Top 5 Fort Collins issues to follow that aren’t COVID-19

Samantha Ye

Navigating COVID-19 may be Colorado State University’s top concern this fall, but for incoming students, there are plenty of other ongoing issues to get up-to-date on. For all the Fort Collins newcomers, here’s what to know in local news: 

1. Race and Bias at CSU

A deluge of racist incidents and controversies over the last four years at CSU sent the campus grappling with how to handle white supremacy in the community. 

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In fall of 2017, the infamous “Noose in Newsom” led the University to create their bias reporting system, which was recently refurbished this summer.

Two years and dozens of reports later, a Snapchat photo of four CSU students wearing blackface went viral — the University declined to take any punitive action. This set off a series of student demonstrations, including at CSU President Joyce McConnell’s first Fall Address where she announced the creation of the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative.

Over the summer, CSU expelled an incoming student for using violent racist language on social media, the first time such punishment has been dealt for such misconduct.

It remains to be seen how and if the campus climate will change this next year. For a more in-depth look at the history of bias at CSU, check out the above timeline.

2. Black Lives Matter in Fort Collins

The George Floyd protests which swept the nation didn’t miss Northern Colorado. 

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In June, Fort Collins joined in the calls for justice for Floyd, a Black man killed by police, and demands for police accountability among the broader Black Lives Matter movement.

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Before last summer, demonstrations for social justice were not uncommon in Fort Collins.

Last fall, #NotProudToBe organized a silent protest in response to years of unquelled campus bias incidents. Around 700 students attended.

Last summer, City residents joined in the Lights for Liberty rally in support of detained immigrants being held in inhumane detention camp conditions.

Major events from around the country and in the Northern Colorado area have often prompted vocal community responses. 

3. Sustainability and Climate Change

Climate change protest sign reading "OCeans are rising, so are we."
Various signs held in the air around Old Town Square, where hundreds gather for the Fort Collins Climate Strike on Sept. 27, 2019, as a part of the #FridaysForFuture movement started by climate activist Greta Thunberg. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

CSU is one of the top ranked U.S. universities for sustainability

Students have been not only supportive of the University’s eco-efforts, but they have been the driving force behind many of them.

In 2017, CSU pledged to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030 in response to a petition signed by over 4,300 students and staff, according to the ColoradoanIndividual projects like making the campus bee-certified and starting the University SkiSU bus were galvanized by concerned students. 

The Zero Waste Team is one student group pushing for increased action from the University, particularly on the issue of composting.

As for Fort Collins, the City’s Climate Action Plan includes a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, and City Council declared a Climate Emergency last year.

Alongside institutional efforts are local grassroots movements which have sprouted up over the decades to help keep Northern Colorado on track to meeting their environmental goals. 

As climate change looms among today’s immediate turmoil, sustainability efforts remain hot on the headlines.

4. U+2 and Housing Affordability

box outside of house
Photo illustration. (Megan McGregor | Collegian)

U+2 is a City ordinance that prohibits more than three unrelated people from living together in the same residence. While it was written in the 1960s, contemporary enforcement resumed, targeting student populations according to reporting from The Collegian

U+2 has been criticized for limiting housing supply and driving up financial burdens. The student government, Associated Students of CSU, has actively opposed the ordinance since 2015. Past administrations have pushed for “Me+3,” to allow up to four unrelated people per household. 

ASCSU partially funded a 2017 survey with the City to study the effects U+2, which found only about 47% of violators were college students.

The fact that U+2 affects more than college students’ rents has elicited concerns from the City about housing affordability as a whole, according to the Coloradoan.

A 2018 report for best performing cities done by the Milken Institute identified “scarce and overvalued” housing as Fort Collins’ main liability.

5. Homelessness in Fort Collins

During the 2016-17 protests, James DeBonis stated that “(he) will fight (the sit-lie ban) for the rest of (his) life.” (Collegian File Photo)

Nearly 400 people are experiencing long-term homelessness in Fort Collins, according to estimates from the Housing First Initiative, making homelessness one of the City’s more consistent ongoing issues.

Various support services, grassroots and institutionally organized, help provide for those experiencing homelessness, including the Murphy Center, the Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Catholic Charities. The FoCo Cafe supplies free food options.

Despite the resources, City actions have been met with no shortage of controversy. 

The City recently settled a lawsuit for putting unreasonable restrictions on the operations of a 24/7 homeless locker program run by the Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship. In 2017, the sit-lie ban, which was strongly protested by the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition, passed with amendments from City Council. Other protests for Occupy Jefferson and Food Not Bombs have peppered the City’s record on homelessness. 

The City now hopes to get homeless individuals into safer shelter during the pandemic after closing the temporary shelter at the Northside Aztlan Community Center.

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.