the northeast side,” Gulick said.
He joined Corbett on Labor Day for the annual mayors’ bike ride in the city, and he said riding bicycles and running on streets can give a person an appreciation for just how bad some city streets are.
Gulick invited residents to stop the mayor and him as they run through the neighborhoods.
“I’ll be glad to have a little break,” he said.
Corbett said the decline of the city’s streets has been two decades in the making.
The city, he said, could raise property taxes and take on debt to accelerate its plans to fix streets. But the local-option sales tax, which is also paid by those use the city’s streets but live elsewhere, is a better, fairer option, he added.
“There’s probably a less taxing way on my body to make the point and to get re-elected,” Corbett said. “But I think it’s important to see the condition of the streets. And after all, people’s cars get a little wear and tear on them — their suspensions, shocks and alignments.”