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Letter to the Editor: The glass can be full

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Nearly a year ago, before I had the opportunity to serve as your city councilmember, I wrote an opinion piece in the Springfield Daily Citizen defending the bold vision that our community has laid out in Forward SGF.  That vision is only possible through a collaborative effort between neighborhoods, businesses and the city. I remain committed to that ideal and the role that the public sector must play, both with incentives and smart regulation, in order to make it a reality.

In my experience as an economic developer/city planner, it is not the responsibility of elected officials to support every proposal brought forth by the development community exactly as proposed. Instead, we should work collaboratively to maximize the benefit to the public, in a fiscally and legally responsible manner. The Southern Hills Transportation Development District represents a missed opportunity to more fully realize Forward SGF. 

With a transit system in need of investment, I had advocated to hold the project owners accountable to their commitment to public benefit and improve the bus stop serving the property. This bus stop serves up to 5,000 riders, according to CU Transit, many of whom likely use the stop to access the Missouri Job Center, one of the project location’s tenants.  Despite this, the bus stop offers only one bench, no protection from the elements and no direct pedestrian access to the property’s businesses and services. It seems common sense that a TDD would be the ideal method of supporting these needed improvements, but the approved project does not include any such investments.

Improving commercial corridors is rightly one of the top 10 initiatives to come out of Forward SGF. Beautification is an important component of that initiative – along with eight other goals, three of which relate to transportation and mobility. I sought to ensure that the “proactive use of existing government programs” would maximize benefit to both the project owners and the public. Instead, we have Council Bill 2023-146: a missed opportunity to improve our transit system and get Springfieldians back to work. The project owners are correct that I viewed this proposal as a half-empty glass of water, but only because I could see the opportunity to make it full.

—Brandon Jenson, Springfield city councilmember

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