Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Last week's column concerning Triple Crown's request to use Emerald Park on an interim basis - coupled with my belief that City Council should grant that use - elicited much reaction.
Some not so.
I heard from every imaginable demographic in Routt County: men, women, young, old, employers, employees, government officials and private businesses. In short, I got an earful from every conceivable interest group in our little slice of paradise.
Perhaps the most, uh, interesting, was the woman who left a message requesting I either move or die of a heart attack. While this struck me as a tad un-neighborly, I'll assume it was a momentary meltdown because of an overabundance of caffeine. I've suffered the same condition from time to time.
But, for the record, I've grown fond of the summertime campgrounds of the Utes and don't intend to leave. And, Doc Baker over at the Heart Center of the Rockies - after making me run half-naked on a treadmill while turning my veins into a glow-in-the-dark superhighway - swears my ticker is good for a few more miles.
Among all the calls, comments and e-mails, there are several consistent themes from those reacting negatively toward mention of Triple Crown's relationship with Steamboat. Strangely, the most common complaint is that by negotiating with Triple Crown, the City Council is favoring businesses over "locals" - a loaded term if ever there was one.
I say "strangely" because I'm at a loss to understand why some see the business community as an enemy. After all, business in the 'Boat is overwhelmingly us - you, me, family, friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners and the people we nod to as we pass on the street.
Quite simply, to see the Steamboat business community as some evil force is an act of self-loathing.
From individual employees and independent contractors, to the small businesses that line our streets and shopping centers, to the larger companies that provide significant numbers of jobs - we're all in the circle of business together.
In Steamboat, as in most small communities in America, the circle of business intersects with the circle of life. Without the former, you can't have the latter. And, like it or not, absent the lifeblood of tourism most businesses in Steamboat would fail - and most locals would be locals no more.
To be blunt, without the nourishment of tourism, Steamboat would be no different than many ghost towns in the Midwest and crumbling cities in the Rust Belt. As residents, we have a symbiotic relationship with our businesses and with tourism.
So, why all the vitriol about the misperceived imbalance when it comes to interactions between City Council and the business community? I believe it is because of a long-term growing angst we all feel given the increasing constriction of middle-class incomes in the U.S. during the past 30 years.
Those of us in our 40s and 50s have seen median family income rise at less than 25 percent of our parent's generation. Those in their 20s and 30s are coping with even smaller gains. Any way you cut it - other than those who inherited well because of accident of birth - it's getting tougher to get ahead.
But, the downward pressure on incomes has far more to do with global forces emanating from developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, than any decisions made here at home.
Still, while difficult, Steamboat remains a launching pad for successful businesses. Typical of those getting it done are Dave Pepin and Peter Boniface of Backcountry Provisions. Starting with their Steamboat deli back in 1999 - through hard work and determination - they've opened two more delis, in Fort Collins and Jackson, Wyo.
I'd bet that Dave and Peter realize that in today's business climate you grow, stagnate, or perish. And here's the best part. As Dave and Peter grow Backcountry Provisions, they're sinking roots deep into Steamboat that will last a lifetime and provide jobs for others who share our dream of living in the most beautiful place on earth.
So, when you're tempted to curse the businesses that bring and service the tourists who - after all - supply the dollars and taxes that allow us to live here year-round, remember who you're insulting.
You may be insulting your friends.
You may be insulting your neighbors.
You're definitely insulting yourself.
Rob Douglas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org