Unless something changes in the next week or so, Steamboat Springs voters will have few choices in November's City Council and School Board elections.
Based on filings through Tuesday, only two of the four City Council races will be contested. None of the three School Board races will be.
Contested races offer the chance for substantive debate on the issues and give voters a true chance to affect the future direction of their city government and school district. Voters have no greater tool for holding elected officials accountable than the ballot. But when there are no decisions to make, the power of that tool disappears.
Individuals have until Aug. 29 to file their candidacies through petitions. It would be disappointing if more candidates don't emerge.
On the City Council, residents of District I and District II will have choices. Incumbent Bud Romberg will face challenger Susan Dellinger in District I, and Kathi Meyer and Marcus Williams will vie for the seat being vacated by Arianthe Stettner in District II. Incumbent Paul Strong is unopposed in District III. Incumbent Steve Ivancie is the only candidate to announce for the at-large seat on the council.
We shouldn't be surprised by what has happened on the School Board, which has not had a contested election since 1997. This year, incumbents Paul Fisher and Tom Sharp have decided not to run. Incumbent Pat Gleason has announced he will run again in District 4 and so far, he is unopposed. Jeff Troeger has announced for Fisher's District 2 seat. No one has filed for Sharp's District 5 seat.
Serving on the City Council or School Board is not for everyone. The time commitment is significant and the pay is lousy. Politically, it is safer to stay on the sidelines. But there is no better way to affect change in the community.
Criticism of City Council and School Board is a freedom we all enjoy and a healthy aspect of our democracy. But it is disappointing when the most frequent critics don't offer alternatives.
The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley has challenged the city repeatedly on growth and other issues and a representative of the organization often speaks at City Council meetings. That organization has failed to put forth a candidate.
The Citizens for Education Political Action Committee, formed specifically to raise money to elect a new majority on the School Board, has been openly critical of the decisions the current board has made. With Sharp and Fisher stepping aside, the group's path to election seems clear and the organization still contends it will run candidates for each seat. Yet, as of Tuesday, no one from the group had even picked up the paperwork required to file.
No one from Steamboat Springs Montessori, which has fought the School Board for the opportunity to establish a Montessori charter school here, has stepped forward.
There is still time. Perhaps there are potential candidates weighing their options. Perhaps others are waiting to see who will announce before making a final decision.
Let's hope that is the case, that there are at least two more City Council candidates and four more School Board candidates. Only then will all voters in the community have the chance to choose, rather than accept, who represents them on the School Board or City Council.