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