Why Elections Matter

Two weeks from today is Election Day in Fort Collins. Most Fort Collins voters received their mail-in ballots in the mail yesterday.

All elections are important because 7 elected representatives are setting public policy that impacts the rest of us including business. We’ve already covered elections with you in previous Chamber SmartBrief Weekly e-newsletters.  You can find information here, here, here, here and here.

Why the elections matter is what I want touch on briefly. Let me break the topics down into two broad categories: substantive issues and civility.

Regarding the first, there are big issues coming our way:

  • The City Council has adopted climate action plan goals that are, to be charitable, “aspirational.” They are not achievable but a full-bore attempt to implement them would drive utility rates, real estate and rents through the roof. The new Council will need to figure out a reasonable plan or risk economic damage.
  • The relationship with Colorado State University is important and has been strained over the university’s decision to site its stadium on the main campus. The next Council will need to maintain that relationship while defending the interests of taxpayers relative to mitigating negative impacts of the new facility.
  • Water development decisions are on the horizon. The next Council will make the final decision on whether or not to expand Halligan Reservoir.
  • If the tax measures that are on the ballot pass (Ballot Issue 1 is the extension of a sales tax for public capital projects; Ballot Issue 2 is the extension of a tax for street maintenance), the new Council will oversee their implementation.  If they fail, the Council will be scrambling to rebuild the budget.
  • Housing affordability is a growing issue. If the election goes one way, the Council may be inclined to pare back some fees and restrictions that drive up costs. If it goes the other direction, expect government-mandated ‘solutions.’
  • The economy is relatively strong compared to many places. Challenges do exist, however, relative to replacing good paying jobs lost in the Great Recession. We rank 7th in the nation in under-employment, so resting on our laurels is not a good option.
  • An alternative to a strong private economy is a mandate-centric economy. Ideas like local minimum wages or living wages have been whispered. Depending on the outcome of the election, they would remain whispers or get pushed to the front of the community agenda.
  • Homelessness is a growing concern. The next Council will have to deal with some contentious policy options.

The second category I mentioned is civility. The new City Council will need to work hard to renew the sense of general goodwill that is part of Fort Collins’ natural personality. The long tussle over the on-campus stadium has become personal and unpleasant.

Three weeks from today a new City Council will be sworn in. They have big work in front of them. That’s why elections matter.