Our View: Jump right in, City Council

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Editorial Board, October 2009 through February 2010

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Michelle Garner, community representative
  • Paula Cooper Black, 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.

A new Steamboat Springs City Council will be sworn in Tuesday night at Centennial Hall, and once the mostly ceremonial first meeting is complete, council members quickly will be immersed in a number of important and timely city issues.

Only two new members join the seven-member council, and one of them — Jim Engelken — immediately will become the council member with the most experience, having served from 1995 to 2001. Kenny Reisman is a political newcomer, and the two other seats up for election this fall were won by incumbents — Cari Hermacinski defeated Kevin Bennett, and Walter Magill ran unopposed to retain his seat.

But where this council might feel the biggest impact from the election is with whom it lost, not gained. Veteran councilmen Loui Antonucci and Steve Ivancie brought professionalism, intelligence and institutional knowledge to the city and council. They deserve recognition and thanks from the community they so dutifully served, and we hope the new council inherits some of their best attributes.

Regardless of who is elected City Council president Tuesday, we urge him or her to continue outgoing president Antonucci’s knack for running efficient, manageable meetings. Three meetings a month is a number worth sticking to.

We also expect this new council’s first priority to be, well, settling on its priorities. Past councils typically have held one- or two-day retreats to set an agenda for the ensuing two years, and this council would be wise to follow suit. Indeed, one of the discussion items on Tuesday’s council agenda involves a retreat and new council orientation.

That retreat will be an important opportunity for the new council to decide which issues it will focus on during the next two years. There is no shortage of options.

At the top of that list is continuing to manage the city through a difficult economic period. The city is forecasting a 10 percent decrease in 2010 sales tax revenue, and that’s in addition to the 18 percent decrease expected throughout this year. The new council’s first and most important task will be final adoption of the 2010 city budget. Draft versions of that budget propose a continuation of the employee furloughs and hiring freezes. Other cost-saving measures could include revised snowplow schedules, reductions in firefighter training and increases in Howelsen Hill Ski Area lift ticket prices. The city plans to cut back significantly on capital projects in 2010, and city officials are wary that additional cuts could become necessary depending on actual revenues.

Given the budget cuts and struggling economy, will this council find ways to propel Steamboat forward despite the dire circumstances? Some council members already have discussed analyzing city policies as they relate to business to ensure that we are not impeding economic growth.

Managing growth will continue to be a major council issue in the coming years. Regardless of the outcome of a petition drive to put the annexation of Steamboat 700 to a citywide vote, the council must decide how best to manage the redevelopment of Ski Time Square, including The Atira Group’s request for 10-year vesting of its development plans and what to do with the empty parcel until such redevelopment starts. The annexation process of 360 Village also looms large on the horizon.

Issues of affordable and attainable housing will manifest themselves in the forms of a revised Community Housing Ordinance and the city’s relationship with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Is this council the one that will finally give the Housing Authority the power and money to leverage affordable housing funds into affordable housing projects?

These are, of course, just a few of the many issues facing our city and its residents. There is much work to be done, and we hope this new group of seven approaches its difficult job with enthusiasm, professionalism and an ever-present goal of working with the best interests of the city at heart.

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Given that 5 of this new council were instrumental in an annexation process that I consider well done, I am confident they can do a good job.

But when it comes to the direction of the next two years, I encourage this council to keep its emphasis on the horizon and how they can improve what’s beyond it, rather than looking rearward to further undo local ordinances.

In particular, we can expect little benefit from new attention on the zoning and building codes. That sector and our construction industry are going to be very sleepy for a number of years. We could toss the codebook out altogether and we’d still have to wait for this multi-year inventory to drop. Do we ever expect construction to carry us again? Should we even want that?

Don’t get me wrong, Jim Cook will have smart, useful ideas about our town’s future. But equally important would be advice from Noreen Moore, Sandy Evans Hall, Andy Wirth, Big Agnes, Smartwool, TIC, the Ag Alliance, Scott Ford ... Will we ever gain access to the existing railway that could link us with our valley neighbors?

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

As an example of the value in looking forward vs. preoccupation with codes, consider that we just finished revising the base area guidelines. So how about that hole in Ski Time Square? Shouldn’t we have considered that obvious possibility? Now we are scrambling to mitigate a rosy trust in real estate speculation gone very sour.

A few years earlier a city council “convinced” Jim Cook that some building absolutely had to follow the demise of the centerpiece Harbour Hotel. That was good leadership. And if ever we needed good leadership, this next 2 years would be the time.

I’m sure we’ll get through this. Resort towns know more about busts than most. Though this looks to be a rougher and longer ride. Wisdom, innovation and foresight at the tiller next year could go a long way to putting Steamboat back on a strong path.

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addlip2U 5 years, 1 month ago

"snowbow" ... hope what you wrote will never happen! Don't give them any ideas, their ego is already up.

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Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Snowbow - Wow, I got included in a make believe City Council with an interesting group of individuals. Although I do not know Suellyn, I know the other characters and we do not all agree on the same things. Without exception we all have our respective passions and opinions. Even though we disagree, (at times passionately), we respect each other and allow for the possibility to learn from each other. I consider myself very fortunate to call this cast of characters my friends. I am not ashamed to be associated with them. We all have learned that civility - although often not easy - pays great dividends.

I can appreciate your feeling that the "face" of downtown has changed over time. It is very different from the time when I moved here. The reality, however, is that when I look in the mirror I look a whole lot different as well. Are these changes for the worse? I do not think so. Although the wrinkles of which there are now many, my core character has changed very little. I think this is true of the character of downtown as well. The buildings do not make Steamboat Springs special - the people do.

My attitude of stewardship about this very special place has not changed since the first day I saw this valley. I understood immediately how very special this place is. I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to live here and raise a family. If City Council approaches the decisions they will make with an attitude of stewardship we will be fine.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

My apologies to those I unwittingly exposed to criticism in this website.

And thanks Scott for a thoughtful entry.

Snowbow, I put business leaders in my list for two reasons. First, as council considers how to guide our economy into the short term and long term future, I wnated to pose an appealing “new ideas” direction to for them to weigh beside the proposed “new ideas” direction of rethinking local ordinances. Second, I think those people/groups would have a lot of good ideas. Hey, feel free to offer your own new ideas.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Regardless of which side you sit on, it should make sense to you that dialogue between us on issues is better than no dialogue. To my knowledge I have yet to sway one fellow’s vote, and maybe I never will, but he is willing to talk and so am I. I suppose I could try cold stares? I now respect the work of another city councilor I actually campaigned against two years ago. He absorbs public comment in general. Without his support, there would be no attainability section in the annexation agreement.

And I’m weary of the many trenches around us. Our common future, on many levels, is daunting. The trenches do get some things done, but those are few, in my opinion. If there is no middle ground where we work together, eventually we are screwed.

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