Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs "Ch-ch-ch CHANGES : Time may change me, but I can't change time."
I believe it was the late 20th century philosopher Ziggy Stardust (sometimes referred to as David Bowie) who said that.
Everybody in Steamboat Springs is talking about the changes on City Council and what they mean for our rapidly changing community in the wake of the Nov. 6 election.
I've listened to some thoughtful post-election analysis from a variety of people in the past three days, but no one has come up with the same take that I've been chewing on. And since I am the holder of an undergraduate degree in poli-sci, I've decided to use this bully pulpit to play politics.
When I look at photographs of the winners of this week's election, something leaps out at me. With one exception, they are significantly younger than I am. Everywhere the voters had a choice, they selected candidates who appear to be enjoying life in their 30s.
Aging baby boomers are driving the real estate boom here by investing their inheritances and hedge fund windfalls in vacation homes. But I'm convinced a younger generation is beginning to take control of this town's future. They are well-educated professionals who are building careers and raising young families. Bailing out of the Yampa Valley because the cost of housing is out of whack doesn't seem to be part of their plans.
It isn't clear to me that Steamboat's up and comers are willing to settle for deed-restricted housing. And if they are raising two toddlers, it's a safe bet that big-box shopping isn't a dirty word to them. If they are building businesses that depend even indirectly on our construction boom, growth is something they embrace.
The preceding amounts to little more than anecdotal observations, not demographic research. It would be wrong for me to assign all of those qualities to our new City Council members. And certainly, there are 33-year-olds in this community for whom avoidance of chain stores is a religious crusade.
Just the same, I've observed Steamboat's "generation next" every summer at the free concerts with toddlers in tow. And they parade by my home every autumn weekend on their way to Whistler Park. Many are jogging behind two-seater baby strollers that appear to have suspensions as elaborate as those of $2,500 mountain bikes.
"How are these kids making it in a town where entry level housing costs $500,000?" I often ask myself. "And how long will it be before they influence local politics?"
I'm thinking the time has arrived.
Steamboat's young generation of highly motivated professionals isn't limited to thirty-somethings. I'm surrounded by exceptionally bright twenty-somethings at work. I'm always surprised when one of them forms a semi-permanent attachment to Steamboat and convinces their parents to help them purchase a townhome. Maybe I shouldn't be. I was 26 when I returned to Steamboat for good in 1979.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that my generation of Steamboaters should cede all decision-making to the young pups. We have the same concerns about housing, preserving community character, transportation, workforce recruitment and more. In a participatory democracy, it's our obligation to connect with people who share our political goals and work for change. None of us should ever back down from that.
However, it might be appropriate to remind boomers of the words of another late 20th century sage, Robert Zimmerman (you might know him as Bob Dylan). He philosophized in 1964, when I was a politically aware 11-year-old, that "The Times They Are a Changin'."
"Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'"
I still get a little tingle when I hear that song. It's a safe bet that Dylan didn't have the parochial politics of a WASP-Y ski town in mind when he wrote the lyrics. But change is definitely in the wind in Steamboat this November.
I'm planning to roll with it. I won't hesitate to disagree, but I'm going to roll with a new generation.