Steamboat Springs Nomination petitions can't be picked up for three more weeks, but make no mistake, the race for four open Steamboat Springs City Council seats has begun.
Incumbents Cari Hermacinski and Walter Magill, as well as Steamboat businessman Kenny Reisman, said they will vie for seats this fall.
Hermacinski and Magill joined the council in 2007 after a contentious election - centered on growth issues - saw four incumbents defeated and five new faces join the City Council. Hermacinski holds the council's two-year at-large seat. Magill holds a four-year District 3 seat. His win in 2007 allowed him to finish a term left open when Kevin Kaminski moved out of the southern Steamboat Springs district in September 2006.
"I think the city's moving in the right direction, and I'd like to keep working on the city's budget in tough economic times," said Magill, the owner of Four Points Surveying & Engineering. Magill said he wants to continue to bring a business perspective to the council and represent working-class residents.
Hermacinski, an attorney and president of Telecomm Acquisition Group, previously said she would not run for City Council again. She said she changed her mind after consulting with her family and "after the horror of the last campaign wore off."
"I think it's a great way to serve the community, and it's been a good challenge for me," said Hermacinski, who said her priorities are fiscal responsibility and transparent government.
The two other seats up for reelection are those of City Council President Loui Antonucci, representing the mountain area in District 2; and Steve Ivancie, representing West Steamboat and much of Old Town in District 1. Reisman said he will run for Antonucci's seat.
"Times are tough, and decisions are tough," said Reisman, owner of a real estate investment company and property management firm. "I suppose my goals and priorities are to try to keep the city moving forward as best we can in terms of a place that everybody feels is a community."
Reisman said he has a master's degree in political science and is passionate about the community. He said he generally supports the current City Council. He said he doesn't know how closely he and Antonucci align politically but that he would strive to emulate the City Council president's sincerity and care for the community.
City Clerk Julie Franklin said nomination petitions can't be released to potential candidates until Aug. 4. The last day to file petitions is Aug. 24. In the meantime, it is unclear who else will vie for the council seats.
Steve Aigner, organizer for the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, said he knows about people who intend to run but still are "bargaining with their husbands and wives." Aigner said he could not reveal their names. Former Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioner Steve Lewis has been rumored to be running, but he said Friday that he is not.
Candidates said growth issues will be a major issue again this year. The potential annexation of Steamboat 700 was a big issue in 2007. The city is still in the process of negotiating the annexation, with a decision planned for this fall.
Reisman said growth is inevitable and that he doesn't see it as a bad thing, but he did not provide an opinion about Steamboat 700, specifically, because he said he doesn't know enough about the proposed master-planned community west of city limits.
Hermacinski and Magill said if the City Council approves the annexation this fall, it is likely that signatures will be collected and that the annexation will be put to a referendum election. Aigner agreed.
"I do think that that is better than a 50-50 chance," he said. "I think something like that is going to happen."
Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy, however, said he doesn't think there is much movement behind efforts to put Steamboat 700 to a vote. He said he has had a political consultant on his team from the beginning but has not hired anyone specifically to prepare for an election. If referendum efforts are successful, it probably would not be in time to put a question on the 2009 ballot, and the city would have to schedule a special election.
Declining city revenues and budgetary concerns also are likely to be an issue this campaign season. Magill said potential cuts to public safety and the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department could prove contentious.
The city made massive budget cuts this year that included a furlough program that has seen city employees' pay and hours cut 10 percent. Also, Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau said last month that the city is looking to cut an additional 10 percent, or about $2 million, from its 2010 general fund budget; that's on top of a revised 2009 general fund budget that already has been cut about 13 percent from 2008.