PI takes a prognostic peek into the 2018 crystal ball | PostIndependent.com

PI takes a prognostic peek into the 2018 crystal ball

Continuing our New Year’s tradition with the flip of the calendar to 2018, the Post Independent offers up its annual predictions for the new year.

In years past we’ve tried to keep it serious, but we aren’t at all averse to mixing it up with some slightly out there or just down right preposterous prophecies.

Our track record on the serious front isn’t too bad. For 2017, we accurately foresaw that the new Grand Avenue Bridge would open ahead of schedule. It did just that the evening of Nov. 6 after a big celebration and community bridge walk, a full 10 days and 7 hours ahead of the target date.

Another of our predictions became painfully true when we said traffic through Glenwood Springs during the near-three-month bridge closure and Colorado Highway 82 detour would be worse than any of us could have imagined. Or, maybe we did imagine it, but just didn’t want to believe it.

Amid all that frustration, road rage was fairly minimal with the exception of the occasional birds flying and bad language emanating from open car windows — predictable.

And an increase in bus ridership, bike commuting, walking and general errand schedule shuffling helped to ease the pain, which we also predicted.

We were, however, off base in our prediction that an anti-marijuana candidate would run for and win a seat on Glenwood Springs City Council, hell bent on closing down or severely restricting all the pot shops in town. Nor did Council take a hard swing to the right, as we thought might be the case.

And we didn’t foresee the unfortunate fallout when about two dozen teachers were unexpectedly displaced due to planned student enrollment shifts before the much-anticipated opening of the new Riverview K-8 school south of Glenwood.

On the national front, we couldn’t have been more correct in predicting that Democrats in Congress would give the new and much-maligned President Donald Trump about as much cooperation as Republicans gave Barack Obama during the previous eight years.

So, just as undaunted as we would have been if we’d completely struck out last year, here goes for our 2018 predictions.

seriously, folks

• After a month with virtually no snow accumulation, the heavens will open in mid-January. By mid-March some will be saying, “enough already,” while those who know snow = water = money = happy will say “keep it coming” well into May. As a local ski shop employee recently reminded us, average snowfall is average snowfall. Let’s hope for a heap of it to increase the numbers and start the new year right.

• As the Grand Avenue Bridge Project moves toward final, all’s-said-and-done completion in June, Glenwood Springs’ planning efforts will continue to be focused on the various post-bridge redevelopment projects that have already begun to take shape. Despite the desires of some city leaders and business interests to see priority given to the river confluence area and the newest diamond in the rough, Sixth Street, real needs and more immediate desires will funnel the money to rebuilding Seventh Street and the newly created plaza area under the south end of the bridge.

• In the same vein, a final design for the long-anticipated and desperately needed reconstruction of South Midland Avenue will be selected, and construction will be scheduled to begin in early 2019. That’s soon after completion of the new, $8 million 27th Street (Sunlight) Bridge and related improvements, due by the end of 2018.

• A housing needs assessment being funded by local governments from Glenwood Springs to Aspen will find that there’s just as much need for medium-sized, modestly-priced for-sale housing as there is for middle-income workforce rental units. The only way to get there, though, is to convince voters to create and fund a regional housing authority. While there will be a push to get such a question on the ballot this year, the consensus will be to wait another year.

• Social media protests will be abundant when the new Hanging Lake crowd control plan goes into effect. But, by mid-summer, after people get used to the new, mandatory shuttle and fee-based permit system, the popular hiking trail will be in better shape than usual. That will calm the complainers, who really just want continued access to the beautiful site.

• Glenwood Springs City Council will agree to allow electric-pedal-assist bicycles, or E-bikes, on all city bike/pedestrian paths on a permanent basis, building on the growing popularity of the alternative mode of transportation that came during the Grand Avenue Bridge closure. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board, on the other hand, will balk at allowing E-bikes on the greater reaches of the Rio Grande Trail. But it won’t matter, because there won’t be any enforcement and people will ride them anyway.

• On the Garfield County political front, an election year that will see a county commissioner seat, the sheriff, the coroner and other county-level elected offices up for grabs will be robust. The reinvigorated Garfield Democratic Party will come up with a formidable candidate to run against Republican Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, but the incumbent will win a third term by the usual comfortable margin delivered by west-end county voters.

• Garfield County’s own Karl Hanlon will win the Democrats’ nomination to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat against incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton. Vigorous, intelligent debate on issues common to rural interests and the mountain resort areas alike will give the incumbent all he can handle.

Well, maybe

• President Trump, with bipartisan support in Congress, will push through a massive U.S. infrastructure rehabilitation and new construction package that will put Obama’s stimulus spending to shame, not to mention the national debt incurred under the latter.

• Said infrastructure bill will include the final piece of the funding puzzle to build Glenwood Springs’ and Garfield County’s South Bridge project, which will now have a price tag north of $65 million.

• Funding for an updated Glenwood Springs Airport master plan will get political. That will be amid concerns it might raise serious questions about the long-term value of maintaining a municipal air strip when weighed against workforce housing needs and the prospect of lowering the cost to build South Bridge. As Ward 5 City Councilman Jonathan Godes reported to fellow council members from a recent Airport Board meeting, “It’s an issue for them.”

• Glenwood Springs and other Colorado home rule municipalities will make some headway in their ongoing efforts to collect sales taxes on local internet retail transactions with passage of, either or both, the Marketplace Fairness Act in the U.S. Senate and the Remote Transactions Parity Act in the House. Both would serve to compel out-of-state retailers to collect remote sales tax based on the location of the consumer. Glenwood Finance Director Steve Boyd estimates the city could potentially collect an extra $1 million a year in taxes from online retailers.

• Colorado’s new open primary elections in June, approved by state voters in 2016, will give greater power to unaffiliated voters, who make up the largest voting bloc in the state. With equal weight to registered Republicans and Democrats, independents will tilt the candidate selection process in favor of more populist candidates over the party-backed favorites.

• Third-party candidates will also benefit from the move away from the party elites, and will begin running legitimate candidates and campaigns against the major party candidates. Locally, look for a possible Libertarian challenge to Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario. We’ll see where that goes.

• Construction will not begin on the long-delayed new Kroger/City Market store in Carbondale. Instead, existing development rights will be sold to Amazon.com, new owners of the Whole Foods chain, clearing the way for the valley’s second Whole Foods market.

in our wildest dreams

• E-bikes and regular bicycles will become so hugely popular in Glenwood Springs that the former traffic backups on Grand Avenue will be replaced by massive afternoon tire-to-tire backups on the Glenwood River Trail all the way out to Buffalo Valley.

• Always on the forefront of innovation, Parachute will approve the state’s first combo drive-in movie theater and retail marijuana business. Opening night will feature a Cheech and Chong movie marathon and a package deal including four joints, a variety pack of Funyuns and samples of the latest carbonated beverage to hit local shelves, frack-a-cola.

• The Colorado Rockies will pick up where they left off in, well, June of last year actually, going up by 10 games in the NL West, only to fizzle … but wait! Blockbuster trade deadline deal brings Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Alex Colome to Coors Field and … what? what?

• Jay Cutler returns to the Denver Broncos for one last hurrah to top off his, ahem, stellar career, leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl they would have won in 2010 were it not for the evil Sith Lord Belichick sending his young apprentice McDaniels on that little mission.

• President Donald Trump leaves the Republican Party and declares himself an independent, denounces the two-party duopoly, and signs an executive order opening up the presidential debates to just about anyone who says to themselves one day while looking in the mirror, “Hey, maybe I should be president.”

(Post Independent staffers Carla Jean Whitley and Alex Zorn contributed to this report.)

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