A Bridge to Nowhere
On July 14, City Council heard a presentation about improvements to Millwood Avenue that included a $3 million pedestrian bridge that would link Shenandoah University to the site of Clarion and Perkins. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that SU would be leasing the site of Clarion and Perkins to use as dorms for SU students.
Essentially, taxpayers would be funding a bridge to link two parts of SU's campus.
After the Winchester Star article on this topic, citizens shared myriad comments on Facebook. All but a few were vehemently opposed to this concept. Why should tax payer funds and city resources be used to build a bridge that benefits SU students when there are so many other urgent projects around the city that would be of much broader benefit.
This issue was forwarded almost unanimously at the July 14 meeting (only John Willingham of Ward 4 voted against it). After the citizen outrage, council members killed the plan at the July 28 council meeting.
This plan was still problematic, though. Even though a few people mentioned that the bridge would not require local funds, it does not matter. We pay state taxes too. These funds still come from us, the taxpayer. Moreover, per their website, Smart Scale says they are about "investing limited tax dollars in the right projects that meet the most critical transportation needs in Virginia. How was the city going to justify that pedestrian bridge as one of the "most critical transportation needs in Virginia"?
Another problem was the timing of the presentation. The deadline for Smart Scale grant funding is August 3, which means the 12th hour presentation of this plan prevents the city from applying for funds for a project that would benefit more citizens. I am for bringing back committees to City Council so the administrative side of the city can receive input before it invests resources and time on projects that are not aligned with the needs of citizens. Without committees, the only chance City Council has to discuss these issues is when they are presented on the agenda for work / regular meetings.
It was good to see the people speaking up and City Council changing their course of action. This needs to be the norm, however, not a special case. Local government should meet the needs of citizens and listen to our voices.