A majority of Americans are now actively seeking out – and paying higher prices and taxes to live in – walkable, vibrant communities with convenient access to schools, work, shopping and other amenities. Helena is well-situated to attract the millennial workforce and baby-boomer retirees with its unique historical character, walkable urban neighborhoods, and first-class outdoor recreation.
Just last month, the National Assocition of Realtors reported that “walkable urban areas are the future of real estate development.” James Corless, director of Transportation for America, cuts to the chase: “The talented young workforce that every region is trying to recruit expects to live in places where they can find walkable neighborhoods with convenient access to public transportation. Providing those travel and living options will be the key to future economic success.”
School location, in particular, can have enormous impacts on development patterns, physical health and environmental quality. To be a livable community, Helena needs to rethink the long-term plan for its schools. First, we need to redraw school attendance boundaries to match walking and biking standards. We need to increase capacity at Jim Darcy to adequately and safely educate the children already living in the North Valley. Then we need to have a community discussion about the strong connection between schools and the long-term vitality, environment, and economic and physical health of our community.
By contrast, this $70 million school bond will take us irreversibly down a path of suburban sprawl and car dependence by focusing almost exclusively on increasing capacity in the valley schools and dis-investing in our walkable, neighborhood schools. We urge our fellow Helenans to vote “no” on this elementary school bond, and join us in planning for Helena’s future economic success.