Herald Stout: Explanation needed

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The Colorado Sunshine Law says, "It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret."

Since they were seated on Nov. 8, 2005, the current Steamboat Springs City Council has held at least 51 secret meetings (executive sessions). In total, the council has spent more than 51 hours discussing public business in secret. The most egregious example of this being a secret meeting that was held at the Steamboat Grand Owner's Lounge on April 21, 2006, that convened at 8 a.m. and went until 6:45 p.m. The entire 10 hours, 45 minutes was all held in secret session at a private location.

While prior City Councils have also held executive sessions for things such as legal advice from the city attorney, the frequency of secret meetings held by this current council is unprecedented. For example, the City Council that left office in November 2005 held a total of 28 executive sessions over two years. The current incumbent City Council has almost doubled this number, and its term is not up until Nov. 13.

The bottom line is that the City Council is routinely doing business behind closed doors. The result is that the public is denied the opportunity to participate or even to know the subject of the meeting other than vague generalities such as property negotiations, attorney-client communications or instructions to negotiators.

We don't know what the City Council is talking about in its secret meetings, but we suspect it may involve controversial or sensitive issues such as recent decisions to terminate without notice - after almost no public discussion - the longstanding contract for building department services with Routt County, to reorganize city departments and personnel and to purchase real estate without any public input.

In this election season, the voters deserve an explanation.

Herald Stout

Steamboat Springs

Comments

stompk 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree. Anything done in secret much have some element to it that is unsavory.

Public policies need to be held in public forum, with plenty of notification.

Wonder what deals were made, that had to be kept from public knowledge.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 11 months ago

Since he has significant experience in development and real estate transactions, I would like Mr. Stout to respond on the effect a public invitation and thereby withdrawn process would have on his own real estate transactions. Shouldn't the city be allowed to get the best deal for its taxpayers to advance an acknowleddged city goal? Steve Lewis

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scarter 6 years, 11 months ago

Cari Hermacinski is an attorney. She doesn't talk to her client behind closed doors before going into the public court room????? I think I might look for better representation, don't you? She won't get my vote if that is how she will handle my business. Besides the fact that she owns tons of property in the city and it would be great for her to have her finger on the pulse of the City decisions. So, how much property do you own Mr. Stout??

The City Attorney calls the Executive sessions (recorded, can be contested and NO decisions are made) to talk to his clients (City Council representing us) prior to bringing a case out to a public forum.

City Council isn't paid by the hour. How in the world can you make this look like a 'bad thing' for the best common good interest of Steamboat Springs?????!!!!

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bubba 6 years, 11 months ago

The defense that city council (Towny) uses for their excessive use of closed door sessions is not legal advice, but to discuss land deals, for fear that the price would go up if it was known that the city was looking at it.

Does this seem ludicrous to anyone else? A land owner will sell the land for as much as they can get for it (market value), anything else is charity. If someone is willing to sell their land to the city for a below-market rate, that charity is not going to go away if the discussion is public.

I don't believe Ms Hermacinski is saying that the city shouldn't seek legal advice behind closed doors, but that the current council meeting behind closed doors every other week for two years on average is excessive, and I agree. If their only defense is the property value thing, then I think they ARE hiding something, because that defense makes absolutely no sense.

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WZ4EVER 6 years, 11 months ago

Herald has a point...I, like everyone else, have no idea what was discussed in those closed meetings. However, the Iron Horse deal was clearly one of them and there is enough controversy over that decision that open meetings would have been very helpful. No one outside the Council's inner circle knew anytihing about this until it was posted for a first reading....that's bad government, not shrewd real estate negotiations.

I would like to see Towny and Susan make a full disclosure (before the election and certainly before the closing) of the "deal" they made with Cafritz (you know, the Big Developer) on the Iron Horse. Just who is in who's pocket?

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Hammurabi 6 years, 11 months ago

Just got a postcard in the mail from Towny accusing his opponent of being in the pockets of big developers. Isn't the current council the one that said that they were going to slow growth down and isn't this the same council that has approved the largest number of new square footage in the community's history? Isn't the current council the ones that approved all this development without taking into consideration the impacts on Lincoln Avenue? I wonder what deals were made and if the city (the tax payers/citizens) have been compensated for the closure of shoulders and 7th street to be used as staging areas for the new construction? If the current incumbents are so worried about growth and development what have they been doing over the past few years and what exactly have they been talking about in all those hours spent in secret meetings?

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WZ4EVER 6 years, 11 months ago

Hammurabi: I just got my post card too...isn't it a shame that Towny fired the first shot of negative campaigning? I had hoped that this year would be different, but I guess if you are afraid of the issues, perhaps negativity and name-calling is an easy way out. I can't imagine the existing Council crowing about ANYTHING to do with development, much less controlling it.

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twostroketerror 6 years, 11 months ago

Dirt Pimps should be disqualified for city or county board/council positions. The conflict of interest is disheartening, and I would think in some cases, illegal, yes?

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scarter 6 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the opportunity to continue this discussion. It made me do some research. The current City Council has seven (7) members. Only three are incumbents for the current race, so keep that in mind. There's one more vote than there are incumbents. The current City Council has purchased 7 properties and has had a total of 13 under discussion over the past two years. So that takes time to discuss land and property negotiations.

The all day session in April that Mr. Stout referred to was totally interviewing for City Manager. Five interviews that took ten hours. That makes sense. Would you want your interview to be before the public? There have also been other staff discussions during these Executive Sessions.

Did any of you go to the workshops that the City Council has been having? These are public workshops open to you, Joe Public, for you to learn more about what things they are working on.

Also, have you been attending the recent City Council meetings? Interesting to me that Cari, nor Scott, nor Walter, nor Jon have been attending? Don't you think that is odd that they haven't been going to the City Council meetings that they are running to be a part of?

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