Throwing in the Towel
It's official, I'm not running for City Council again. Four and a half years isn't enough time to make significant change and I guess that it what is bothering me the most. I remember my first few council meetings, I was so green, so naive about how long everything takes to move in government. I recall coming home from a council meeting and complaining to my husband about what a fellow (more seasoned) council member had said that "the wheel of government moves slowly". Just thinking about that statement still gets me a little hot under the collar. It is so true. I have been in countless meetings where we made a decision, found founding and then we waited... and we waited... and we waited.
An example of this is our safe streets initiative which, combined with economic development is the platform that I ran on. We are just now seeing progress on some traffic calming/safety improvements to our Highway 50 corridor. Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the little mountain town of Gunnison, we are bisected by two state highways. Highway 50 cuts our little town almost in half from east to west and Highway 135 bisects us north to south. Who has control over these arteries of our communities? The state. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), whose main goal is to MOVE vehicles throughout the state has the ultimate authority over these two roads. The town however calls highway 50 Tomichi Avenue, where kids who live in the south end of town have to cross in order to get to school in the northwest corner of town. We, the community call highway 135, Main Street, which as it sounds, is where most of our businesses call home and the road that any kid that lives east of it has to cross to get to the schools on the northwest side of town.
Are you getting my drift?
What the state sees as its prime roads for the trucking industry to utilize, we the town of Gunnison, see as the roads where we live, work, and thrive. So, in order to provide safer streets for our community, we have to jump through great big bureaucratic hoops in order to get something as simple as two crosswalks installed so that our kids, citizens and visitors can cross safely from one end of the town to the other. I have been working on this simple project for almost 4 years now. The crosswalks are just now being constructed! It is hard to have a sense of victory when it has taken so very long.
There are many things like this that I could talk about, like the slowest move towards economic sustainability that I have ever seen despite the fact that we are an Opportunity Zone, and have gone through one of the most intensive community outreach processes via One Valley Prosperity Project. The fact that higher ups from all of the "stakeholder" groups waste so much time in what could appear to be simply, meeting for the sake of meeting. That those stakeholder representatives are often the exact SAME people from committee to committee. That those committees just appear to perpetually be in a state of meeting but not actually DOING.... The list goes on and my observations of ineffective decision making are long.
Bottom line is I'm not throwing in the towel. I am not walking away. Sure, I am leaving City Council but just because I don't waste half my day in meetings doesn't mean I won't be working hard for this town and its future. I have learned so many lessons during my time on council and one of them is that the voice of the people is sometimes heard more loudly and weighed more heavily that the vote of an elected official. I will be a voice for my town's future. I will return to council chambers but now I'll be on the other side of the dias.
Now, hold my towel while I go kick some ass.