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To the Newton stoplight commission

Published: Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 9:46 a.m. CST

After snoozing five iPhone alarms, taking a quick shower and grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door, my workday starts like many great Newtonians. I begin my treacherous five minute commute with a heavy heart and a hint of optimistic hope. I know the time will soon come where the hands of fate will snip the electrical threads or keep them signaled green for long enough to let me pass. While I have held silent with the exception of grumblings to my family, I can no longer remain mute. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “the ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort …[but] in moments of controversy.” I fear that our proud and illustrious town, a town built on the imagination of countless pioneering Iowans that came before us, has a glaring deficiency that we must confront — the stoplight on 12th Street and First Avenue.

For my fellow Newtonians who daily have to face this trial, the agony of not knowing whether the light will be red or green when they get there is almost too much to bear. The light, without exaggeration, will stay green for approximately 5 seconds before turning red again to let the upper-class First Avenue entourage cruse a merry 35 while the rest of us waddle at a measly 25. In turn, the light can stay red for hours. Indeed, I have read an entire book, memorized the German language and learned to juggle while balancing on my head in the time it took for the light to turn green. The only glimmer of goodness in this manifest crucible is the tremendous amount of camaraderie built. As one driver looks deep into the eyes of the driver at the other side of the intersection, the complete and utter understanding of facing this trial together is a bond that can never be severed. In fact, I attended a wedding last week of a couple who met at the stoplight. The trial of waiting for the light to turn green is a now sought after form of marriage preparation.

With all concerns and consequences considered, I call the valiant men and women of Newton’s stoplight commission to change the 12th Street and First Avenue stoplight from a weighted system to a regularly timed stoplight. You must act quickly — the trivial first world need of 10s of Newtonians depends on it.      

Timothy Stammeyer  


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