Our View: Alliance response leaves more questions

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Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Grant Fenton, community representative
  • Paul Strong, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— If the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley expects to play a continued role in public policy decisions, it should expect public scrutiny of its mission and agenda.

Indeed, such scrutiny is warranted in light of Steve Aigner's recent presentation about Steamboat Springs to an Iowa State University audience, which became the subject of two articles in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Aigner and the Community Alliance have missed the mark in their response to the video presentation.

Aigner's April 20, 2009, presentation to fellow professors and students in ISU's Department of Sociology was revealing because of Aigner's candid depiction of Steamboat Springs and the Community Alliance, the nonprofit organization for which he serves as paid community organizer. The presentation, titled "The Case of Steamboat Springs - Experiencing the Classroom," was newsworthy because of the growing role the Community Alliance plays in local politics, particularly as it relates to growth and water issues. The role was on display two weeks ago when Aigner, speaking on behalf of the Community Alliance, gave the City Council an ultimatum to put an ordinance on the November ballot that would make all "substantial" annexation decisions subject to a vote of the people.

Aigner opens the hour-long video presentation with this description of the Community Alliance: "The organization for which I now organize, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, has fought growth forever. Its primary reason to exist is to promote smart growth, at best, and no growth would be the preference for at least half the members."

Aigner goes on to describe the "growth machine" of Steamboat Springs and what he interprets as the incredible influence the development and real estate industries have on local politics. He also claims to have received inside information from Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush - a claim Aigner later backed off of, and one Mitsch Bush flatly denied.

Aigner's description of the Community Alliance's stance on growth further confuses the organization's approach to development in the Yampa Valley. Aigner and other Community Alliance members continually refer to their support of "smart growth," but there seldom is a clear definition attached to that innocuous term. And if the Alliance has "fought growth forever," and if at least half its members prefer no growth whatsoever, is the Community Alliance simply using "smart growth" as a guise for a no-growth agenda?

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with an organization that supports a no-growth agenda. But when that organization continues to have a seat at the table during major policy discussions, it's important for the community to know what its true motivations are.

To its detriment, the Community Alliance has thus far failed to clearly and convincingly respond to the Aigner video presentation. Although Aigner backpedaled from some of the remarks he made to his Iowa audience, Community Alliance President Jack White took a puzzling approach to damage control. After telling the Pilot & Today that some of Aigner's remarks were exaggerated, White argued that the video had no local news value and then claimed that neither he nor his fellow Community Alliance board members had bothered to watch the hour-long presentation.

The Community Alliance has raised its profile in recent years to the extent that its actions - including those of its spokesman - are indeed newsworthy. Aigner himself has consistently called for open, honest dialogue in the community about some of the issues that matter most to Routt County. If we assume his comments to his Iowa State University audience were open and honest, why did Aigner immediately request that Iowa State remove the video from its Web site? We can't help but feel that Aigner doesn't want the community to know what he, or perhaps the organization he represents, really thinks.

We believe citizen groups such as the Community Alliance have an important role to play in the public process regardless of the positions they take on the issues. However, we also believe that Aigner's decision to ask his university to take down the video presentation, coupled with the failure of the Community Alliance to respond in a meaningful way to his remarks, represents a setback for that organization. We urge the leadership of the Alliance to inform the community about whether it approves or disapproves of the comments Aigner made in his Iowa presentation.

Comments

steamboatsprings 5 years, 4 months ago

Well said, the Community Alliance's actions and their insistence that they represent the whole community with 200 secret members (1/2 who do not live here) are puzzling at best. They become an enigma when their designated representative shows so little respect for those very citizens and says that he can't talk the same way in Steamboat. That says a lot about how forthright the Community Alliance is as they participate in the discussions that form local policy.

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John Barrett 5 years, 4 months ago

Great job on writing this story and getting in front of the Steamboat.

I too have asked these questions in other blogs with no reply from the Community Allianance other than I must have some personal agenda against the Alliance which I do not.

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RPG 5 years, 4 months ago

The Community Alliance, (CA) Steve Aigner, Steve Lewis, and affordable housing are all rolled up in one big confusing issue. I'd like someone to tell me if the impressions I have formed from reading the Pilot articles and comments associated with them are valid.

  1. The CA exists to stop development in Steamboat Springs.
  2. The CA uses the goal of "affordable housing" as a reuse, a wolf in sheep's clothing, to force the cost of new development sky high so that no development can be affordably achieved, allowing the CA to appear to be fighting for the lower and middle class housing while at the same time sabotaging the very things they claim to be promoting.
  3. CA wants to force lower and middle class citizens to shop in Denver, Grand Junction, and Laramie and on the Internet by keeping K-Mart, Target, Super Walmarts, Walgreens, etc. out of Steamboat by imposing "quality" hurdles. Thus making it more expensive to live in Steamboat so they can keep out the riffraff.
  4. The CA is threatening the Council by having the voters decide on future development. The CA thinks that the voters are stupid and can't see that the CA wants to make the cost of living, building, shopping, and growing in Steamboat so high that only the high-class elite can afford to live here, and will vote the way CA wants them to vote, for "quality" and against development.
  5. Is there anyway to verify that the CA actually has 200 members? Is the CA composed mostly of people from the conservative party?
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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

RPG, I have been observing this group for a long time and my conclusioins affirm yours. AH is a political tool that is used in many ways, depending on the agenda of the day. The 700 followed all their previous efforts at planning and they seem willing to kill the project by any means including running out the clock or resorting to a vote. I'm sure that the effort will stop when 700 is put to rest.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

Hmm, I'm an active member of Community Alliance.

So those many meetings I attended with the Affordable Housing Working Group and Wildhorse Meadows developer Brent Pearson? I was really there to stop his development!

And my vote as a City Planning Commissioner supporting his Wildhorse Meadows development? I was really hiding my true agenda to strike another day!

Absurd.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

I had the pleasure of hearing SB700's attorney, Bob Weiss, express to City Council his appreciation for the "businesslike and professional manner" with which the City Planning Commission had handled its hearings on SB700 in the winter of 2007-2008.

The chair of those Planning Commission hearings?

Me, Steve Lewis

Yet I've also been active as a member of Community Alliance for years. Some conspiracy, huh. Guess I didn't get the memo.

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