The balance of the Steam--boat Springs City Council could wobble like a teeter-totter on the night of Nov. 1, when local voters head to the polls to decide four council races.
For the second time in five years, 10 candidates will run for four available council seats. In two of those races -- the District 2 and at-large contests -- voters will choose from three candidates.
However, the most closely watched race could be in Old Town Steamboat, where incumbents Nancy Kramer and Steve Ivancie square off. Ivancie is attempting to move from the shorter-tenured at-large seat to the District 1 spot. Kramer, who holds the District 1 seat, is the only woman running for City Council this fall.
During the past two years, the City Council frequently has voted 4-3 on key issues, and the Ivancie versus Kramer race embodies that split. They were on opposite sides of 4-3 votes to study the economic viability of Steamboat Springs Airport, create the urban renewal authority and put the local marketing district to a vote of a fraction of the city's voters. They also were on opposite sides of a 5-2 vote to impose a moratorium on proposals for big-box retail stores.
The LMD established a 2 percent lodging tax at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. The revenues from that tax are dedicated to creating a stable funding source for airline revenue guarantees used to bring ski-season jet flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The URA also focuses on the ski area base, allowing the city to capture a fraction of incremental property-tax growth to improve public facilities at a ski base that many say is outdated.
As predicted, establishment of the URA triggered renewed interest in building luxury condominiums at the foot of Mount Werner. In some cases, developers plan to redevelopment existing multi-family residential projects.
It all boils down to growth. And therein lies the rub.
"We're at a watershed moment," Ivancie said Thursday. "We're poised for enormous growth. The question is, how do we direct and pay for growth?"
Ivancie thinks the interest in this fall's council races is a sign that the community is aware of the importance of this election.
"I was disappointed two years ago that I did not have an opponent," Ivancie said. "I'm all for participation. The more participation we have, the better choices we have in our community. The messages are getting out there."
Kramer agrees that there is a clear split on the current City Council, but she doesn't think the differences between the "two sides" are as great as they appear on the surface.
"I don't think there is any doubt there is a split on council," Kramer said. "That's the reality. But a vote is more than that. It's not just a 'yes' or a 'no.' There are technicalities and there are conditions (attached to motions on the floor)" that could alter a person's vote.
Kramer agrees that the split on the council swings around the question of how to cope with growth in the community. But she says she's less focused on the split than on outcomes.
"I don't think that either side is off the mark," Kramer said. "There is more agreement than there are differences. That can be lost in the political posturing."
She points to the general accord about the creation of the multijurisdictional housing authority as an example of how council members have worked together.
"All of us want to see measured growth," Kramer said. "It's about the leadership of building the right toolbox and getting to solutions."
What cannot be known until early Nov. 2 is whether voters will elect the candidate in each council race who shares the same stance as the winner of the Ivancie-Kramer contest.
County Clerk Kay Weinland said this week that during the fall 2004 presidential election, voter turnout in the city was greater than 95 percent. However, during recent off-year elections, such as this one, when there were no countywide or statewide races, voter turnout has ranged between 20 percent and 40 percent.
Another incumbent councilman, Loui Antonucci, will face two opponents in the District 2 race. Warren Harner Jr. and Charles McConnell have had their nominating petitions verified.
In District 3, Planning Commissioner Richard "Dick" Curtis will run against businessman Kevin Kaminski.
The at-large race features former city councilman G.H. "Bud" Romberg, Townsend "Towny" Anderson and Stuart A. Lynn. Romberg lost his District 1 seat in 2003 by three votes to Susan Dellinger.
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