For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

Rob Douglas: Citizenship in decline?


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— The other day while caffeinating downtown with Mike and Roger, I expressed my astonishment that apparently two people named Towny Anderson live in Steamboat. Then, veering onto another subject, I began questioning the actions of Steamboat Springs city government.

"How can it be," I questioned, "the city can afford to send crews to individually assess properties for pine bark beetles, but following David Engle's death from smoke inhalation in an illegal apartment claimed it can't afford to look for illegal residences?"

"How can it be," I asked, "the issues raised by Mr. Engle's death were not on the City Council's agenda last Tuesday? How can it be the council had not a single word to say about Mr. Engle's death at their first official meeting following the fire? Why has the council abdicated responsibility and authority on this and so many other issues to the unelected city manager?"

I decried how few care enough about how our elected representatives perform their jobs to actually attend their meetings. I observed that a thousand locals will come out for free concerts, but less than a dozen will show up to City Council, county commissioner and school board meetings during which decisions impacting this valley for generations to come are made with nary a peep of public comment.

I observed that no one seems to go to public meetings unless they're there looking for money or to complain about a decision they never bothered to provide input about when the input would have counted.

And, as we all know, it's always the same small number of truly dedicated citizens who volunteer time and again to perform many of the thankless tasks of serving on committees and boards while many of us sit at home in the evening watching the latest drivel on TV.

In fact, at Tuesday's council meeting the mechanism for distributing taxpayer funds to community groups started on the path to statutory change because three of four committees currently needed to assess funding requests can't find enough volunteers to be viable. In other words, Steamboat literally can't find people to help give money away.

Roger, sensing more was brewing than just the coffee at Steaming Bean, proffered some advice. "Rob," he said, "you can write about the council or developers any week. Friday's the Fourth. You should write about citizenship in our community."

And if anyone has their finger on the pulse of our community, it's Roger Good.

Roger was the project coordinator for the recently released Routt County Livability Index. Roger and his team of volunteers spent hundreds of hours compiling and analyzing a mountain of information about our county.

From the data they were able to gauge where we stand in regard to nine comparable Colorado counties - Chaffee, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, La Plata, Pitkin, San Miguel and Summit. And while we rank smack dab in the middle overall when four major categories are combined, we lag our Rocky Mountain neighbors significantly in two components within the category of civic involvement.

Routt County ranks third to last in voting, with only six out of 10 registered voters casting ballots. Considering the number of folks who don't register, I suspect the reality is less than 50 percent of us use the precious gift millions of our fellow citizens fought and died for. Sadly, when it comes to philanthropy we're even less involved. County residents donate just 1.85 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity - second to last compared to similar mountain counties.

Although it can be argued these statistics place us in the mainstream overall nationally, the real question is whether most of us - myself included - are truly shouldering our fair share as citizens.

Are we giving back to our community and our country as much as we owe given the sacrifices previous generations made throughtout the course of this nation's history?

Are we participating fully as citizens to better our city, county, state and country - even if all that requires is showing up at public forums to express our opinion when it counts instead of whining about it later?

Tonight, we'll gather as a community to enjoy fireworks at Howelsen Hill as we celebrate our nation's 232nd birthday. As we do so, I hope we'll all take a moment to pause and reflect on the millions of our fellow Americans who sacrificed blood and treasure so we might enjoy the gifts of this valley and this country.

And, as benefactors of those gifts, I hope we'll all rededicate ourselves to jealously guarding the valley's heritage and its future by being constructively involved as citizens.

Rob Douglas can be e-mailed at


id04sp 8 years, 10 months ago

Oh, Rob, you really are new around here, aren't you?

Haven't you discovered yet that Steamboat is this little town WAY off the beaten path (no endorsement intended) where people come to work off the books, smoke dope, find easy sex with idealistic but unrealistic hippie chicks and avoid contact with law enforcement agencies that do ANYTHING except respond to 911 calls when there's an accident or a violent crime?

Doesn't the bank teller theft case tell you something about the way some of the businesses run up here?

Don't you realize that small, mostly cash businesses, are IDEAL vehicles to launder cash from trafficking in recreational drugs? Put the money in the register, close out at the end of the day, deposit the money in the bank, and VOILA! Clean money! Oh, but doesn't the daily deposit have to match up reasonably with the records of sales required by the Colorado Department of Revenue? No . . . because there are, like, two people in Grand Junction to cover the whole western side of Colorado, and I doubt that anybody in this town has EVER been audited by the CDR to see if records of daily sales are being kept.

This is a place where the level of violence is too low to attract federal attention, and as long as people are filing tax returns, there's no reason to come sniffing around. The IRS has thresholds for beginning an investigation, and they weigh the cost of the investigation against the amount that could be recovered, and don't go after the smaller cases. This makes good BUSINESS sense, but as a law-enforcement agency, it tells people that they can get away with a lot of small, hard to trace transactions which also happen to fund drug trafficking at the penny-ante level it happens among our local recreational traffickers.

So, getting involved in local committees and such requires several unique attributes. First, you've got to have the time to do it (meaning you don't have to work three jobs to live). Second, you've got to care, and that usually means you have something to gain from it around here, which would exclude you from personal gain if you worked on the committee; it's an ethics thing, covered by Colorado law. Third, you can't be paranoid about having your name or photo in the paper. Like, if you are getting workmen's comp payments from somewhere back in Michigan, you don't want publicity about how you ski, or wade around in a trout stream with a leg injury that prevents you from working for a living.

You need to get out and start a business that puts you in touch with the "gritty" elements around here. You'd be amazed at the offers you get to "barter," or the number of folks who want to work off the books, paid in cash, to hide their income and save you paying Social Security and withholding taxes to Uncle Sam.

I understand why you don't understand. I didn't understand either until I tried to be in an honest business in this town.


elk2 8 years, 10 months ago

Rob, Thank you for not letting us forget David's senseless death.


2007 8 years, 10 months ago

If you are away for the elections you can get an absentee ballot from the following website:


colowoodsman 8 years, 10 months ago

Citizenship in decline? Is this a 'True or False' or 'Mutiple Choice" question? If it's 'Multiple Choice' and the choices are; a)People are stuck in traffic and/or can't find a place to park so they don't attend meetings, b) people can't read the newspaper while walking/driving between two or three jobs and therefore are not well informed about issues, c) people do read the newspaper and are still not well informed about issues, or d)people are afraid of bumping into (or being bumped into) by RqDq, then my choice is e)all the above. If this is a 'True or False' question then my answer is False, there are many other ways of participating beyond the prying eyes of the author.


Jason Miller 8 years, 10 months ago

Steamboat is the wrong town if your looking for this id04sp "find easy sex with idealistic but unrealistic hippie chicks" Your best bet would be BOULDER .Joke i kid i kid


id04sp 8 years, 10 months ago

He he he. I know one who moved to Ft. Collins. It's been a while since I was in that market . . .


id04sp 8 years, 10 months ago

"How can it be," I questioned, "the city can afford to send crews to individually assess properties for pine bark beetles, but following David Engle's death from smoke inhalation in an illegal apartment claimed it can't afford to look for illegal residences?"

Well, Robbie, here's the difference. I can drive around in my car and spot beetle-killed trees. I can read the house number or derive it from the house next door, and the street names are easy.

Searching for illegal residences is a much tougher problem. It's really the job of the tax assessor's office. They have the legal descriptions of the properties, the assessments, and the duty to periodically go out and reassess properties. Illegal units which predate the computerization of records are going to be difficult to identify in the first place, and that's probably how most of them were put up. After all, the place that used to be a "mother-in-law" suite or a bachelor apartment over the garage, or a converted garage in the subject case, may have been there legitimately in the past, and then converted to another purpose without the owner taking out the required permits.

Electric meters should be a tip-off. Any place with a meter on it HAD TO have building permits, or YVEA wouldn't have installed the meter. I can't say, but I suspect that Engle's apartment came with "utilities included" unless the garage had its own meter for some reason, which is possible if a previous owner used it for business purposes.

Okay, then, there's the old-boy, hands-off, "We'll take care of that," that never gets taken care of stuff that happens around here. When a government employee sees a violation, there are lots of things that have to be considered in taking action. These include the cost of litigation involved, who is involved, who they know, and how difficult it will be to solve the problem.

Another is that all of our county offices are minimally staffed to do their jobs, because people have to be paid. Further, who's to say that some of the employees involved do not, themselves, live in illegal units, or maybe own them and rent them to others for additional income.

Property owners and their specialized attorneys, some of whom are now, or have been, judges in the state system, avoid the laws that cut into their income derived from property. It's a regular mafia. You've got a lot to learn about how things work around here.

Anything that affects the ability of an owner to sell a piece of property around here is taboo.

The guy put a pot of oil on the stove and then passed out. The dwelling was not gutted by fire, which means it was properly built to resist fire. The dog did not wake the victim either. There's a good chance that a smoke detector would not have made any difference at all.


424now 8 years, 10 months ago

Go to City Hall Meetings.

"The Steamboat Springs City Council meets on the first, second, and third Tuesday of every month at 5 PM in Citizens' Hall, 124 10th St. Special meetings are occasionally held as needed, on no set schedule."

"The agenda for each meeting is published to the City Council Archive on the Friday before each meeting, so that all interested parties may adequately prepare for the meeting. "

"During each council meeting the City Clerk's staff records the meeting and takes detailed notes regarding the proceedings surrounding each agenda item. These notes are reviewed and adopted into record in subsequent meetings."

"Current and past agenda, follow-ups, and minutes are available in the City Council Archive."

"New! Dial (970) 871-7070 to hear the proceedings of any meeting in Citizens' Hall, LIVE!"

Don't complain from the sidelines. Get in the game!


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