David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005
54th with an Asterisk

I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a missionary in 1985 when Places Rated Almanac said it was the most livable city in the United States. The natives scoffed, but quite a few people who had come to the city more recently than their birth understood.

Now Money Magazine says that American Fork is the 54th best place to live. But they didn't actually mean American Fork itself, at least not American Fork alone, as this Daily Herald article explains. Instead, they meant Highland and American Fork together, because the two cities share a ZIP code.

In this light, the result is unsurprising. Mayor Barratt and other American Forkers who are patting themselves on the back should remember that much (not all) of what Money found attractive is clearly in Highland, not American Fork. American Fork has its own residential virtues, to be sure, including the high-speed Internet system and improved parks, but to some extent our little city is currently notable as Alpine's and Highland's shopping district.

Someday, if Highland has its own ZIP code, the same survey will yield far different results. If American Fork wants to show up in the rankings then, by itself, its evolution from small, old-fashioned town to small, modern city will have to have gone more smoothly that it currently is going.

Here's where we could start - but note that everything on this list costs money, which means the City also has to get itself on a sound financial footing. (These items are in no particular order.)

  • Carefully manage future growth, especially south of the freeway.
  • Get serious about improving and enforcing nuisance ordinances, zoning restrictions, and other laws which directly impact quality of life.
  • Instead of selling the broadband Internet system, extend it to commercial areas, upgrade its management, make it as nearly profitable as possible, and then, even it if isn't strictly profitable, use it as an effective loss leader to sell businesses and their employees on American Fork.
  • Invest in new sidewalks, street lights, and other improvements in the older parts of the city, especially near downtown.
  • Rehabilitate downtown, so that it is walkable, attractive, and modern (which doesn't mean it cannot have a distinctive historical flavor).
  • Improve the parks beyond the level funded by the recent bond.
  • License and regulate residential rentals, and adopt reasonable provisions to protect tenants from their landlords and vice versa.
  • Turn the old Harrington School into a focus of community life. There are various possibilities for use and for funding, but they all should include the creation of a working school museum in part of the large structure.
  • Either repair, bury, or remove the system of irrigation ditches which have been flooding streets and intersections all summer. The system is in such poor repair that the irrigation company would be underwriting a lot of street repairs, if life were fair.
  • Cooperate in every reasonable way with the state in the matter of bringing light rail and commuter rail to and through American Fork.
  • Stop expanding Main Street now, despite UDOT's assurances that it will have to accommodate even more lanes of traffic in the near future. Handle additional traffic by changing Main Street to a one-way street, eastbound, from 500 West to 500 East, and making Pacific Drive/100 West the one-way westbound portion of the highway. Then reduce the barriers to pedestrian traffic by adding a light at Main Street and 300 West, and by adding a few lights along Pacific Drive/100 West.
  • Improve the American Fork Library collection until it rivals Orem's and Provo's and is as good as the building which houses it.

I'm enjoying life in American Fork in most ways, but each of these items I've listed would improve its quality. No doubt some others think differently.

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