When the Dubuque City Council last voted on the issue of sidewalks on John F. Kennedy Road, we all knew it wouldn’t be the end of the issue.
In the fall of 2018, council members voted 5-2 in favor of sidewalk installation on JFK. But that wasn’t enough. When it comes to sidewalk assessment, city code requires unanimous or near unanimous approval, depending on the circumstance. Assessments must be approved by a super-majority or — if petitioned by property owners representing 75% of the cost of the project — by unanimous vote. That’s what was needed to make sidewalks on JFK a reality, and the vote had two in opposition.
Now, less than three years later, council members have asked for the issue to be brought to the table again, hoping this time for a different outcome. In the years since, the players around the table have changed — most notably, the members who cast the ‘no’ votes are gone — and there just might be enough momentum to get the 7-0 vote needed on the issue.
It’s a vote that’s time has come.
Sidewalks shouldn’t be considered an optional amenity on a busy thoroughfare, particularly when that street connects residential neighborhoods with a public elementary school, walking/biking trail and a community arboretum. Council members should support the installation of sidewalks.
But that doesn’t mean neighbors’ sure-to-be resounding concerns shouldn’t be heard. Last time around, the idea of the city helping with snow removal was part of the conversation. What would such an arrangement look like, and how would it square with other installations going forward? Are there other properties where the sidewalks behind the backyards are virtually inaccessible to homeowners, who in turn might ask for the same deal?
JFK might be one of the most high-profile Dubuque roads without sidewalks, but it’s far from the only one. When Council Members Jake Rios and Luis Del Toro voted against the sidewalk assessment in 2018, they pushed for a comprehensive plan to get sidewalks installed across the city over time. Can the council work on a sidewalks master plan and ways to make assessments more manageable for homeowners?
Answering those questions and responding to neighbors’ concerns is critical. But doing so shouldn’t stand in the way of completing this project. This is an issue of safety and public accessibility to community amenities. As we talk about the need to build a strong workforce and to attract and keep young people in our community, access to trails is a key amenity.
That’s what makes adding sidewalks on JFK not just a neighborhood issue but a community issue.
A study conducted in May of 2018 counted more than 60 people walking on the grass or road along JFK. How many more would walk in the area if there were a sidewalk?
It doesn’t seem too much to ask in a vibrant, forward-thinking community like Dubuque that there be sidewalks to use on well-traveled roadways. That’s something all City Council members should support.