Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Wanted: 32,000 summer tourists to replace Triple Crown. Must spend $25 million at local businesses and generate $1.19 million in local taxes during a 10-week period. Applicants must demonstrate the ability to be invisible to locals at all times.
But this is what a vocal minority seeks in its demands that the Steamboat Springs City Council end a 27-year relationship our community has maintained with Triple Crown Sports. And, if you listen closely, you can discern two themes within their complaints.
First, Triple Crown should be discarded and replaced by something else. They aren't sure what "something else" is or how to attract it, but as charter members of the Grass is Greener on the Other Side Society, they're convinced that two in the bush are always worth more than the bird in hand.
A few of these fantasists believe the City Council and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association (insert evil-sounding music here) have formed an unholy alliance with Triple Crown in a plot to deny "something else" from patronizing Steamboat.
These utopians bemoan traffic, noise and bad behavior they believe come with Triple Crown and - in their imaginations - only Triple Crown. In their gauzy world, no traffic, noise or bad behavior comes from locals, winter tourists or other summer tourists. In their mind's eye, we live in a land of milk and honey - where money grows on trees like the golden aspen leaves of fall - and nary a blemish exists until Triple Crown invades like a swarm of Mormon crickets.
These dreamers live in a mythical world, and they are in search of the mythical tourist.
The second theme is that decisions about Triple Crown should be removed from the City Council and put to a vote of "the people." This theme's genesis results from cross-pollination with those seeking referendums on every significant issue facing the council. From Steamboat 700 to the Iron Horse Inn, from Steamboat Springs Airport to Triple Crown, they're convinced that if only "the people" could vote, the tide would turn against the City Council elected by, strangely enough, "the people."
I'm convinced this faction skipped civics class in favor of a doobie under the bleachers the day terms like "democracy," "republic" and "representative democracy" were taught. So, let's quickly review.
We do not live in a democracy.
We live in a republic.
The Founders intentionally created a republican form of government - sometimes called a representative democracy - for enough reasons to fill the Federalist Papers. But, one of the major reasons was to empower our elected representatives to act for the greater good while not succumbing to those who merely gripe the loudest.
It is true that ballots across the country and locally are growing each November with referendums instigated by special interest groups. But that trend is a result of cowardly legislators shirking the responsibilities of their office for fear of disfavor with the most belligerent and myopic.
Let's turn to those who, while not so loud, risk it all in order to provide jobs for their employees and a better community for all of us.
Since I first wrote about Triple Crown three weeks ago, local entrepreneurs have expressed to me their desire that Steamboat maintain a relationship with Triple Crown. From downtown sidewalks to restaurants, coffee shops, retailers and banks, not a day has passed that someone hasn't stopped me to talk about the lifeblood Triple Crown brings their business and their employees. One afternoon, I was stopped three times in the span of 100 feet by locals wanting to tell me firsthand why Triple Crown is important to the year-round viability of their business.
So, what should the City Council do?
The council should continue negotiations with Triple Crown with the goal of securing a contract that benefits both entities for many years to come, while simultaneously investing in long-term economic development that further stabilizes our local economy.
The good news is, based on discussions I've had this week with Councilman Jon Quinn and City Manager Alan Lanning, I'm confident the Council is pursuing a course of action in the best interest of Steamboat vis-Ã -vis Triple Crown. The council is seeking a relationship with Triple Crown that provides economic stability for the foreseeable future, while not losing sight of the need for broader long-term economic development.
As for the rest of us, instead of seeking mythical tourists and inane referendums, I'd suggest we encourage the council to invest significant dollars in a viable long-term economic development strategy focused on attracting businesses with high-salaried jobs - independent of tourism - to our valley.
Steamboat Springs resident Rob Douglas can be reached at Douglas@privacytoday.com