For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Rob Douglas: One question for Jon Roberts

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— I suspect most readers saw the above headline and thought, "Jon who?"

So, let's begin 2009 with a trip down memory lane.

In July, the current Steamboat Springs City Council and City Manager Alan Lanning parted unceremoniously. That changing of the guard came just a few years after the preceding council axed then City Manager Paul Hughes at Christmastime.

Hughes, already having agreed to step down pending his replacement, was fired during a December 2005 council meeting with a midnight maneuver by City Council President Ken Brenner and his wrecking crew that comprised the majority on City Council at the time. The firing was so abrupt and distasteful (Hughes had served as city manager for 7 1/2 years) that then council member Towny Anderson - a member of the Brenner mob - belatedly stumbled upon his conscience and issued a post-firing apology to Hughes.

Anderson, cloaking himself in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde defense, told the Steamboat Pilot, "It was not me. It was unfortunate; it was messy. I am regretful for how it was done. Apologies are inadequate."

Demonstrating a suddenly rejuvenated sense of justice that some of his cohorts on the council clearly lacked, Anderson also apologized to Loui Antonucci and Paul Strong - the only two council members who acted with humanity by voting against the Hughes midnight ambush. "I feel like I violated Loui's trust and Paul's trust, and I'll never let that happen again," Anderson told the Steamboat Pilot.

That sordid bit of city history brings to mind the funniest quote of the 2008 election cycle.

The aforementioned Ken Brenner, after his defeat in November in his bid for the state Senate while earning the dubious distinction of being the only Democrat to get a thumbs down from voters in Routt County in a year when all a candidate had to do was mumble "change" to get elected - actually told the Steamboat Pilot: "Probably the No. 1 thing is, you assume people know who you are, and they don't, even when you've lived here your whole life."

Note to Ken: Perhaps the voters "know who you are" and remembered the Paul Hughes slaying - plus a host of boondoggles your gang saddled the city with - and voted accordingly. Did you not witness the November 2007 election guillotining of the rest of your posse?

So, with that backdrop of local political mayhem, enter Jon Roberts.

"Jon who?"

Steamboat Springs' new city manager: Jon Roberts.

What's that? You didn't realize the City Council selected a new city manager? You heard about 118 applicants and were told there was to be a slate of candidates presented to the public? You thought you'd have a chance to ask questions of at least two or three candidates? You thought you'd have meaningful input?

While you were busy preparing for the holidays and kissing 2008 a fond adieu, the city manager derby magically went from 118 applicants to one candidate. Go figure. Yes, there was a small citizens committee that worked in conjunction with the council and interviewed a small number of candidates, but that process was done in secret.

So next week, if you're unemployed, you can meet your new city manager. Oh sure, the council is pretending Roberts doesn't have the job yet, but as he's the only candidate, who's fooling whom? In a vain attempt to keep the charade alive, the council will pretend to have the public at large participate in selecting the already selected city manager by holding a "public interview" dog and pony show Wednesday at noon.

A dog and pony show with only one pony for the public to take a gander at - Jon Roberts.

What's that, you say? You actually have a job and have to work at noon and therefore find it hard to attend? Well, me too. So, because it will be difficult for me to escape work and attend Jon Roberts' viewing, I'll pose one question here.

What is your vision for Steamboat Springs for the next 10 years?

Sorry. That was a trick question. From where I sit in the cheap seats, the only answer to that question is no answer at all. For my money, a city manager should not have an expressed public policy view. The manager's role should be nonpolitical and simply serve to competently enact the mandate of the electorate as expressed by the majority of elected representatives at any given point in time.

And it should go without saying, given recent history, city managers should not be political pawns to be cast aside with each new council.

To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail Rob.Douglas@Comcast.net

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years, 10 months ago

Pilot, Please ask Rob to work a harder on his product. His specialty? A lazy, slanted attack dog thing headed for a ditch.

Today Rob offers ugly paragraphs reaming retired city councilors for firing a city manager 2 years ago. Next Rob bemoans the cards dealt for replacing the city manager fired this year. What Rob? No comment on THIS YEAR's firing of our city manager?

Its completely useless trash.

The "mandate of the electorate" has expressed a vision for the next ten years. Its called the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan.

Please think more about what you can accomplish with your column other than insults.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 10 months ago

Steve: I can usually find common ground with you, but this comment seems to be "completely useless trash". Rob has, in my opinion, presented a no frills enactment of questionable events that we have in our community. Should we have differing views available, or limit ourselves to the talking points of those that have a dog in the fight. He is talking about tax money and we have every right to hear all viewpoints. The area plan that I keep hearing about, from participants who say that everything was decided way back when, seem to use this as a way of saying," that decision was made a long time ago". Common sense will never become obsolete, but this area plan may not have been prepared with any more wisdom, than our city has shown in the last decade. In any event, I doubt that the area plan covers the events that Rob is talking about. Those entering the public arena have to realize that criticism comes with the territory. It may not be fair, but everyone is entitled to an opinion. to stifle input is to follow the path of ignorance and corruption. I entered the area of public comment about a year ago when I no longer could remain silent about the lack of competence displayed in the community. We have many good people in our government, but I think that we need to demand an end to "agendas", or put out a permanent advertisement for city manager. Rob, I eagerly await your article every Friday, I don't always agree, but that is what makes the world go around.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 10 months ago

Tele, Its true the area plan is not binding. But it does represent a mandate. And it is a broad mandate, rather than the unratified agendas of a few, as you suggest.

First, the plan meetings were open to and attended by hundreds. Ten citizen committees formed to make the plan text fit the discussion. Far more community intent is represented in that process than in the slogans and ad space of winning campaigns for city council.

Second, the area plan was voted on by four bodies. After thorough consideration it was adopted by the county planning commission, the city planning commission, the board of county commissioners, and the city council.

In my book, that's a mandate. And a very explicit mandate, at that.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 10 months ago

Dear Fred, Brent, If there was some value to Rob's unhappiness (that we presently have only one city manager candidate), I missed the point he was trying to make. No big deal, because I gather you saw his point.

Yes, everyone has a right to speak up.

But Rob Douglas is not "everyone". The Pilot pays a salary for Rob's conservative commentary. Where is the paid counterbalance to Rob?

Rob uses Jon Roberts mainly as pretext to beat up two retired city councilors for firing a manager years ago. I just see no value in it. Certainly a more relevant and telling topic would be to visit the current council's firing of the manager Jon will actually replace.

The two past managers each served at the pleasure of city council, so I have equal reaction to their firings. The Pilot, however, shows two opposite reactions. Rob Douglas gets paid to vindicate Hughes and villify his council, well after the event. On the other hand your editorial board came out, before the fact, to call for Lanning's firing and has since avoided any deeper journalism into the reasons given for it.

I would hope for more balance than this from my local paper.

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Scott Berry 5 years, 10 months ago

Steve,

Rob got you this time! First, your anger contaminates your liberal agenda! Second, any implication that the Community Area Plan is a mandate is simply a clever introduction of an irrelevant issue to validate your point. The Plan is not a legal document giving official instruction or command, nor was it voted on by the electorate! Therefore, it is not a mandate, but simply an advisory plan.

But more to Rob's point. Steamboat has a sordid history of firing leadership. What do Cindy Simms, Donna Howell, Paul Hughs, & Alan Lanning have in common? ...Paychecks in the mail they did not earn! And, do you find similar agendas with Dr. D and Ken Brenner's crew? In truth, it is not fair to lump Alan Lanning in with the others because he is not as competent. (As evidenced a discussion of Lanning's finance director, Lisa Rollins; her incompetence, high salary, and living in the Iron Horse?)

And finally, a little conservative column amongst the many doesn't provide balance but a modicum of hope for those of us who are bombarded by the "savior's press". Unfortunately, there are not enough writers like Rob Douglas!

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

I remain stumped on what value exists in Rod Douglas' work. He tread two paths with this last article.

One on how a sole remaining candidate exists for city manager. Please, someone help me see some point or value therein?

The other path traversed a "memory lane" that offered nothing but derision. Please, someone help me see the point or value therein?

Rob's last sentence begins the only useful thought: "... given recent history, city managers should not be political pawns to be cast aside with each new council."

I would find these words sincere, if in his 388 words illuminating "recent history" on this topic, the author had found the intellectual honesty to spend any of those words on recent history. His eyes are wide open to strongly criticize events 2 years old, and shut to the same event this summer.

Disturbingly slanted standards from an employee of the Pilot.

We deserve balanced publishing from the Pilot. Why has there been no paid progressive column during the tenure of Douglas?

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Scott Berry 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve, who is stumped? Perhaps you should explain what is progressive, because there is a plethora of liberal pieces in the Pilot and damn few conservative columns.

And, why do you have a soft spot for the incompetence of Alan Lanning? Perhaps you could enlighten us after recounting the 388 words, just to make sure.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: Our city and council have a lot of good people, and have had some that were lacking, this will be present in any similar situation. All employees and associates of the city should be held accountable. Too often in government a lack of leadership exists, and the community is embarassed and loses confidence. One job of the media is to serve as a watchdog for those that do not have the time or access to stay in touch. We are genarally informed by media of the comments of government representatives. Too often we don't hear any opposing view, to silence Rob would certainly make some happy. Anyone that Rob has criticized can step forward and present evidence, although that doesn't seem to be happening. Problems are not solved by sweeping them under the rug. If we are to be a healthy community, this is a very necessary process. We all need to be held accountable for our performance.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Cents, The "stumped" refered to the value in Rob's writing, exampled above. Not with the value of having a conservative column.

Disagree with you about all those liberal pieces. Aside from Rob, I think we're even. Examples?

I have no soft spot for Lanning. Though I very much did appreciate his iinitiative in salvaging $4.5 million of Use Taxes. I also liked Lisa Rolan standing up for the taxpayers side of that same issue. From your anonymous perch and no facts, you disparaged Lisa Rolan as incompetent earlier and have the same insult for Lanning today. I do not agree with this ethic.

Fred, I disagree with little of what you are saying.

That "Anyone that Rob has criticized can step forward and present evidence" is small mitigation for the personal damage done by Rob's insulting style. The above example offers Ken or Towny one sewer of an invitation. There is no upside for a Douglas victim.

Conservatives are responding here about their right to hear a paid conservative voice. Fine. When we have a paid progressive columnist getting similar space to Rob, we will have a balanced local newspaper. I doubt you disagree.

Meanwhile no takers for explaining the value within the above work by Rob.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the only ones that yelp are the ones that you hit.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Rob, At this point I'll apologize for criticizing your work so harshly. I've twice before posted you asking you refrain from the insults. Somehow this time was different, and you were defenseless - it was an awful article. Some of your stuff is great.

And consider yourself lucky. 15 people read my complaints on you. Thousands read your ill opinion of Ken and Towny. You do realize they are no longer in office?

And rarely do people use an apology as proof of poor character, but there you went. Whatever embarrassment I've offered you? Do the math on the embarrasment you can visit on others.

The point is you could be nicer, too.

Also, Brandon Gee's article on Jon was excellent informing work. That's good journalism, don't you think?

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Fred, Unfortunately these recent rocks had peoples names on them. Any yelping was done out of view. Just as Rob doesn't engage the blog to his column (good idea), we won't hear from Towny or Ken. Lisa and Alan won't be responding to Cents either.

And the question I'll ask you again: If the Pilot pays Rob for political commentary that is conservative, shouldn't there also be a paid politically progressive columnist?

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carlyle 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't think Douglas is conservative. Why, Steve Lewis, do you think he is conservative?

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Carlyle, You would be the first to take that position. Others above see him that way too.

Particularly Cents: "And finally, a little conservative column amongst the many doesn't provide balance but a modicum of hope for those of us who are bombarded by the "savior's press". Unfortunately, there are not enough writers like Rob Douglas!"

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: This home rule has been around over thirty years. During this time we have gone through a number of city managers. Their departures were always routine or hush hush. I have said many times that politics in Steamboat tend to offend no one. Entering the public arena should have some risk. When controversy arises the only available information comes from rumors, or the canned reply from local government. Steve: You seem to be doing a good job of protecting the status quo. What would our national government be, if we followed your ideas? We need checks and balances, we need to argue, Robs atricle will be history soon, but we are able to think for ourselves. Rob gives a lot of people a voice, and it is nice to hear something other than talking points. Censorship is fine for you, but I'll pass, and Rob may be goring my ox tomorrow.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Fred, I don't follow your assessment of my intent at all.

You've seen me ask the Pilot elsewhere for better investigative journalism. You've heard me say I seek a counterpoint to Rob - that's more ideas, not less.

But you sure are managing to avoid my repeated question to you: If the Pilot pays Rob for political commentary that is conservative, shouldn't there also be a paid politically progressive columnist?

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: I welcome all discussion, anyone with interest in our community should be heard. I don't think calling for Rob's scalp is anything but censorship.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Who called for Rob's scalp? Obviously you should re-read my original comment.

I do believe Rob can do a much better job, but someone else should be paid/published to balance him too.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: I believe that Rob would have the addressed the situation regardless of the political leanings of the participants. This thing is easy pickings.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 9 months ago

Steve: One more tidbit to add, is that in the councils crusade to sabotage the new county court location, west of town, it cost the county an extra $739,000. This was indeed a low blow and we all need to keep one eye open.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 9 months ago

Tele, Fred, "Rob's point as I read it is that much of how we handle the relationship with city managers is incompetent." I agree.

"... Rob would have the addressed the situation regardless of the political leanings of the participants." Except he didn't. Fred, Rob addressed the less relevant half of the situation, and you are fine with that. Geez, you even add your own extra complaint on the older council.

Again....

Rob's "memory lane" gives the players of a 2 year old example an "unflattering" critique.

The same example of last summer does not exist.

The piece is selective, lazy and slanted. The author is a Pilot employee.

Have a nice weekend.

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