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 for me, 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 will be 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.com to 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 of Oakland. 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 for my fellow Oakland residents.