“In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”
Many decisions are not easy. Challenging decisions, where there are no clear-cut answers are particularly troublesome. For City Council, whose decisions will affect the citizens of Glenwood Springs for years, these decisions weigh very heavily. I have heard it said by those in this community that this Council does not listen to the citizens of Glenwood Springs. I believe the events within council chambers tonight might make at least a few people think otherwise.
The above Lincoln quote was from the Lincoln-Douglas Debate of 1858 and it has certainly held true this evening. Public sentiment has been building for an elevator option only for the Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, which, once again was evidenced by the citizens who addressed Council this evening.
While there are indeed benefits to having a ramp included in the design, the overwhelming public sentiment was that, at this time, given these circumstances, an elevator would be the best choice for Glenwood Springs for now and into the future.
Not everyone was in agreement. As Jeremy Hyman pointed out, Jim Charlier of Charlier & Associates, who presented a white paper to City Council analyzing the costs and benefits, had once stated that Glenwood needs to be at the forefront of the bicycle tourism movement due to the world class biking we have available. That means convenient access to downtown and a good connection with the bike paths and routes in the area. He did not think that could be met with an elevator only option.
However, many, including Leslie Bethel, Charlie Willman, Dean Gordon, Bob Patillo, David Hauter, Steve Carver, and others spoke of the vision for Glenwood. That vision does not include a ramp. We were reminded that the citizens of Glenwood, among them Floyd Diemoz, who also spoke this evening, were not content with the original vision of Glenwood Canyon and said, “we can do better” and “better” ended up with a truly world famous design that moves vehicles through our canyon without destroying it.
The citizens of Glenwood Springs are a tough group with extremely high standards and expectations. And, in this case, City Council listened. There were many on council who, in the beginning, staunchly favored a ramp. To paraphrase Councilman Stephen Bershenyi, it is sometime hard to see past what is already in place to vision what could be.
The ongoing operational costs were a sticking point for both Mayor Leo McKinney and Councilman Matt Steckler. “How are we going to pay for this?” was an issue raised by Mayor McKinney. That argument is absolutely valid. The city is facing a deficit in the 2014 budget. However, as Councilman Michael Gamba pointed out, this is not a cost that will be incurred tomorrow. The City has some time to figure out the best funding mechanism, which could include lease payments from the planned improvements along the north side of 7th Street to allow those restaurants to have outdoor dining, from street vendors along the pedestrian bridge or other sources.
Councilman Ted Edmonds pointed out that not only do we need to look at the potential costs the city will incur, but also the potential for enhanced revenue from an superior experience that both tourists and locals will have.
Usually the one listening and taking notes, I found it impossible not to add my two cents into the discussion this evening. As I mentioned to Council, I can – and have – argued both sides of this argument. I think being fiscally responsible is critical. However, in this case, the ongoing costs, even at the highest estimate, were less than I thought they might be. In this case, the vision, and the aspirations I have for Glenwood weighed more heavily than the potential ongoing cost. Like many others, I asked Council to consider the option proposed for two elevators with a backup generator.
So what were my reasons? I think it best meets the intent of the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City in 2011 as well as providing reasonable ADA access. The Comp Plan specifically stated that a goal was to “ensure an attractive community.” As Mr. Hyman and Mayor McKinney noted we need to continue to build interconnectivity and promote multimodal transportation. However, I don’t see the elevator option as excluding that. Additionally, there is ongoing discussion about ways to enhance the connectivity with the Rio Grande Trail and the Glenwood Canyon bike path.
So, yes, like several Council members, I have come full circle on this item after sifting through a lot of information and listening to the “public sentiment.” Council voted, by a five to two vote, to move forward with a recommendation for a double elevator with a backup generator. Councilor Stecker and Mayor McKinney cast the dissenting votes.
As Ms. Bethel stated, Glenwood Springs is at the cusp of some very exciting things happening. It is time to take Glenwood Springs from a really “cool” town into a world-class resort community. Now is not the time to cut corners. Now is the time to have the vision for what Glenwood “could” be as our business and civic leaders did years ago with Glenwood Canyon. And public . . . are you listening? Public sentiment and public involvement DOES matter. “With public sentiment, nothing can fail!”