Candidates begin to separate themselves

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— Subtle differences emerged among the eight candidates for City Council Thursday at an election forum, though some attendees left still undecided of how they will vote.

Two two-hour forums showcased the views of the eight candidates in the city election as well as the four tax proposals on the table this election season.

The candidates spent much of the day agreeing with each other, prompting at-large candidate Steve Ivancie to say that it seemed like the candidates were running with each other rather than against each other. By the end of the night, however, the candidates had distanced themselves enough to give some audience members a sense of how they would vote.

"My mind is made up on a number of issues," said David Williams, who said he had been undecided on most of the issues before attending the forum.

He said he was still unsure of where he stands on a few issues, but learned enough Thursday to make sure he is informed when he votes.

"It's always good to be able to come out and personally listen to people speak on the issues," said Elaine Dermody, who said she thought the candidates had performed well.

Audience members asked questions of the candidates and the issue representatives at the Steamboat Pilot & Today and KBCR forum. They were most interested in issues the City Council has been wrestling with recently: growth, affordable housing and options for potentially redeveloping the airport area, where some community members have considered building a race track.

District I candidate Omar Campbell, a tree-trimmer by trade, proposed building an arboretum at the airport, joking that the race track could wind through the trees. Campbell, a 76-year-old World War II veteran, said his biggest concern was the city's link to the Chamber Resort Association. Campbell said he feels the city should distance itself from the chamber and not subsidize tourism marketing any longer something he thinks separates him from his opponent.

Nancy Kramer, director of the Arts Council who is also running for District I, said she thinks the city can't drop its chamber support, given the potential drop in winter tourism after the Sept. 11 attacks. Kramer, who has held numerous jobs in town, said she thinks the city needs a candidate who has worked in virtually every sector of the economy and knows how to plan responsibly for the future.

In District II, the candidates focused on their records as City Councilmen, with current Councilman Ken Brenner and former Councilman Paul "Loui" Antonucci picking apart each others' fiscal strategy.

Antonucci said the current council has been fiscally irresponsible and has circumvented the voters on a number of large purchases, including Centennial Hall and the Howelsen Ice Arena items he said should have been presented to the city's residents for their approval. He said he favors fiscal conservatism and leaner government.

Brenner noted that Antonucci had voted to go into debt to pay for the airport terminal when he was on council in 1992 without much public comment.

Brenner added that he himself has voted, often alone, against funding large capital projects such as the rink without going to the voters.

The District III candidates split themselves along lines of experience and objectivity.

Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell said her experience on City Council over the past four years has given her a balanced view of the community and puts her at an advantage over her untested competitor.

"I've learned that sometimes it's better to act right than to act quick," Connell said, citing her record on the council of forming partnerships.

Her competitor, Darcy Trask, however, said she felt she could be more objective than Connell, because she works for a company TIC that is not directly connected to the tourism industry.

Trask said she has "one foot in each camp" on the issues that affect the community, stressing that she would do all she could to help working families.

The race for the at-large seat features newcomers Steve Ivancie and Kathi Meyer.

Although all of the candidates told stories about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, Ivancie portrayed himself as a resident still in the thick of it struggling to make it here and raise a family. He said he can represent working families and make sure their needs are addressed.

Meyer, the current chair of the Planning Commission, said she thinks she can bring an experienced, fair-minded voice to the council. She said her extensive work on the Regional Affordable Living Foundation has also given her a number of tools to deal with affordable housing.

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