*Note: This essay was published in the Pikes Peak Bulletin print edition on June 20, 2019. It can also be found online here, an image of the column is included below, as well as the text of the essay.
We were in Salida when I saw him. He was about my daughter’s age, fixed in his wheelchair as grass to the ground. I glanced at his father and wondered about how difficult everyday kid activities must be. That’s when I realized: if he lived in Manitou Springs, he couldn’t use our library.
That’s because our historic Carnegie library in Manitou isn’t accessible to the disabled, the only such building in the Pikes Peak region that’s not ADA-compliant.
What if that he was born here? Or what about older folks that have difficulty getting around? Are we all just an accident away from being cut-out of lifelong learning? All these smaller questions naturally provoke one much larger question: What makes a city great?
Is it sheer size? Or maybe the fundamentals, like good roads?
I’d submit that a community is more than just bricks and buildings, it’s programs and people too. Put another way, people don’t move to Manitou for the quality of the asphalt, though that matters, they come in equal measure for the parades that move over the asphalt known as “Manitou Avenue.” We should consider our social infrastructure—the places and organizations that bring us together—with as much importance as we do the rest of the things our city does. Unfortunately, social infrastructure is often overlooked, which is in part why the Carnegie library building hasn’t been fixed.
That’s why I, with others (listed below), have spent many months building the Manitou Springs Arts, Culture, and Heritage (MACH) Initiative. (We call it the “match.”) It’s based on similar efforts all over the place, most notably in Denver, and it’s designed to support fully one-third of the long-term actions identified in 2017’s Plan Manitou as well as several parts the City’s emerging project plan. All our most up-to-date work, including details that go well beyond what we have space for here, are on our website at ManitouACH.org.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: by simply putting back a tiny part of the City’s sales tax that elapsed last year, paid mostly by non-residents, the people of Manitou can fix the Carnegie building and sustain arts, culture, and our unique heritage for today and future generations.
Let’s walk through each individual part of the MACH.
In real terms, the MACH’s sales tax component is about one penny per latte—again, paid overwhelmingly by out-of-towners. While it represents a miniscule fraction of City revenues, it does generate roughly $300,000 each year—enough to care for and sustain our critical social infrastructure needs.
MACH revenues would enable the City to modernize and expand the historic Carnegie building, thereby avoiding hefty maintenance fees and potential ADA-lawsuits. From there, MACH funds would be sent to the Manitou Springs Creative District for administration, and within some guidelines, final decisions for distribution would be made by local citizens endorsed by City Council (just like any other board or commission).
The MACH Board’s intent is to provide ongoing, sustained support to the two dozen registered non-profits right here in Manitou Springs that collectively serve tens of thousands annually—and Manitou residents daily.
Interested? Want to know more? Check us out at ManitouACH.org!
And if you think the MACH matters, our Carnegie building matters, our social infrastructure here in Manitou matters—then we need your time and talents. Come to our community engagement event for the Historic Carnegie Building Project on June 26th at City Hall (see inset announcement). Or come to my talk on Manitou and World War I on June 29th at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center (see manitouspringsheritagecenter.org for more information). If music’s your jam, we’ll be out at the lawn concerts on Tuesday nights in front of the Carnegie library building. When you run into myself, or one of the other team members, we’d be happy to talk about the MACH and what it can do for Manitou.
Above all, we need your vote this November. The MACH Initiative will be on the ballot and we hope to earn not just a “yes,” but a “heck yes” from all of Manitou.
That’s what this is really about. Moving Manitou forward. All of Manitou—young or old, wealthy or not, kids in wheelchairs and those who walk just fine. Because that’s what makes a city great: a commitment to allmembers of the community. That’s what the MACH does, and it’ll only happen with your help. Together, we can move Manitou forward.