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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Steamboat Springs 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.