*Note: This essay was published in the Pikes Peak Bulletin print edition on October 24, 2019. It can also be found online here, an image of the column is included below.
I forget my keys sometimes. Other times, it’s an important ID card I need for work. It’s even worse when I’m on dad duty: I’ve forgotten my daughter’s water bottle, sweatshirt, and even her school bag. And, unfortunately, that’s not all—it’s not just stuff.
It’s words too. As a writer, I spend a lot of time going back-and-forth with editors, and sometimes they’ll ask for edits, and they’re reasonable changes, and somehow they just slip my mind. I don’t know why. They just do.
So when I read a guest essay in last week’s Bulletin containing clearly incorrect statements, written by a quartet of city council members acting in their personal capacities, I could relate. Forgetfulness is common. Memory can be tough. Recalling what happened is tricky.
Writing is even trickier, and what goes on the page can unintentionally diverge from what the author meant. But these co-authors occupy a position of privilege in Manitou Springs. Their words carry weight, especially in the weeks leading up to an important vote on the Manitou Springs Arts, Culture, and Heritage initiative (the MACH appears on the backside of this year’s ballot form, identified as “2D”).
Mr. Bob Todd was the essay’s lead author; the piece was co-signed by Ms. Becky Elder, Mr. Jay Rohrer, and Ms. Susan Wolbrueck. In it, Mr. Todd wrote, “As a reminder, the library expansion…has not been vetted by the necessary full public process nor approved by the Planning Commission or City Council.”
That statement is misleading, at best.
Mr. Todd, and his co-writers, should know better because they ought to remember February 17, 2017. That night, three of the four co-writers (Mr. Todd, Ms. Elder, and Mr. Rohrer) voted in favor of the architectural plans for the Carnegie library rehabilitation—part of that night’s unanimous vote to step toward fixing the fact that our library is the last (and only) in the entire Pikes Peak region to routinely discriminate against the disabled.
Even if Mr. Todd and company choose to somehow downward define that vote as meaningless or not applicable—they cannot in good conscience claim publicly that the matter hasn’t received attention and approval on some level from the City Council. Because they did, in fact, vet and approve plans for the library only two years ago.
Of course, this is Manitou Springs, and we forgive mistaken memories. And that’s a good thing, because there’s plenty to go around, as Samuel Johnson once nudged, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
So let’s make a real effort to remember the things that really matter this voting season.
First, let’s remember that a vote for MACH (2D) supports and sustains our most critical arts, culture, and heritage efforts for at least a generation to come. As Ms. Natalie Johnson, the Director of the Manitou Arts Center has put it, “This. Is. A. Big. Deal.” A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Second, let’s remember that even if the City forgot to submit the correct ballot measure language (substituting a 15-year term length instead of the mutually agreed-upon 25-year term), the City staff and City Council has publicly pledged to work with the MACH Steering Committee to find a way to right this wrong.
Third, let’s remember that in voting for the MACH you’re joined by hundreds and hundreds of your neighbors and fellow citizens. When the Steering Committee canvassed for support this summer, 360 certified, registered electors of Manitou Springs signed up to support the MACH (of 426 total signatories). Many have gone a step farther, by writing letters and asking to prominently place their name in publications to announce their support for the MACH.
Fourth, and most importantly, let’s remember that your vote matters. It counts. Our votes are our voices, and we speak up for others when it matters most.
Because that’s what Manitou is all about. We want to help others. We want to help the disabled when they seek to use our library. We want to help the non-profits that serve us every day. We want to help the artists that imagine our future and the historians that help us remember our unique past.
We even want to help those among us that forget our keys, or even key votes.
A vote for the MACH is a vote for all of the above and, ultimately, it’s about keeping Manitou the Manitou we know and love.