Behind the heads: Ken Brenner

What to expect from a new council?


Q. In 2001, you lost to Loui Antonucci in a City Council election. This year, you defeated Kathi Meyer. What was different this time?

A. Two years of being off of City Council, working with the Routt County Planning Commission and away from the City Council environment, helped me re-center my perspective. When I ran against Loui, I was involved in many things, and I was spread really thin, between the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns and all the organizations I was involved with here, plus family life, and I just didn't take the campaign seriously. This year, I ran with specific proposals in mind. I spent a little more time campaigning, and a lot of my friends helped out.

The 2001 election was right after Sept. 11. People are a little less nervous about the community in general than they were then. This time, I think we were able to focus more on the issues that affect the people who live here in town. That's what I did, I focused on the stuff I know about -- working families, small business owners and employees, the people.

Q. Based on Tuesday's election, there is now presumed to be two factions on the council. One faction would include you, Susan Dellinger and Steve Ivancie, while the other would include Kathy Connell, Loui Antonucci and Nancy Kramer. Is that a fair assessment and if so, what do you believe are the differences between the two factions?

A. There are going to be times when that's the way the vote will go, with Paul Strong more or less making the decision. What is good is that, just like in our two-party system, this will stimulate more discussion on these important issues regarding the community. There were two camps in the funding of these two campaigns, but I think the community at large shares the same key issues -- how City Council prioritizes its budget decisions, the level of budget review and the past council's failure to take the input from community surveys as part of its direction on issues. Citizens took the time to fill out the surveys and then council really didn't listen to them.

On one side, council probably had a disproportionate representation from the resort and lodging industry and there definitely was a need for a stronger voice representing full-time residents. All council members represent the community at large, but we tend to have biases on key decisions. It's too simple to say it's pro-growth versus anti-growth. I think it's more about the influence of business versus the needs of working families.

The way I think Steve Ivancie, Susan Dellinger and myself see it is that the essential government services will get automatic priority and there will be support for recreational amenities to support the lifestyle in Steamboat Springs.

I believe the new council members will bring more of a balance to the table in resolving community issues.

Q. Kathy Connell is stepping aside as council president and Paul Strong appears to be her successor. Will you support Paul as president of the council and if so, what do you believe he will need to do as president?

A. Paul will most likely be the next president, in an effort to unite the new council. I have always gotten along well with Paul. We don't always agree on every decision, but he is fair, thoughtful and even-handed.

I think Paul will need to take the lead in improving our public process. Look at the water consolidation agreement. That was presented to the public on a Monday and council voted to put it on the ballot Tuesday. And when the first fire tax failed, that was an opportunity to say, maybe we need a 10+2 Committee to craft a better proposal for the second time around. The council didn't do that.

I like Paul's decorum in council meetings. He was chair during the law enforcement discussion. He handled two hours of emotional comment well.

Q. Referendum 2A failed by a wide margin. Many of those who opposed it said they were not opposed to a property tax, but they were opposed to how this one was developed and presented. Is this a dead issue or do you think the new council will try something different?

A. The very first significant action the council takes may be to form a tax-policy working group to examine whether we need a new tax or if it would be better to balance property and sales taxes with a revenue-neutral proposal, and what role a lodging tax will play. Before the public is going to support a new tax proposal, they need to be convinced that council has performed a more thorough review of the city's budget. I believe we will have an initial meeting in April to talk about our overall philosophy and get a report back from the tax-policy group. During the summer, there should be an opportunity while the budget is being developed for public input on the front end of the process -- not in October.

There should be a series of hearings that allows each department to present its ideas; both employees and the public should be allowed to comment. Often, no one is more aware of opportunities for budget savings than the employees themselves. Then the voters are going to say "OK, we've really looked this over well and now I am convinced there is a real need." I've never known the voters in Steamboat not to be fair. When they don't support something, they don't need to bleed, they need to be listened to.

Q. What issues do you believe it is important for the council to address sooner rather than later?

A. I believe we have to start with the tax-policy working group.

Quickly following that is the community plan. The implementation could take a long time and a lot of work. I see a lot of opportunity for additional public participation as we implement these action items. This is when a growth commission will be formed to address concerns regarding our rate of growth.

Another thing I want us to do is print our agenda in the fashion that the county does. An agenda with printed times will make it easier for someone to come down and sit in on an item they are interested in. We as council should try hard to stay close to our agenda schedule. That's a tough job.


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