When parents are waiting to pick up their kids from the schools that sit along Porter Road, the traffic can get ugly in hurry and that continues to be a hot-button issue for Maricopa City Council candidates.
The four candidates gathered Thursday night for a forum at the Maricopa Unified School District headquarters, which was sponsored by the Maricopa Monitor and the Maricopa Rotary Club.
They had differing answers to this frustrating problem.
Rich Vitiello said the schools came up with a traffic plan and informed parents about it. But when parents form a line outside of the schools and no one understands how the patterns are supposed to work, it’s going to lead to chaos.
“But if we go out there and we make sure that the traffic patterns are followed properly in a timely fashion, we could get to a point where we won’t have that issue,” he said.
Vitiello didn’t seem to want to ticket parents but acknowledged at a point, it might be necessary.
“I think after a period of time, I don’t want to say a given time, but if we give the education, we put the money into it, we have the schools do what they got to do and then the parents still don’t do it. When do parents have accountability?
“I believe warnings will be given out. I don’t know if I want to ticket people. But again, if you happen to get three or four warnings for the exact same thing over and over again, don’t you think a ticket should be applied?”
Vice Mayor Vince Manfredi and Councilmember Henry Wade agreed parents aren’t the problem.
“Parents should not be held accountable for bad management of traffic patterns,” Wade said, adding it’s wrong “going at the parents and saying that it’s your fault that you have only one place to drive through and pick up your child and can only go that route and by the way, there’s 300 people behind you and 200 in front of you.”
“We’ve got to find a way to work through this process and not just penalizing parents. If not, we’re doing a disservice to the community.”
While it was discussed that schools had some accountability, Manfredi pointed out it really wasn’t all their fault either.
“Parents shouldn’t be held responsible for the failures of the schools to have the correct traffic patterns in place but it’s not a failure of the schools on purpose,” Manfredi said. “It’s a failure of the schools over time and the city letting it happen. The city can’t let it happen for 5, 10, 15 years and then come in right now and say, it’s got to change right now.”
Candidate Adam Leach felt the answer came down to encouraging carpooling and an effort by the police department to watch the situation.
“It is very tough when school is letting out with all the traffic it causes when parents are waiting to pick up their kids with their cars on the street. It’s not safe,” Leach said. “I think we need to look back at the parents and see what we can do to reduce the number of cars on the road if it’s carpooling or maybe create a way of giving a warning ticket to let them know this is going to be a hazard and maybe to involve a police presence.”
Manfredi said the new apartments coming in will play a role in fixing the problem. He said that the kids living in those apartments will replace the kids who are now going to the schools on Porter Road and will be able to walk to school, while the students whose parents have to drive them to school each day will be able to attend a school closer to their homes.
“The funny part is, in reality, it’s going to reduce the traffic at those schools,” Manfredi said. “Those schools can only take so many kids … And then the school district will have to redistrict some of their schools, and kids will get closer to their schools. So, it’ll actually reduce some of the school traffic via cars with more kids, walking and biking to school.”
InMaricopa will sponsor a forum on July 7 at 6 p.m. at the Maricopa Library and Cultural Center.
Editor’s Note: Manfredi is co-owner of InMaricopa.
Also, a quote from Henry Wade has been corrected to state that parents should not be accountable for bad management of traffic patterns.