Richard Levy: What wasn't reported

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The Aug. 5 Steamboat Today editorial ("Alliance response leaves more questions") states that the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley "has fallen short in its reply" to the Pilot & Today's investigation of Dr. Steve Aigner's presentation at Iowa State University.

I agree. This situation started with the July 24 article about the Iowa presentation. Steve told the Community Alliance board that there was nothing in his presentation that should concern us. We believed him and assumed the matter would fade away.

Now two weeks later, with the Pilot & Today's prodding, the issue still boils. I now must clarify what Steve actually said and point out how the Pilot & Today has emphasized 70 seconds of comments while ignoring the remaining 60 minutes of content.

I will restate what our president, Jack White, has already said: At no time has the Community Alliance supported an anti-growth position. We always arrive at our positions on development and strategy through consensus at our board and growth committee meetings. That leads me to believe that Steve overestimates the no-growth contingent among our members.

Steve does say "the Community Alliance has always fought growth." This statement is only partially true. The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley has always fought growth ... which does not meet the intent of the community's stated goals. These goals are codified in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan and created though extensive public participation. There also have been many growth projects that the Community Alliance did not protest because they met the intent of these plans.

The Pilot & Today claims Steve "received inside information from a Routt County commissioner." This is not true. In one sentence Steve does state that he "received information about what goes on inside the courthouse." All county commissioner business is done in the courthouse, including public hearings. The Community Alliance does not have the resources to attend every meeting in our community. It is gracious of public officials to update us on those poorly reported sessions. Elsewhere, Steve does state that he received "inside information." Nowhere does he say that information is from a county commissioner.

That should address the main concerns raised by the Pilot & Today.

What concerns me is what the Pilot & Today chose to not tell us about this presentation.

They did not tell us about his statement that the Community Alliance's main goal is "to make sure we do not grow so fast that we lose our community character." That comment along with his quote of the Community Alliance's actual mission statement goes a long way to describing the real agenda of our organization, not the one sentence the chose to emphasize.

The Pilot & Today also failed to mention Steve's discussion of Vision 2030, specifically that 36 percent of respondents said "preserving the character of community" was a top concern. These types of responses are the foundation of the Community Alliance's efforts.

Finally, the Pilot & Today felt it was unimportant that Steve mentioned his efforts "to get people to think more civilly about dialogue."

Anyone that has watched the full 62-minute presentation would agree that there was marginal public benefit to the newspaper's sensationalism. But somehow this story merited placement on the cover of the Friday issue, the most-read issue of the week. Could it be that the Pilot & Today is not the balanced public institution it claims to be?

Richard Levy

Vice president, Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley

Comments

Karen_Dixon 5 years, 2 months ago

Rich, The "why are you picking on us" approach is not working. When an organization puts itself at the political table, it should expect public scrutiny.

Those who choose to respond to allegations with honesty, integrity, and, when warranted, humility, are the ones who ultimately retain or regain respect and credibility.

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Scott Ford 5 years, 2 months ago

Rich I do not think that the Community Alliance mission and goals are served by keeping the Steve Aigner story alive. Let it go! To paraphrase a quote from Benjamin Franklin, "Never pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel." It is good advice. Even if the Pilot's reporting was out in left field, (excuse me perhaps right field), let it go!

If the Community Alliance feels it mission and goals are not well understood, consider buying some ad space in the Pilot/Today. Advertising dollars is a language the Pilot/Today understands very well. Criticizing the Pilot as a means to get the CA's message out is a 'dog that won't hunt', i.e., it is a silly strategy.

Remember that when a person or an organization feels that they have been wronged, how they respond may actually be harmful to their overall cause.

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Karen_Dixon 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott says to consider buying some ad space in the Pilot. Is it not true that the Pilot actually allows the CAYV to write 2 articles per month? Is the CAYV identified as author of these articles or are they put forth as the Pilots views? The CAYV website states "In February, The Community Alliance worked out an arrangement with the Steamboat Pilot and Today so that we get to write two of the four progressive Sunday commentaries a month. This opportunity principally resulted from the Steve Lewis' initiative." Additionally, Steve Aigner mentions this fact in the video. (curiously, that was contained in the 60 minutes of video that was left out of the expose' as well)

Also the CAYV website states that Rich Levy, as VP, wrote an LTE on Big Box retailers. It then gives this link... http://steamboatpilot.com/news/2006/d... which points to an Our View article. Perhaps this is an incorrect link. Otherwise, it would appear that the Pilot has actually been in bed with CAYV, which has the appearance of impropriety for sure, but not in the way CAYV is claiming. In fact, quite the opposite.

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Scott Ford 5 years, 2 months ago

Karen Thanks for the new information. It would seem that CAYV has a public forum(s) available to them at no cost. Since it is free, one can only hope that they take advantage of the opportunity in a thoughtful way to present their perspective about the issues. They have as much right to voice their opinion as the next guy or organization; their perspective should be welcomed even if one does not agree with it.

It seems to me that engaging in an argument with the Pilot/Today will not accomplish their overall goal. I am still puzzled as to why Rich thought it was important to give the story about Steve Aigner's presentation yet another day of life. From my perspective it was a silly thing to do. I have been guilty of doing silly things from time to time but usually I am smart enough to eventually know when to move on.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

The only thing that makes any difference is what the CA does in the future, more attempts at damage control are irrelevant.

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Karen_Dixon 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott- Perspectives and straightforward dialogue are very much welcome. Disagreements and debates over issues are anticipated, and are healthy & productive as long as they remain civil and above board.

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Rob Douglas 5 years, 2 months ago

I must agree with Mr. Levy. There is much the Pilot has not investigated or reported that it should for context. In fact, Levy's letter today, placed in the context of the positions he holds as both the VP of the CAYV and the Vice-Chair of the Steamboat Springs City Planning Commission, raises serious conflict of interest questions that should be examined by the newspaper, along with the appropriate authorities in city government. To wit: Why is Levy, the VP of the Community Alliance - which is a lobbying organization that seeks to influence the Planning Commission - also sitting on the Planning Commission and voting on specific projects and public policy matters that the CAYV has lobbied about? If this is not a conflict of interest, the words have no meaning. And, lest there be any doubt that Levy and the CAYV attempts to "influence" the Planning Commission, here is what Mr. Aigner wrote me on behalf of the CAYV on June 22: "While we study and discuss our analyses in private, everything we do to influence the Planning Commission, the City Council or the Board of Commissioners and the course of public policy is done in public." (continued)

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Rob Douglas 5 years, 2 months ago

While I admire Levy's zeal in defending his organization's chief lobbyist, Mr. Aigner, it is now apparent that Levy is not a disinterested party with an objective view of the CAYV's activities and, frankly, given that he is the VP of the CAYV I would not expect him to be. His letter and other of his public writings indicate that he is as deeply involved in the CAYV, its' policy positions and the role of its' chief lobbyist that lobbies the very Commission Levy sits on as one would expect the VP of the organization to be. I believe it is highly inappropriate for Levy to be sitting in judgment of projects and public policy decisions coming before the Planning Commission that the CAYV has taken a position upon and therefore every vote of Levy's that the CAYV discussed at its meetings is suspect at best. (continued)

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Rob Douglas 5 years, 2 months ago

Having said that, I also find myself in agreement with Levy when he states, "Two weeks later:the issue still boils." I'd like to proffer a solution as Levy and the board of the CAYV feels that the video and Aigner's numerous and lengthy concealed letters over the course of this year attacking a who's who of folks in the valley have not been placed in proper context by the paper. As is always the case, the simplest solution is the easiest. The CAYV maintains a web site. The CAYV should post the video and ALL the letters for everyone in the valley to view and read so they can judge for themselves whether Aigner and the CAYV have been "smeared" - to quote Levy. If it would help, I have copies of all those materials if the CAYV has lost any of the materials.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

And Rich Levy conveniently fails to mention another thing said which was that the lack of a city imposed property tax is part of the Town's policy of supporting developers. Or that whole ill-informed discussion on T Boone Pickens "secretly" buying water rights and suing to keep it secret when it is completely public. Or he comments about locals not being ignorant (which in SB is doubly offensive because it offends the locals that are ignorant and it offends the successful well educated that consider think being retired sociology professor from Iowa is not a particularly impressive resume). Or that the City of SS is not so owned by developers that turned down Ed MacArthur's proposed annexation several times and he is not just a well connected local, but former head of the Chamber. And that the city turned down Alpine Ranch despite those guys having money and connections. And so on.

As someone that has listened to the entire lecture, it most certainly is not an academic lecture with a few passages of speaking the deeper truth in a way understood by academics that is misunderstood by ordinary people. The lecture is far more of a retired professor visiting friends, showing vacation photos and showing off what he has been doing.

The joke of this situation, in my opinion, is that his more controversial statements are at least debatable as being true while the consistent pattern of bad historical facts has largely been ignored. The suggestion that the lecture was fine except for a few sentences is simply false. I am willing to dare a Steve Aigner supporter to pick a 3 minute sequence of his lecture in which there are no factual errors or controversial statements.

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steamboatsprings 5 years, 2 months ago

Excellent points everyone. There is clearly a potential conflict of interest with Rich on planning commission that should be reviewed in short order. He also seems to have a hard time deciding whether he and the rest of the CAYV leadership have even seen the video. He said none of them have seen it relatively recently even after commenting that the comments the Pilot quoted only represented all small part of what was said. I for one watched it twice and it is comical to to think that none of them did for weeks afterwards when what was said called into question the future of the CAYV and made front page news.

If anything has continued to make it news it is how effectively everything the CAYV has confirmed everything that Steve said with their responses. Their opponents couldn't have scripted anything more perfect.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

The CA needs to get organized before attempting to run the community, the present debacle reminds me of past CA surrogate councils and the questionable competency factor. We will never forget those high profile exhibitions.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

I think the CAYV's problem is not that it needs to get organized - it appears to be so well organized that they can present an unified front that attempts to deny the obvious.

CA: we didn't watch it, but we know nothing improper was said. CA: It was an academic lecture It is so bad that the professor asks the university to remove the video. There was even an exchange at the start of the lecture about it being recorded and the lecture was listed as a public academic event despite the professor's claims that it was a private faculty event. CA's Steve Levy: Attempts to pull the big lie by saying the issue is 70 seconds of a 60 minute video. Not only is far more than 70 seconds troublesome - the video was so bad the professor asked that it no longer be available for viewing.

And it is audacious how Steve Levy pulls the exact trick that the professor bragged about in Iowa - which is to take a generic undefined, but popular phrase ("preserve community character") to then argue that the CAYV represents the interests of the overall local community.

The fundamental issue here is intellectual honesty. If the CAYV is willing to, and wants the public to ignore the truth in pursuit of political goals then their actions are defensible and logical. And the next time the CAYV presents or questions some study or projection then the public response should be "that is the CAYV's political opinion - there is every reason to believe it has been distorted to meet the CAYV's political goals".

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steamboatsprings 5 years, 2 months ago

Well said Scott, that is a great way to look at it. Their actions and re-directions either show little intelligence or more likely little respect for the people in our community's intelligence. Good thing that they are there to decide what our best interests are and look out for them for us.

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JLM 5 years, 2 months ago

Ocham's or Occam's Razor --- "when you have two competing theories, the simpler one is the better."

The CAYV is suspect. The suspicion is because of the incongruity of its public and private pronouncements. The suspicion is heightened by the conflicting explanations of that incongruity.

There are way tooooooooooooooooo many guys named "Steve" involved with the CAYV.

Let's go with the simple explanation --- Steve Aigner is a big fat liar. His own words establish this fact. All the other Steves are his supporters attempting to defend the indefensible. CAYV is opposed to growth at any cost. CAYV is pursuing ITS agenda and is not a trusted steward of SBS.

Occam's Razor --- believe the simple explanation as it is usually correct.

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