Steamboat Springs Concerned Citizens for the Future of Steamboat Springs was a major focus of the last City Council candidates forum before Election Day.
The Tuesday forum took place during a lunchtime meeting of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs.
In an opening statement, District 2 candidate Paul Hughes referred to the Concerned Citizens group as the "concerned cowards" because of its shadowy methods. Concerned Citizens for the Future of Steamboat Springs is a registered issues committee that supports incumbent City Council candidates Susan Dellinger, Karen Post and Towny Anderson. All three council candidates deny being part of the group or having any prior knowledge of its political advertisements.
Hughes was the target of one of the committee's ads Monday. The ad quoted a column Hughes wrote in 2006 for Public Management magazine. In one section of the column, Hughes wrote about the "idiots" he encountered on a daily basis as a municipal manager.
Hughes called the ad "a pretty silly attempt at character assassination." He admitted to writing what was quoted in the ad, and said he plans to run his own ads in coming days containing excerpts from other parts of the same column. Hughes said he would not resort to negative ads of his own.
"I vowed to run the type of campaign I could be proud of, regardless of the outcome," he said.
The ambiguous political committee was the topic of at least two other questions from audience members at the forum. During the discussion, there were claims made that the group would not have to file campaign contributions like other issue committees on file with the city.
City Clerk Julie Jordan, however, said later Tuesday that she fully expects the organization to file campaign contributions and expenditures by the next filing deadline, Nov. 2. The group was formed after the first filing deadline of Oct.16.
Advertisement issues aside, candidates used the forum to tackle myriad issues. Many comments were clearly geared toward the audience of Steamboat business leaders. Vince Arroyo, running against Walter Magill for a two-year District 3 seat, did not attend the forum because he could not get off work. Arroyo is a mechanic for Xcel Energy.
Magill told the crowd that if elected he would "represent a voice for business owners, parents and all residents of Steamboat Springs."
Anderson defended the city's planned purchase of the Iron Horse Inn, which has been heavily criticized by some other council candidates.
"Affordable housing is public infrastructure," Anderson said. "We can no more run this city without employees than we can without water."
Post agreed, and said it would be unfair of the city to pass an affordable housing ordinance and not take steps of its own to provide housing.
"If we're asking the private sector to provide employee housing, it was our thought that we need to do something ourselves," Post said.
Jon Quinn, Post's opponent for a four-year District 3 seat, spoke at length about the need to diversify Steamboat's economy with a focus on businesses unrelated to the resort industry.
Meg Bentley, Hughes' opponent for a District 2 seat, expressed concern about the amount of "mixed-use development" being allowed in the city and the effects it may have on existing and already struggling local businesses.
"Why should we add to that pressure by permitting too much competition too fast," she said.
Dellinger continued to stress that the pending annexation of areas west of the city will be the most important issue to face the next City Council. She said having a community voice at the table with developers will be critical and said if elected she would make sure that voice is there.
Scott Myller, Dellinger's opponent for a District 1 seat, cited what he sees as failures of the current City Council, including its affordable housing legislation and its inability to work with other local governments including Routt County.
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