Our View: Dear Jon (Roberts)

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, 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.

Jon Roberts officially began work as Steamboat Springs' city manager Tuesday. We can only hope it was the start of a long, successful tenure here in the Yampa Valley, and we wish him the best in a thankless job at a particularly troubling time.

Roberts certainly will have his hands full. Sales tax revenues - the city's primary source of revenue - have declined for four consecutive months, and local resort officials have warned that business could be down for several more years. As a result, the city is preparing to slash millions more from its already-approved 2009 budget, which underwent $2 million in cuts late last year.

The City Council is in the process of revising a controversial affordable housing policy that seems to pit the development community against those who have lobbied for years to provide attainable housing for Steamboat's working class.

Steamboat 700 and 360 Village are two major proposed developments seeking annexation into the city. While offering the potential for affordable housing and west-end commercial development, the developments also pose challenges to existing infrastructure and city-funded services.

The city's purchase of the Iron Horse Inn was trumpeted for providing employee housing stock in the downtown area. But the $5.3 million investment quickly is turning into a headache, with a bedbug infestation the latest twist.

These are just some of the larger issues facing the city. And while Roberts will receive his marching orders from the council, we offer the following friendly suggestions as he begins life in Steamboat Springs:

- The city has $10 million in reserves saved up for rainy days. It's raining. Don't be afraid to put reserves to a good use.

- Consider hiring a finance director. Roberts has expressed a desire to hold off on filling the vacant finance director and city clerk positions, and we appreciate his concern for budgetary constraints. Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau has done a commendable job since Lisa Rolan's departure in early January, but a department leader is needed to help oversee the city's $56 million budget and guide us through future cuts.

- Urge the council to be cautious before radically altering affordable housing policy. We agree the existing policy isn't working, but we know no one has the perfect solution. Listen to people on both sides and in the middle.

- Strongly consider the city's revenue structure and whether changes should be considered to help insulate from the month-to-month and year-to-year fluctuation of sales tax revenues.

- Work hard to keep staff morale high, particularly during difficult economic times. Wage and hiring freezes may be necessary, but don't forget to recognize the people who make our city tick.

- Forge a productive relationship with Routt County government officials, and reach out to your peers in other local municipalities. We're all part of a growing, unifying Northwest Colorado, and strong relationships will help us deal with future challenges and pressures.

- Study the recently released Community Indicators Project. It's a wealth of regional information and paints a pretty clear picture of who we are, what we are and where we're headed.

- Beware the sacred cows. Every city has them, and Steamboat is no different.

- And, of course, keep the streets plowed. Budget cuts won't keep the snow from falling, something we can all be thankful for.

Finally, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord should be applauded for her efforts as interim city leader. We can only assume she's pleased to have someone else take over the hot seat.

Our community has a lot at stake when it comes to the success of the city manager. We're glad Roberts is here, and we're excited for the possibilities his hiring could mean for Steamboat Springs and its residents. Now the real work begins.

Comments

challange1 5 years, 10 months ago

I highly urge the new city manager to take heed to the part that says ".....don't forget to recognize the people who make our city tick."

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