Election a battle for control of council

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The Steamboat Pilot & Today has developed a "candidate selector" tool on its online election guide.

The candidate selector is a multiple choice test on city issues that the Pilot & Today gave to all City Council candidates. Candidates were asked to select the answer that most closely resembled their views. Users can take the same test and see which candidates' views most closely reflect their own.

The candidate selector is not scientific, but it is interesting and fun.

— Four to three. Three to four. A division.

That's what the residents of Steamboat Springs have seen from their City Council recently: numerous 4-3 votes from the seven-member group.

The majority includes Nancy Kramer, Kathy Connell, Loui Antonucci and Paul Strong. They are perceived as pro-business, pro-growth and pro-Chamber Resort Association, though each would say such perceptions aren't entirely accurate. The minority includes Susan Dellinger, Ken Brenner and Steve Ivancie. They are perceived as anti-growth and anti-Chamber, though they also would say such perceptions aren't entirely fair.

Either way, with 10 candidates vying for four open seats, the balance of power on the council could change overnight Nov. 1. Connell is leaving the council, and Kramer, Antonucci and Ivancie are running for seats.

Although the election features individual races, the future of the council will depend on which group of candidates is elected.

"A community is divided. (The council) should reflect our community," council President Paul Strong said. "Having a division in council is not a bad thing."

But Ivancie, who is giving up his at-large seat to seek the District 1 seat held by Kramer, said in a world of 4-3 votes, one constituency's views are never represented.

"There is a diversity of the people who live here," Ivancie said. "The current City Council doesn't really reflect that."

That's what fueled Ivancie's decision to run for a third time, he said.

"I am running for City Coun--cil because I feel that a diversity needs to be represented -- not represented by a majority of City Council that serves a special-interest group," he said. That special-interest group, he said, is the resort and business community.

The divisiveness on the council is most obvious on major issues such as the urban renewal authority to fund infrastructure improvements near the ski area's base, the Local Marketing District to create a lodging tax for airline flight guarantees, the Steamboat Springs Airport and Triple Crown, which brings summer sports tournaments to Steamboat Springs.

Ivancie has lost votes on those issues during his tenure. If such votes are going to change, Ivancie not only needs to beat Kramer, he needs at least one other candidate with similar views -- Towny Anderson, Warren Harner or Dick Curtis -- to win.

If people want the council to remain the same, Ivancie said, they know how to vote. "If they want more of the same ... the money tells them where to vote," he said.

As of the Oct. 11 filing date, the candidates who had received the most financial backing were Bud Romberg, Kevin Kaminski and Kramer, in that order. Many of the same donors contributed to all three campaigns. Those donors include some of the area's most influential leaders in the business, resort and lodging communities.

Romberg, a former councilman who is running against Anderson and Stuart Lynn for the at-large seat, has Steve Dawes as his campaign manager. Dawes was one of the primary architects of the Local Marketing District.

Romberg, who lost his council seat to Susan Dellinger in 2003 by just three votes, refuses to say he is a part of a block of candidates this time around. But he acknowledges similarities among himself, Kramer, Kaminski and Antonucci.

"We're not running as a slate, but we do have similar perspectives on a lot of things," he said.

When it comes to the new City Council, he said, individual members inevitably become a part of a group. "No individual council member does anything. No individual council member has the right to do anything," he said. Only a majority of the council can approve or deny a measure.

Anderson said he is "running against a machine."

"Clearly there is a coalition of the resort interests of the community that are working desperately hard to keep me out of office, because they know that it essentially will weaken their power base," Anderson said.

The resort interests define this election, he said.

"Everything in the community survey says that we want to preserve our small-town character," he said. "That means that this election is really about whether we want to be a community with a resort and define our own future or whether we're going to be a resort community and have our future defined for us."

One of the central figures in the council race is the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Assoc--iation. Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall downplayed the Chamber's role in the election, saying the Chamber simply looks for open-minded candidates who understand the importance of businesses in the community.

"(Candidates) need to understand the difference between the sales tax revenues that pay for services and where those come from," she said.

Ivancie said he hopes to see a large voter turnout Nov. 1. "Maybe, just maybe," Ivancie said, "the voters get it and they want to change the status quo."

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