By Wesley Robinson. This post originally appeared on PennLive on January 26, 2017.

As adjunct philosophy professor at three institutions of higher learning, Matt Johnson aims to bring a different perspective governing Lancaster if elected to its city council.

Johnson recently announced his candidacy for city council at Tellus 360, outlining his efforts to draw attention to the aspects of the city that need improvement as well as his desire to foster a culture of collaboration to get things done. That change in culture would connect the community to decision makers and help bring city government to the people, Johnson said.

Johnson, who is originally from the Holtwood area, has lived in Lancaster for the past 15 years. He currently is an adjunct philosophy professor at Temple University, Millersville University and Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. He is the grandson of David Rineer, former Lancaster police chief and a Republican, who he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with on issues.

One area where Johnson and his grandfather agreed was on the need for community policing and having more Lancaster residents as officers. Johnson said returning to a model that stresses city residency would make law enforcers jobs easier and create a path for mutual trust.

“It’s not just about stopping crime, but about building good community relationships,” Johnson said.

In working with various Democrat campaigns in the city, Johnson noted that he has seen the lack of prosperity in the city’s neighborhoods in the southeast and southwest portions of the city in comparison to other areas where development resources have been devoted. Because of this, Johnson said his campaign will be one where people canvassing on his behalf will also participate in service projects to help engage and show campaign’s dedication to Lancaster and its people. Speaking on the issue of improving prosperity of Lancaster, Johnson said the goal of the council should be to revitalize those neighborhoods without the effects of gentrification.

As an example of an opportunity to forge community collaboration, Johnson referenced a project at East Chestnut Mennonite Church that is cleaning up an old nuisance bar in order to provide low-cost housing for homeless people, victims of domestic violence and those in need. He said the idea to turn Shenk’s Cafe, the site of a tragic November 2014 murder, into affordable housing was the “the greatest idea in the world.”

That idea helped get people together to address a problem that people complain about, Johnson said. While government wasn’t directly involved, he said the council can help with connecting people to such endeavors and create additional development in ways the city hasn’t seen before.

“I don’t have delusions about what a city council member can do solely through legislative means,” Johnson said. “I want to be more inclusive and get people involved.”

 

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