Our View: Council sends wrong message to volunteers

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The Steamboat Springs City Council was right Tuesday to appoint Ed MacArthur to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority's board of directors.

The vote was a unanimous 5-0. Still, we would have been more impressed if the City Council had made the appointment a week earlier.

On April 4, the council voted 4-3 to put MacArthur's appointment on hold. The council's reasoning was that it wanted to review the appointment process for the Housing Authority board. Such reasoning seemed suspect -- the City Council easily could have reviewed the process after appointing MacArthur, the owner and operator of Native Excavating and an advocate for affordable housing.

We think MacArthur, who has a distinguished record of service to the community, deserved better. As do those who volunteer in the future.

Through an intergovernmental agreement, appointments to the Housing Authority board are made jointly by the City Council and county commissioners.

MacArthur and Steve Lewis applied to serve on the Housing Authority board to replace Bud Rogers. Council members Loui Antonucci, Paul Strong and Ken Brenner met with county commissioners March 28 to interview Lewis and MacArthur. The group voted 5-1 with Brenner as the dissenting vote to recommend MacArthur, saying he would fill a need on the board for someone with experience in construction.

County commissioners accepted the recommendation and approved MacArthur's appointment April 4, despite complaints by the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. At that night's City Council meeting, the Community Alliance again protested the MacArthur appointment, saying the opening on the board was not advertised enough. That was enough for council members Steve Ivancie, Towny Anderson, Susan Dellinger and Brenner to put the vote on hold.

The delay seemed unnecessary. Notice of the opening was published multiple times in this newspaper, and there were at least two responses. Any number of board appointments have been made in this community on much less. Indeed, many community organizations would have been thrilled with a choice between such well-qualified candidates as Lewis and MacArthur.

Antonucci, Strong and Kevin Kaminski voted against delaying the appointment. They feared the worst -- that the delay was nothing more than an underhanded attempt to block MacArthur's appointment in favor of someone else. Thankfully, last night's vote eliminated that possibility.

Clearly, there are details about the Housing Authority board that need to be ironed out. Originally, the board had 15 members, but that number has been trimmed to 11, prompting some confusion about how many openings the board has. It makes sense for the City Council to broach that issue with commissioners, and we have no problem with the agreement Tuesday to advertise board openings for longer periods of time in the future.

City Council members know as well as anyone how difficult it can be to get qualified people to volunteer their services. In this case, MacArthur was well-qualified, raised his hand and followed the process that was in place. His reward was to get jerked around for a week by the council.

Surely, it was not the City Council's intent to deter others from volunteering their service in the future, but that's the potential fallout from how the MacArthur appointment was handled. It's a perspective we would urge the council to keep in mind when it weighs future appointments to volunteer boards and committees.

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