Group mounts negative campaign

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— A new kind of advertisement has come to Steamboat Springs.

A couple of ads paid for by a group calling itself Citizens for a Better City Council have matter-of-factly campaigned against City Council candidates Loui Antonucci and Bud Romberg.

The first ad, which appeared in Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today, focused on Antonucci, the incumbent in the District 2 race. It was titled "Say No to a Yes Man." It states that Antonucci "said no to a public vote on the smoking ban, LMD and Urban Renewal Authority tax increase."

The second ad ran in Wednesday's Steamboat Today and was headlined, "Say No to Bud's Actions," referring to Romberg, one of three candidates for the at-large seat. The ad questioned Romberg's dedication to affordable housing.

The ads are the first to campaign against specific individuals that Julie Jordan has seen since she became city clerk a decade ago.

Jordan said she has seen ads opposing ballot issues, but never candidates. She thinks this year may be different because so many candidates -- 10 in all -- are running for the four open council seats.

"We've got a choice this year. Quite a few people are running for City Council. We have quite a diverse group," Jordan said. "I think that's brought a lot of campaigning out this year."

Citizens for a Better City Council, the ads' sponsor, is a group of about six people, including business owners and residents, who want to see a change in the council, said Loretta Van Norstrand, the group's treasurer. She said no council candidates are part of the group.

Citizens for a Better City Council registered as a political action committee with the state Oct. 6, Van Norstrand said. It didn't report any contributions or expenditures through Oct. 11. Both ads appeared after Oct. 11, and Van Norstrand said the group has not set any plans for additional ads.

Antonucci and Romberg said the ads targeting them were misleading and inaccurate.

"It told part of the story; it didn't tell the whole story," Antonucci said.

He said the advertisement picked him out for voting the same as the majority of council members.

"The only way for something to pass is if the majority of council votes for it," he said.

Antonucci also said he was disappointed to see the advertisement about Romberg.

"Bud is a fair person. He listens to both sides of the argument," Antonucci said. "It's too bad they would beat up on someone who is trying really hard to do the right thing."

"I don't think that this is the way that elections have been done in this area," Romberg said. "I thought it was still enough of a small town that we could have a difference of opinion and didn't have to use innuendo as a smear tactic."

Van Norstrand said both advertisements were accurate.

"We're trying to get the information out to the general public so they know what's going on," she said. "People live in Steamboat because they want to ski, they want to hike or bike. Really, they don't feel that they should have to pay that much attention."

Van Norstrand said the group wants City Council candidates who listen.

"The current City Council is spending money sometimes without getting people's opinions," she said, citing the recent urban renewal authority, Local Marketing District and smoking-ban approvals.

The group's ads are meant to get people to think, she said.

"Take a look at the candidates and really understand where they're coming from, whether they are Chamber-backed. The business community is donating very heavily, backing to keep the status quo," she said.

Van Norstrand is a county resident who owns a small outdoor-equipment company, which she did not name, within city limits. It's a business that caters to locals, not tourists, Van Norstrand said.

"That's the kind of businesses that we need here," she said. "Those are the kinds of businesses that we want to draw here and encourage to give people the opportunity for their children to stay in the community."

The current council, she said, is not concerned about that.

"The whole diversification of our economy is so necessary, but the council is not talking about it, not seeing it as something important," she said. "They're just looking to the next season."

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