Candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council were split on whether major capital projects should go to a vote at a Tuesday forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club. From left are Cari Hermacinski, Kevin Bennett, Jim Engelken, Kenny Reisman, Ken Solomon and Kyle Pietras.

Candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council were split on whether major capital projects should go to a vote at a Tuesday forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club. From left are Cari Hermacinski, Kevin Bennett, Jim Engelken, Kenny Reisman, Ken Solomon and Kyle Pietras.

Candidates divided on financing issue

Council hopefuls gather for Rotary forum

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Election 2009

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election2009 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

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Steamboat Springs' City Council candidate Kenny Reisman answers a question during a forum at the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club's weekly luncheon Tuesday.

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Council candidate Jim Engelken answers a question during a forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club.

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Steamboat Springs City Council candidate Ken Solomon answers a question during a forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club.

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City Council candidate Kyle Pietras answers a question at the Rotary Club's candidate forum Tuesday.

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Cari Hermacinski, at the Rotary forum, is running for a District 1 seat.

— Candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council were split on whether major capital projects should go to a vote at a Tuesday forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club.

The forum was sometimes reminiscent of two years ago, as Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski focused on some of the same issues from her successful campaign in 2007. Hermacinski currently holds council's at-large seat and is running for a District 1 seat against former City Council President Kevin Bennett.

In 2007, Hermacinski campaigned against the previous council's purchase of the Iron Horse Inn for affordable housing. On Tuesday, she criticized the Bennett-led council's use of the same financing mechanism - certificates of participation - to construct Centennial Hall and the Howelsen Ice Arena.

Local governments in Colorado can issue general obligation bonds with voter approval, according to the Colorado Department of the Treasury. The use of certificates of participation is a more complex form of financing that does not require voter approval because it is subject to annual appropriations and does not constitute a multi-year financial obligation, according to the department.

Although Hermacinski said certificates of participation violate the spirit of the law requiring voter approval for capital financing, Bennett defended their use to construct amenities desired by the community - but noted that he did not support the city's purchase of the Iron Horse Inn. In the case of the ice arena, Bennett said a group of residents came to council after raising $500,000 for the facility.

"Folks, that's a lot of bake sales," Bennett said.

Bennett also noted that the city leveraged its use of certificates of participation with various other partners to build Centennial Hall.

Asked later whether major capital financing issues should go to a vote of city residents, the other candidates had a chance to weigh in. Former councilman Jim Engelken, a candidate in the at-large race, agreed with Bennett.

"There's nothing wrong with using certificates of participation," Engelken said.

Engelken's opponent, Kyle Pietras, said he thinks a public vote on such projects would be "a prudent step."

In the District 2 race, Kenny Reisman said the City Council needs to operate efficiently and can't go to the voters on every decision but that it needs to go to great lengths to educate the citizenry about what it's doing. Reisman's opponent, Ken Solomon, said certificates of participation are justified.

"I don't have a problem with debt when it is the only way to bring amenities to fruition," Solomon said.

Final question makes waves

Bennett felt unfairly targeted by the final question at Tuesday's forum, which asked candidates if they had ever been convicted of a felony. Bennett was the only one to answer in the affirmative and disclosed that he was convicted of a drug-related charge in the 1970s.

"I must love this community to stand here and take this when this was all kind of a setup," Bennett told the audience.

Hermacinski also said she felt the question was inappropriate for the forum and that she was appalled when it was asked. She said Bennett has paid for his mistake and that she would prefer that the campaign be based on the issues.

Steve Hitchcock was one of the Rotarians screening questions, and he said after the forum that he thought it was fair to question potential public servants about their criminal history.

Rotary leadership, however, frowned on the question.

"I regret that a question was asked that clearly targeted a specific candidate, particularly when candidates were informed that this would not be the case," Rotary Club President and Steamboat Pilot & Today Publisher Suzanne Schlicht said.

Later Tuesday, Bennett expanded on the details of his conviction. He said he was convicted of conspiracy to sell hash and that he pleaded guilty. Bennett said he was in his mid-20s, broke and thought he could make some money when he offered up his truck to transport the hash. He spent five months in prison and paid a $2,500 fine.

"I have a good record of community service over the last several decades," Bennett said. "I made a mistake a few years ago. I have paid for my mistake and moved on."

Comments

CedarBeauregard 4 years, 6 months ago

Sorry about that Kevin.. You didn't deserve that...

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 6 months ago

For a now socially accepted hash??? Probably just gained as many votes as he lost.

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Julie Green 4 years, 6 months ago

Sureva Taylor's obvious attempts to smear Kevin Bennett's good character is a reflection of our national politics at its worst and I find it shameful. I'm amazed that people have the courage to SERVE our community, when stunts like this are pulled. We have some very serious issues facing our community and I'm amazed that Rotary even considered this question relevant. I'm embarrassed for Rotary and our community. Kevin has already proven himself in his years of service on Council, so why was a mistake of his youth relevant in the current campaign? Let's keep our eyes on the ball, which right now is Steamboat 700.

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ybul 4 years, 6 months ago

The problem with adding debt to finance a capital improvement is that it first and foremost must be paid when revenues decline. Thus while it is great if that debt can be used to increase revenues. Though in a period of contraction that debt serves to cause proportionally more reductions in spending for non-fixed expenses (debt service and taxes).

A city should try to avoid debt at all costs, using a higher fee or tax schedule to build reserves to pay for capital projects as they are needed. Go look up the origins of Mort-Gage in its latin form to understand why it should be used sparingly.

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freerider 4 years, 6 months ago

It's a public forum anything goes , I don't think the question was out of line , politics is a dirty ugly game . If YOU DON'T LIKE IT DON'T PLAY. I'd give you points for answering truthfully which is more than we get out of Washington

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aichempty 4 years, 6 months ago

Hey, the position doesn't require him to carry a gun. What's the problem? He hasn't been caught since the 70s. That's more than a lot of people can say.

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addlip2U 4 years, 6 months ago

Another realtor for City Council.....conflict of interest with many developmental issues ie S700?

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