Mayor Karen Weitkunat said a lot has been accomplished the last two years during her term as mayor, but there is still work left to do and she feels the current leadership is strong in the city of Fort Collins.
“I think the question coming up is whether or not you need to change leadership in this city, and I apparently don’t think so,” Weitkunat said. “I think the record shows for itself that together we have faced the issues, solved the problems and we’re moving forward. For those reasons I’m seeking re-election.”
Weitkunat announced in January that she intended to run for a second term. City elections will be held April 2. Her opponent is Eric Sutherland, who is running for public office for the first time.
She said the three evergreen issues in the Fort Collins community –– the economy, transportation and housing –– have been coupled with a fourth major concern: water usage.
“I have to put water at the top,” Weitkunat said. “Without water we’ve got nothing.”
The High Park Fire alerted the community to how precarious water sources are, with the solution being not as simple as just conserving water, Weitkunat said. She strongly supports the Halligan Reservoir expansion –– something she wants to move forward with as soon as possible.
‘We need to work to try to expedite that and get that moving,” Weitkunat said. “It’s the cheapest, most sensible solution to solving our water issue.”
CSU has long term plans to increase enrollment to 35,000 students. With Fort Collins already experiencing a high level of growth, this influx will call for creative solutions to transportation and housing.
Weitkunat said the issue is being met head on with the Mason Corridor MAX Bus Rapid Transit construction project, which will allow students to have housing away from campus but still have direct access to the university. A student housing advisory committee has also been established to find a balance between affordable student housing while also maintaining the quality of life in single family neighborhoods.
“We’ve put a lot of faith in the Mason Corridor moving people because it directly connects to student housing,” Weitkunat said.
Julie Brewen, executive director of the Fort Collins housing authority, said Weitkunat has a long history of working with housing programs in the city.
“The mayor has been a huge affordable housing advocate,” Brewen said. “She always asks anytime there’s a discussion on the table, even if it’s tangential she always wants to understand that piece.”
As for the U+2 ordinance that limits the amount of non-family members that can live in a house, Weitkunat said the measure has been around for decades and has achieved its goal of limiting parking, parties and noise in single family neighborhoods –– something she doesn’t want to change.
“But what happened on the other side is it did escalate the housing issue,” Weitkunat said.
Weitkunat said CSU is an integral part of the Fort Collins community, both culturally and economically. While the city and university work together on many issues, she said developing a safe ride program with the Associated Students of CSU had a noticeable impact in the community, particularly the downtown area.
“That truly was a big success, helping students get from the downtown area back home…” Weitkunat said. “It was a major issue and we were able to work together on it, and I think it had extremely positive results.”
ASCSU President Regina Martel said student government always has a representative present at city council meetings. She said there haven’t been as many opportunities for collaboration between the city and student government as in the past, during which city council gathered input on transportation and housing concerns.
“I think the relationship is pretty positive, but there’s always stuff we can improve,” Martel said.
Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at email@example.com.