ASCSU hosts City Council in roundtable event

Charlotte Lang

man speaks
Mayor Wade Troxell speaks with members of the Associated Students of Colorado State University in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Feb. 19. ASCSU and local government members discussed a variety of issues. (Ryan Schmidt | The Collegian)

The Associated Students of Colorado State University hosted a roundtable event with City Council members in order to discuss issues surrounding Fort Collins and the University.

In this event, six tables held three 20 minute conversations in order for the entire room to discuss six topics that impact the surrounding community. Senators and members of ASCSU could transition to whatever table they wanted in order to discuss topics they found important.

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“To have civil dialogue among and within our community is an important thing,” said Wade Troxell, mayor of Fort Collins.

These topics discussed throughout the evening included affordable housing, parking, public safety and transportation, environmental health and sustainability, homelessness and mental health.

It’s really good to see that the City of Fort Collins really cares about students and our needs.”

-Speaker of the Senate Blake Alfred

Affordable housing

“Housing can be really frustrating because you see these fancy apartments go up for $800 or more,” said Alissa Threatt, ASCSU’s speaker pro tempore. “It just feels unfair.”

The discussion of affordable housing focused on attainable housing, occupancy ordinances and homelessness.

Darin Atteberry, city manager for the City of Fort Collins, said affordable housing is a complex thing in Fort Collins. For the past 10 years, surveys in Fort Collins have listed traffic congestion and affordable housing as the top two problems.

Parking

Andre Bass, ASCSU’s director of multimedia, said the prices of permits make things unfair for students.

“When permits are expensive, students aren’t going to buy them,” Bass said.

Parking permits on- and off-campus took up a majority of the discussion as Councilmember Ross Cunniff led the group in conversation.

Cunniff also mentioned ideas for a storage parking solution.

“About 87% of students bring a car to campus, but only a few use it every day,” Cunniff said. “What we need is somewhere you can store your car and get to it easily.”

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Cunniff said this is something CSU and the City could partner on, as they have done with other transit.

Public safety and transportation

One of the issues that came up during discussions of public safety was vaping.

Deputy City Manager and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Mihelich said a lot of the marketing around vaping focused on various flavors. Now there’s a discussion about whether there should be regulation on flavors.

ASCSU senators at the table discussed the similarities between vaping and smoking and whether one was better than the other.

Environmental health and sustainability

Councilmember Ken Summers hosted a discussion that turned toward grid stability and utility use.

According to a handout the table received, the City of Fort Collins defines sustainability as “the long-term social, economic and environmental health of a community.”

Summers said Fort Collins’ electric and water usage is the same as it was 10 years ago. Prices for utilities rise because fixed costs, as well as other costs, need to be met by selling more resources or charging more for what is sold.

Homelessness

Atteberry told his table that there are three groups of homelessness that the City looks at. These are chronically homeless, transitional or episode homeless and travelers. 

Chronically homeless people are those with a serious dependency on drugs or similar substances or people with trauma in their history. 

“If these people don’t get help, they’re going to die on the street,” Atteberry said. 

The transitional homeless category focused on people who need help and resources in order to get back in the workforce. Travelers are people who come to town, get in trouble and then move to another place.

Atteberry urged his table to acknowledge homeless people they may pass on the street rather than pretend they don’t exist.

Mental health

During mental health discussions, Cunniff spoke about Larimer County’s high suicide rate, as well as a connection between high elevation and depression. He said he hopes that research into it can be pursued by the City.

“It’s worthwhile to try to help anyway,” Cunniff said. “It’s better to help, though, when you know the root causes.”

At the end of the night, Speaker of the Senate Blake Alfred said that the evening produced dynamic and productive conversations that focused on things such as food insecurity, homelessness, U+2 and housing affordability.

“It’s really good to see that the City of Fort Collins really cares about students and our needs,” Alfred said.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.