Last Saturday, the CSU community had a remarkable opportunity.
We didn’t have to go down to Denver to talk to legislators, like ASCSU did on Monday. Three of our state legislators came to us.
Representatives John Kefalas and Randy Fischer and Sen. Bob Bacon discussed taxes, health care, higher education and climate change in the Natural Resources Building.
Students and community members asked questions and were able to chat face-to-face.
It was what should happen in a representative democracy – people expressed their opinions, legislators responded and asked questions back.
It was a dialogue of the best kind, even if you didn’t always agree with what everyone had to say.
It wasn’t the first time this has happened, either.
All three of them have held multiple town-hall meetings here at CSU. And if you were thinking that it’s only Democrats who visit the ivory tower of academia, Rep. Kevin Lundberg and Sen. Steve Johnson – both Republicans – have made frequent visits to campus as well.
All the appearances by state legislators on campus make me wish our city council were as forward-looking.
I’ve lived in Fort Collins and been a student at CSU for almost three years, and I can count the number of times I’ve seen city council members engage in this kind of dialogue with students.
Actually, I don’t need hands to count this one. I’ve never seen it.
Not once in that span of time have city council members held a town hall meeting, dialogue or open forum on campus.
To be fair, city council, at their meetings every other Tuesday, has a public comment session.
Students often do avail themselves of this opportunity. However, giving public comment at an official meeting, where city council members mainly just listen, is very different from actually engaging in conversation and answering questions from constituents.
The CSU campus and a good portion of the surrounding area lie in the district represented by Kelly Ohlson.
Ohlson is the mayor pro-tem, second in line of authority on the city council and the de facto leader of the council’s four-person “progressive” majority.
More than that, he’s a CSU alumnus, so he should know better than most that the energy, talent and, yes, the money students bring to Fort Collins helps drive the local economy and make Fort Collins a unique and vibrant place to live.
He should also know that, despite all the stereotypes about young people, we actually do vote, and after what promises to be a record-turnout election in November 2008, we’ll be on the voter rolls when he’s up for re-election in April 2009.
Kelly Ohlson has said that he’s “not afraid” of free speech and being exposed to new and challenging ideas.
I challenge Councilman Ohlson to come to campus and hold a dialogue with students.
Let’s talk together about the three-unrelated law, about the noise ordinance and about cooperation between the university and the city.
Let’s talk about making Transfort work for students and improving the safety of city streets.
I’ve singled out Kelly because his district includes the CSU campus, but he’s not alone.
Mayor Doug Hutchinson, also a CSU alumnus, represents the entire town. Councilmen David Roy and Ben Manvel represent some of the student-heavy areas north and east of campus. We’d like to talk to them, too.
If state legislators can find time in their busy schedules to hold town meetings and engage with students, city council members, who don’t even have to drive down to Denver, should be able to as well.
It’s long past time for our city council to come back to school.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry Ph.D student. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.