By SARAH GRACE TAYLOR
The Williamson County Chamber of Commerce took a trip to Denver, Colorado last month to collaborate with the city on transit, housing and other urban development solutions.
Among participants was Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham, who said he learned a lot about making progress in a metropolitan area from Denver’s government.
“One of the big things I picked up on too, and this is going to be very important for our area, is they have a mayors’ caucus,” Graham said. “And when they started moving toward new transportation options about 20 years ago, their mayors took a regional approach.”
As well as teamwork, Graham said Denver illustrated the importance of preparedness among city leaders.
“The first time Denver tried [their transportation initiatives], they went straight to a referendum and didn’t have it all ironed out so the voters voted it down,” Graham said. “You’ve got to have your research, your data your plan. You’ve got to have your big picture planned out before you can ask voters to get on board.”
While Graham had many notes from the trip, the Home Page conducted a Q&A focusing on his thoughts about transportation, attainable housing and a few other key topics. Below are the highlights from the interview:
Mayor Rick Graham: “I’ll start with this: I’m a big note taker. Usually on most trips, I leave with two or three takeaways, things that I’ll go have action on or things I thought were handy. This trip I had like 28 takeaways.”
Spring Hill Home Page: What was your takeaway after seeing Denver’s public transportation?
RG: There’s no silver bullet; that’s one thing we talked about on the trip. It’s all about multi-modal choices, you know. There is no single way to fix our transportation. It’s going to be several things. With everything from bike trails to transit to buses, it’s going to be the whole multimodal transportation thing.
…The other thing is the economic explosion. Every depot we went to, bike trails, bus stations whatever, there was just an economic boom of businesses, corporate headquarters and other big projects. The last thing is white collar millennials require and expect this multimodal transportation. In an area like Spring Hill where we have such a young population, it’s just a way of life and a huge expectation from them.
SHHP: What were your thoughts on Denver’s “attainable housing?
RG: I had never heard the term ‘attainable housing’ before we went to Denver and I knew Spring Hill wasn’t about ‘affordable housing’ because affordable is more about urban areas. I knew that term didn’t fit Spring Hill but when I heard ‘attainable housing’ I thought ‘man, that is so Spring Hill.’ I mean, that is exactly why Spring Hill has boomed over the last 15 years. We went from 6-7,000 people to 40,000 people in about 15 years and it is because we are all about attainable housing.
SHHP: How long do you think it will take to layout a solution for transportation?
RG: That’s just exactly the frustration that I have and a lot of people have is that we don’t know how fast we can get actions moving. I’ve been to a lot of transportation meetings and I’ve been to a lot of mayors caucus meetings and we all are frustrated because it’s a lot of summits and meetings and information. But getting these things into an actionable mode is what we’re all going to have to push for. So I’m going to be a strong advocate for that and we are going to have to show some action.