Steamboat briefs: Aigner resigns from Community Alliance


— The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley announced the resignation of organizer Steve Aigner on Tuesday.

"The unprecedented newspaper focus on Steve has created a public perception that makes if difficult to ensure that the efforts of the Community Alliance will be judged on their merits," read the statement from Community Alliance Vice President Rich Levy, referring to Steamboat Pilot & Today articles about a presentation Aigner gave in April at Iowa State University and about his work as the group's organizer.

"The Board of Directors would like to express their gratitude to Steve's 18 months of dedication to our organization," the statement continued. "The Community Alliance will continue its mission to help preserve the environment and character of the Yampa Valley."

Congressman John Salazar to visit Steamboat today

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., is visiting Steamboat Springs today and will announce $257,000 in funding for a new hybrid bus at 4 p.m. at the Gondola Transit Center. The event is open to the public.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

Except Aigner's resignation does not really solve any of the credibility issues because the CAYV has stated there was nothing wrong with what Aigner said or has done.


steamboatsprings 7 years, 5 months ago

Exactly! The last quote from the CAYV about Steve confirms they agree with everything he did. They only talk about unprecented coverage not what he said to deserve every bit of it.

Now it's time for someone impartial to look into Rich Levy's possible conflict of interest being a member of the planning commission and VP of the Community Alliance since it the mission of the planning commission to evaluate new proposals based on city codes not the agenda of the CAYV.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

There is no conflict of interest between someone having political views or belonging to an organization and serving in a public office. Having political views or belonging to an organization that has opinions is not a conflict of interest. There would be a conflict of interest only if the CAYV had a financial interest in the outcome of a particular decision.

He is absolutely biased, but that is not a conflict of interest. And it makes sense to question why the City Council would want such a biased person on the planning board. It certainly goes against their reputation as being pro growth.

I suppose a cynical developer could make a donation to the CAYV and thus force Rich Levy to disqualify himself from considering projects involving that developer.


steamboatsprings 7 years, 5 months ago

Excellent points JLM. There is clearly a conflict of interest here. The interest does not need to be monetary as someone can hold their ideal world to be far more important than money. Steve Aigner showed that he was willing to do a lot to further his goals even thought a financial reward was not part of the deal.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

There is nothing particularly evil about having a legitimate conflict of interest.

There is something untoward about having a conflict of interest and pretending it does not exist.

The issue what action one takes AFTER recognizing and acknowledging the existence of the conflict of interest.

An individual who has a passionate interest in an aspect of public life --- as an example "planning" issues --- should be doubly careful about becoming involved in a public body wherein his/her conflict of interest might preclude active consideration of the business that comes before that public body.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

JLM, Where is the "conflict of interest" with Rich Levy?

There is no reason to believe he has any conflict between his personal views and the CAYV's views while serving on the planning board. If anything, he has a synergy of interest between those views and serving on the planning board.

It is not a conflict of interest to have a political perspective that creates a strong bias.

"Conflict of interest" arises when the person making the decision ALSO has a financial interest in the decision.

I think it does make sense to ask why the City Council appointed such a biased person to the planning board.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

The definition of a conflict of interest is certainly broader in a political and public service sense or environment than a narrowly defined conflict between monetary or financial interests or even a fiduciary obligation. Those standards are more applicable to a financial or business setting. They are by and large simple quantitative standards while the coin of the realm in public service is often a more qualitative result.

A conflict of interest arises from a number of potential areas including:

The possession of material non-public information about a subject --- obtained in the ordinary course of discharging one's duties in a public arena --- when such information might be of value to an organization which seeks to influence the outcome of that decision. This is the classic "inside trader" conflict.

The failure to objectively and fairly consider evidence when personal biases --- even those arrived at through genuine and sincere reflection on contentious issues --- influence the decisionmaker in a manner which prevents an applicant from enjoying due process or a fair hearing. An applicant before a public panel should not have an obligation of doing missionary work in addition to complying with the rules. In the end, public boards and commissions have a duty of fairness and fair dealing with the public.

The conflict of owing a duty of service to two organizations which serve different and prospectively conflicting objectives and customers. In this instance, one seeks fairness and compliance with rules without particular regard to a specific outcome while the other seeks a specific outcome. It is virtually impossible to fairly serve two constituencies simultaneously --- particularly ones which may be in contention. This conflict is only magnified when one is in a leadership capacity.

The presence of a conflict of interest requires an honorable person to carefully consider their role in that matter. It is very subjective and the honest thing to do is recuse oneself from that particular matter, to take a leave of absence from an advocacy group while serving on a public board and to carefully inquire publicly as to whether other serving members perceive a conflict of interest.

Public boards and commissions should have an "ethics charter" which deals with exactly these kind of issues and which sets the standards by which the City Council expects such conflicts --- real, perceived, imagined or non-existent --- to be dealt with and resolved. In certain instances, it is not unreasonable to ask the City Attorney to opine on the matter.

This is why often the best serving member on a board or commission which could value one's expertise is someone who has "retired" from that profession rather than someone who is a current practitioner.

You capture the right sentiment when you question the wisdom of the original appointment when such an appointment suggests a conflict on its very face.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

While I try to take a purely objective and reasonable --- "reasonable" in the context of applying logical "reasoning" rather than in the context of being fair --- tone in my discussion of conflicts of interest, I am not such a pollyanna that I do not believe that we all have a financial interest in the outcome of planning issues when we own real estate in a community in which public policy may serve to dampen the creation of supply thereby making the existing supply more dear from a financial perspective.

This is a direct and not insignificant conflict. It is a meaningful conflict as real estate --- whether a primary residence or a second home --- is often the single largest asset owned by an individual but also because emotionally it is where our lives are lived.

Because of these facts, passion is almost always injected into this debate and we often make huge errors when we are guided by passion rather than logic or fairness. We lose our perspective.

I know I do.


Steve Lewis 7 years, 5 months ago

The remaining contention here seems to be that Rich Levy has no place on planning commission, because you feel he has a "passion". When one is guided by a logic or fairness, rather than passion, a seat on planning commission is just fine.

There are insurmountable problems with such a position.

The first, is deciding that having passion is illegitimate. As annually noted to our boards by the City attorney, we have an impossible task in deciding where to draw such arbitrary lines. Financial benefit is one such line. This is why a realtor on CC stays seated to vote for development - because we have to acknowledge that nearly every citizen in Steamboat is draws some financial benefit from development. And you would draw such a line at passion?

Karen Dixon, a planning commissioner, recently posted her position that our plans are flawed because they ask development to bring too much benefit. Karen is not passionate? Karen is only being logical and fair? It should be obvious that Rich could easily come to this site, post opposing opinions and cite opposing literature. He does not. Who is more passionate?

I love Karen's level of interest. She's a great credit to this community for exactly that reason. I would never suggest that the heart and soul that Karen brings is, in fact, the flaw in her position. But that's exactly the flaw you attribute to Rich Levy.


Rich Levy is a credit to this community, and no less so than Karen Dixon.


Steve Lewis 7 years, 5 months ago

Another insurmountable problem is that your inspection of conflict is such a double standard. You worry about passion getting in the way? How about money? Certainly a realtor or engineer who always votes for more development tips the future market towards his pocketbook.

Tom Earnst regularly steps down from planning commission because he is a financial advisor to 360 Village, our next possible annexation. I expect Tom will sit for the next proposal and use his best judgment. On the standard of financial benefit, is Rich less legitimate than Tom?


Tony Connell is managing partner at 360 Village. He is in the business of road construction. He previously was a planning commissioner. I'm sure Tony used his best judgment. On the standard of financial benefit, is Rich less legitimate than Tony Connell?



Steve Lewis 7 years, 5 months ago

"And it makes sense to question why the City Council would want such a biased person on the planning board. It certainly goes against their reputation as being pro growth."

On the contrary, Rich was placed on planning commission by a prior council. This council simply has not had the opportunity to remove him.

But this council has chosen not to continue the terms of Dick Curtis and myself, and thus has installed 5 of the 7 sitting planning commissioners. Rich is quite alone as a progressive commissioner today.

In my opnion, the base area plan update speaks volumes about the pro-growth planning commission this council has created. Huge density and height increases came to the base area with that plan update.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

Well, an honest one might? Heck, maybe even one who had lived here, say, four or five years? Maybe one who had some actual expertise in planning? Even a dash of integrity might be useful, don't you think?

Know any? LOL

Nice try!


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

Uhh, Steve #2, calm down, take a breath --- breathe! Let the blood flow back to your brain. OK, now read what I wrote earlier:

"There is nothing particularly evil about having a legitimate conflict of interest.

The issue is what action one takes AFTER recognizing and acknowledging the existence of the conflict of interest."

As the debate becomes a bit more inflamed, it is important that folks identify and acknowledge that there are conflicts which are more subtle than just a direct financial interest. You acknowledge and everyone agrees that there are financial conflicts of interest.

That was the point of my comment not that the mere presence of a conflct of interest is a disqualifying characteristic but rather that it requires a bit of reflection and thoughtfulness to ensure that it is the public whose interest is really being served here rather than using a public board or commission as a platform from which to project personal agendae.

[At the end of the day, isn't that the implication of the CAYV issue? A personal agenda? A hidden agenda?]

Perhaps the subtlety of the discussion is lost on you --- you apparently do not do "subtle" too well, but that's OK.

I agree with you completely that this issue "kicks as hard as it shoots" --- everybody including realtors has to be mindful of where their duty lies. I would be concerned about any any conflict regardless of where one's sentiments lie. I want a fair and free debate and one that is decided in the public square. Don't you?

You're going to be OK, you passionate Steve you. Everybody digs YOUR passion. LOL


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

Steve, I agree with you that JLM's standard is not just a double standard, but an impossible standard.

It simply makes no sense to say that someone cannot have any interest in the outcome of decisions. If that were the case then we should turn our local government over to a retirement community in England.

Though, Rich Levy has more potential conflicts than most because of his official position in an advocacy group. Presumably, the CAYV (with or without Rich Levy) holds discussions on whether to take a position on projects submitted to Planning. So on major projects, his members take a position. Thus, he should not have an official position in the CAYV while serving on the planning board. Or baring that, he should step down on any proposal that the CAYV has considered whether to support or oppose. Note that the conflict is due to his role as an official in the CAYV, not as a member of the CAYV.

Just like no one should have an official role in the Chamber of Commerce and serve on the Planning Board (or City Council).

And as I noted before, Rich Levy's position in the CAYV allows any developer to force Rich Levy to withdraw from considering their project by joining or making a contribution to the CAYV prior to submitting the project. Being an official in a group that has had a paid position, means that money donated to that group is a clear conflict of interest.


Steve Lewis 7 years, 5 months ago

Scott, CAYV, to my knowledge, does not typically address individual applications. An exception would be UGB amendments. Typically, it addresses policy and legislative issues. The annexation is an application, but large enough to merit a long term focus.

Rich has stayed completely away from our CAYV committee that is weighing the SB700 annexation. He agrees that would interfere with his work at PC, and would affect the applicant unfairly.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

A conflict is exactly what it is.

That is why sometimes the very best boardmember is an experienced and qualified individual who has retired from that profession. The very best "masters at equity" or "arbitrators" are former Federal Judges.

This is exactly why it is important to identify, evaluate, assess and act upon real, perceived, imagined or non-existent conflicts of interest.

It is why an "ethics charter" is essential to ensure that the public's interest is paramount in all matters dealing with the application of authority over the public.

Unfortunately, life is a bit messy from time to time.


JLM 7 years, 5 months ago

Scott & Steve #2 --- for a couple of guys who "disagree" with me, you sure seem to AGREE completely with me.

The issue is and always has been what does one do when a conflict of interest rears its ugly head. What does one actually DO?

Both of you seem to agree completely with me that the "conflicted" individual has to consider recusal from the deliberative process, stepping aside within the organization's structure wherein the organization's members discuss and formulate a position of support or opposition; and, maintaining the integrity of the process.

What do we disagree about?

Having said that I would like to reiterate that having a conflict of interest is not the end of the world but failing to ackowledge that conflict, pretending it does not exist, failing to act effectively to nullify that conflict --- that is a real problem.

A citizen who seeks to serve his fellow man should seek to serve them well. It can be done and lots of folks routinely do what it takes to get it done.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 5 months ago

The comments by Aigner seem to follow the same disdain projected by Pelosi, Frank, and O in his speech about religion and guns. They all seem to believe that they are above the ignorant masses and must intervene on their behalf. Hopefully we can start to contest this elitism at least at the local level. CA has worked diligently to salt our leadership with their surrogates and the result has at times been embarrasing. Elitism does not have the common sense market cornered.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

Steve, But he is still an official in an organization that takes positions on issues in front of the planning board. And there are few other organizations that take positions on planning issues.

And there is still the issue that any developer can force Rich Levy to disqualify himself on any proposal by making a donation to the CAYV.

I just think that Rich Levy, the CAYV and the planning board would all be better off if he resigned as an CAYV official. He could remain an active member of the CAYV.

That may be setting the bar higher than it has been, but it is reasonable and would eliminate the most serious potential conflicts.

JLM, Where I disagree with you is that you set a standard that I think would disqualify every one on the planning board from considering most issues.

I don't see how someone that owned, built or was interested in public affairs would not be disqualified by your definition of conflict of interest.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 5 months ago

JLM, So a retired professor would be a good person to put on the planning board?


Karen_Dixon 7 years, 4 months ago

Steve, You question my logic and fairness in a previous post and chalk it up to an inferred misguided or biased passion? To make that assertion on what I said shows that you clearly do not understand Smart Growth principles which are "embodied" in our area plans. To equate an understanding of the principles and philosophy of Smart Growth and a recognition of language within our plans that conflict with those principles to a passion that leads to a conflict of interest is to say that Planning Commissioners should be completely ignorant and have no expertise in planning, growth, and development whatsoever.

Please follow the logic. The point was threefold:

1) Smart Growth principles take a "pull" approach rather than a "push" approach toward developers. They advocate a symbiotic relationship between a municipality & developers, one which creates a win-win situation rather than a win-lose situation. If a community acknowledges that it needs workforce housing and spends (a lot) of time and money creating a growth plan to accommodate it, and advocates a 3rd party (developer) provide it, then it must create a fertile environment for that plan to be carried out. It must enable the 3rd party to be successful in order to get the 3rd party to provide the municipality with what it wants affordable and attainable housing. A developer must be successful in order to develop, otherwise he will not develop. Smart Growth principles point out & embrace the painfully obvious: Developers develop as a means of making a living, just like Structural Engineers practice engineering or Massage Therapists practice the art of Massage as a means of making a living.

2) Requiring fiscal neutrality of the 3rd party is indeed costly but not to the 3rd party. Again, understanding that the 3rd party must be successful is to understand that the costs will be passed through to end users. The whole reason the WSSAP exists is to provide attainable & affordable housing for its workforce. Pass-through costs undermine that goal simply because they make the housing more expensive. This is a win-lose scenario. Developer wins, community loses.

3) There is no market for price points above a certain threshold in a certain location. At some point, the pass-through costs will force that threshold. At that point, the developer can no longer be successful and will not develop. The plan fails. The municipality does not get what it claimed to want. When played out, the growth plan actually produces no growth. This is a lose-lose scenario. Developer loses everything invested, but more importantly, the community loses everything it invested along with an opportunity to advance its goals overarching goals that led to the realization of the necessity of a growth plan in the first place.


Karen_Dixon 7 years, 4 months ago

Understanding these simple principles does not make a person, an organization, or a municipality biased toward or against developers. On the contrary, it is an informed understanding of Econ 101 & the published philosophy of Smart Growth combined with an analytical review of our area plans.

I take this position and the responsibility that goes with it very seriously, as does Rich, and as did you when you had it. Educating oneself and considering legislation critically and analytically with an informed understanding is an obligation. To fight against enlightenment sets us back a few centuries, wouldn't you say?


JLM 7 years, 4 months ago

What she said!

What a well written, articulate, intellectually sound and well reasoned commentary! You know what you are talking about and you said it well.

The demonization of developers, the one sided view of the development process and the sense that the developer of the property is paying for the regulatory burden are myths which need to be put to sleep.

It is ALL Econ 101 and that is the problem!

Nice job, KD!


Karen_Dixon 7 years, 4 months ago

Incidentally, for those who aren't aware, fiscal matters are not the purview of Planning Commission. Rich chose to address City Council during public comment on a particular application, relative to its fiscal neutrality. This was deemed acceptable and did not constitute a conflict because we have no purview over the fiscal matters of that application. My comments regarding fiscal neutrality are similar, yet they are not application specific. They are a request to consider the potential unintended consequences of viewing the legislative language of fiscal neutrality literally and in isolation, without regard to how fiscal neutrality impacts the primary intended goal.


Steve Lewis 7 years, 4 months ago

Karen, I've only read your 1st paragraph. And I'll ask you to re-read my post above.

I did not question the logic and fairness of your position.

I did not chalk up your position as that of a misguided passion.

Nothing in my post even refers to your position, Karen.

My post states, "Karen is not passionate? Karen is only being logical and fair?" I think its obvious that I was opposing such absolutes. My whole intent was to rebut exactly those kind of allegations - which were aimed at Rich Levy by the posters above.

Did you read the previous paragraph to that quote? Where I note the impossibility of even attempting such pigeonholing.

Did you read the paragraph following that quote? Where I said, "I would never suggest that the heart and soul that Karen brings is, in fact, the flaw in her position."

Huh. Relative to the treatment of Rich Levy in the posts above, I thought I was extremely fair to you. I'm obviously wasting my time here.

Have a nice weekend.


Karen_Dixon 7 years, 4 months ago

Steve, The implications were in the question marks. Had your "passionate, logical & fair" sentences ended with a period, they would have taken on a much different meaning. You stated in a preceding paragraph that "When one is guided by a logic or fairness, rather than passion, a seat on planning commission is just fine," and then went on with your questions about my passion vs. logic and fairness. Upon rereading your post, I realize that what failed to strike a chord with me was the sentence in between that read "There are insurmountable problems with such a position."

My apologies, Steve, and thank you for clarifying.

Perhaps that will be my last tit for tat. (those who know me likely just rolled their eyes & uttered "yeah, right")


steamboatsprings 7 years, 4 months ago

It's about time for the Community Alliance to resign. They have shown values, lack of regard for their fellow community members and tactics that are much more at home in a big impersonal city and proven they represent only their narrow and until recently secret agenda not the best interests of the poor people of Steamboat who just don't know enough to decide what is best for them.

Any political capital and trust they may have once had are now gone so their efforts will only bet met with with a knowing smile from the the 99% of the community that knows they just don't get it. It's amazing how effective they were at self destructing and I'm only talking about their actions once the video became public not even the sad commentary on their organization that it contained.


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