OUR VIEW: Council election comes at critical time
We are gratified to see strong interest in the Glenwood Springs City Council election — and an apparent realistic view among most of those running that a new Grand Avenue bridge should, indeed, be built.
Many of the candidates are saying, “Let’s study a bypass, too.”
We can accept that campaign position as a practical necessity for candidates, even if “study” is as far as it ever really goes. Probably the easiest way to motivate a bloc of opposition voters would be to tell the truth and say that a real bypass is prohibitively expensive if not physically impossible — before we even get to the plausibility of reaching local consensus on a route.
Because of that, here’s hoping that the false choice of the bridge versus a bypass doesn’t distract campaign discussion too much from Glenwood’s real issues.
Traffic and transportation are at the top of the list.
So is growth, even if some residents are averse to the notion. The alternative to growth is stagnation and decay.
So let’s hear the council candidates address how Glenwood can grow and update and, very much related to that, how it can realistically tackle its traffic and transportation problems.
If we accept that a new Grand Avenue bridge is a correct choice, we can start to look at how to accomplish smaller but doable things to ease congestion, improve flow and make downtown more pedestrian friendly. We also can look at the significant issues beyond the Grand Avenue corridor downtown.
Let’s look at some of those:
• Time is of the essence for city leaders — council members pressing Manager Jeff Hecksel and being creative themselves — to find a solution that makes Eighth Street a permanent straight connection to Midland Avenue. The Colorado Department of Transportation will do that as part of its bridge detour, but if the city can’t negotiate a solution with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Union Pacific, that straight shot will be torn up and current, clunky traffic flow will resume after bridge construction.
• The city should be the biggest advocate for helping pedestrians cross Grand Avenue downtown. We have called for a pedestrian bridge at Ninth Street and been given a number of reasons why that may not be a great option. Maybe so. But a solution is needed. Mayor Leo McKinney is right that CDOT cares much more about the flow of traffic through town than about tourists and locals being able to conveniently walk across the street. Even getting back in your car if you are lucky enough to park on Grand can be frustrating because of the traffic. All of it inhibits commerce — visitors and sales tax revenue.
Obstacles notwithstanding, we are sure of this point: A solution is absolutely needed to boost pedestrian friendliness working within the reality of a busy state highway through the heart of town. As is the case with Eighth Street, the city must be persistent and creative in bringing players together and finding a solution.
• Money must be found and committed — perhaps a public-private partnership through the Downtown Development Authority is best here — to capitalize on space being opened up on the north side of the Colorado by the new bridge configuration. A walkable, bikeable plaza with new business opportunities will be there for the taking.
• A plan, beyond talk and hand-wringing, is needed to improve streets on the south edge of town — Four Mile Road and Midland, specifically. These beaten-up, constrained routes held back opportunities twice last year, posing major concerns for the now-withdrawn Glenwood Ridge housing proposal and the also-withdrawn new FedEx facility near the airport.
These are complex issues, much harder to talk about than a mythical bypass because they mean real negotiations, legal issues and money. None of them are free, and the chances of help from Garfield County have gotten slimmer with reduced natural gas activity.
That’s why electing people who talk about solutions and offer leadership is critical.
For the PI’s part, we consider this council election critical. Glenwood can be proactive in working with CDOT, RFTA and other players or it can, in effect, have decisions made for it, which risks stagnation and decay.
We will profile each candidate and press on these and other issues. We’ll print your letters, and we’ll comment vigorously on what we hear from the candidates.
We’ll tell you everything we can possibly learn about this election and these candidates.
But we can’t make you vote.
American elections bear two somewhat obvious but also somewhat subtle truths.
1. Candidates favored by the majority of the population don’t always win. Rather, winners are favored by the majority of those who actually vote. Barack Obama may or may not have been the preferred candidate of a majority of Americans in 2008 and 2012, just as George W. Bush may or may not have been the preferred candidate of the majority of Americans in 2004. Obama’s data-driven “ground game” shifted the makeup of the electorate sufficiently for him to win, just as the Republicans’ success in putting social issues on state ballots in 2004 brought Christian conservatives to the polls in record numbers.
2. People get the government they deserve. This is particularly true of those who don’t bother to vote.
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