The Vine Drive and Lemay Avenue intersection improvements discussion has potential to become the literal creation of “the other side of the tracks” divide in our city, and I want to believe Fort Collins is better than that.
I contend that city infrastructure is just as much of a key factor in our sense of community as any social component. I also completely understand that in today’s world infrastructure is often thought of simply in terms of being costly, yet necessary for our city to function.
It’s super easy to only see it through this lens today because we in the Choice City are the benefactors of exemplary infrastructure. Don’t believe me? Take a ride down the side streets of Cleveland, as I did this past week.
However, if you look back on community creation’s history, infrastructure was unquestionably a foundational aspect in establishing a mutual sense of community. It literally provided the lifelines that allowed a fort to become a town and now affords us the opportunity to grow into the city that we are yet to become.
I want to start by saying I completely appreciate and respect the need for city council and staff to consider all possible options while seeking to fund crucial infrastructure. But then again, I respect and appreciate appropriate community stewardship and responsible leadership decisions more.
Tolling a key linkage for current and future residents in the northeastern portion of our city would be a clear message of inequity and that we aren’t willing to invest in you as community members.
It would be a daily reminder that due to your timing and geographic location “on the other side of the tracks” you now must pay to live where you do. It says you are different, and if that isn’t a divide then I don’t know what is.
No matter what the degree of division or perceived impact, this would create an experience that no other resident in our community, oldest or newest, has ever had to experience and doesn’t project an inclusive community philosophy.
If this were a social equity factor, rather than infrastructure equity item, set to establish a real or perceived divide it would be crushed under its own weight almost immediately. Unless it focused on students, but that’s an issue for another time.
This decision isn’t just a single infrastructure decision, but rather a potential tone setter for how established Fort Collins links to, and views, our final growth management area frontier in the northeast. It’s truly a cornerstone investment in ensuring that we’re able to continue to welcome in new artists, employees, entrepreneurs, families, businesses and future community leaders to our community, regardless of where you live or how long you have been here.
To that end, I believe that the best way to fund the remaining $10 million for the project that’s not funded by growth’s contribution via the Transportation Capital Fund ($10 million) and current budget ($2 million), would be for the city to explore financing this using our robust reserves with the intention of then paying it back over time.
I don’t believe that this should be a regular practice, but given the timing and importance of this decision, it’s the perfect time to demonstrate that infrastructure today is still an integral component of community creation, and not simply about moving people and goods.
Clint Skutchan is the CEO and collaboration specialist at Two Way C3. Reach him at 970-402-0852 or 2WayC3@gmail.com