Meg Bentley: My Walgreens vote

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Meg Bentley

— My vote against the Walgreens development at the Feb. 1 City Council meeting was twofold: first against the lessee and second against the building itself.

First, the lessee. At a recent economic development meeting, Kevin Kaminski said he thought City Council should limit the number of liquor licenses. He said licensed establishments are trying to split up the existing pie of customers and so all of them are operating close to the edge. Some will fail this year. I see his logic. That logic also applies to the number of pharmacies. The National Community Pharmacies Association’s suggested ratio for success is 19 pharmacies for every 100,000 residents. That means one pharmacy for every 5,263 residents, and 2.2 pharmacies for a city of 12,000 residents. We do not need five pharmacies.

Steamboat’s branding by the Chamber Resort Association and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is as Western and as a fit and active community. So unless there will be a dedicated lane at the Walgreen’s drive-up window for bicycles and/or horses, it is totally counter to our town’s culture to have a drive-up at all.

On to my objections to the building. First, although Eric Smith told me at the council meeting that local contractors would be used to construct the building, it is my understanding that the architect is out of Denver. Smith was the hired gun to push this through City Council; he was not the architect. If the very first subcontract on the project is not local, what can we expect going forward?

The most egregious aspect of this building is its design with the loading dock and the trash wing on the side adjacent to U.S. Highway 40. After Walmart’s construction in the mid-’80s, many of us helped rewrite that part of the Community Development Code so we would not have the backside of a building as the most prominent public view. It appears that development codes and design standards are part of a larger poker game that can be finessed and bargained with for private and personal gain.

There are a few of you out there who say that this approval says “Steamboat is open for business.” Some of my constituents have quite aptly translated that to the following: “Steamboat has been bought again!” “City Council is arrogant enough to think that they and their decisions are above the law” and “The Good Old Boys Club still is in control of Steamboat at the expense of the majority of the citizens.” I am just repeating some of the complaints people told me at the Winter Carnival street events.

Finally, there is the issue of arbitrarily overturning recommendations from staff and the Planning Commission. No wonder we have difficulty finding people to apply for Planning Commission. Wasting people’s time is a serious offense. Where are the efforts to “empower” Planning Commission? No longer on the agenda, I guess. So, now that the precedent has been set that anything will be approved over the recommendations of staff and the Planning Commission just to get “activity” going, where do we go from here?

I think this approval is a myopic decision that favors quantity of development over quality of development. This decision is a first step in establishing our South Lincoln Avenue as a cookie-cutter imitation of Newcastle, Avon, and South Colorado Boulevard or West Colfax in Denver. That is not why tourists come here. It is not why residents stay here. It is not why location-neutral businesses will start up or move their companies to Steamboat.

Chaotic and arbitrary approval of any and all development — especially ones that pay less than subsistence-level wages — only will bring us the same boom-and-bust economy, the same need for subsidized housing, and the same need for commuter transportation to Craig. It also will bring an increased demand for summer marketing monies to overcome the effects of council’s planning decisions.

Yes, there is a problem that Steamboat appears to throw roadblocks in the way of business. But rather than ignore community plans, surveys, codes and design standards in a blind effort to promote business, let us put our money where our mouth is. Let us take a true position of leadership. Let us find the money to put toward internally revising our planning documents and procedures. Then, if future citizen legislators consult the economic development plan, the revised codes, design standards and procedures, they will be able to make consistent and unbiased decisions that promote business and protect our culture, history and the interests of the citizens those legislators have sworn to represent.

Comments

Dan Hill 3 years, 2 months ago

Who are these people who think it is their job to decide how many liquor stores or pharmacies Steamboat "needs"? Do they not understand that this type of government directed economic planning was at the very center of socialism and is the fundamental reason that the it failed as an economic system?

Trying to stop a new business to protect existing ones is exactly the sort of special interest politics that we all love to criticise when we see it in Washington. Why is it any different locally? Because we know and like the people at Lyon Drug? Well I know and like the owners of several local businesses, but would it be right for me to try to use the power of government to protect them from competition?

How about letting consumers decide, by voting with their wallets, how many pharmacies we "need" and which ones deserve to fill that need by best meeting consumer's needs.

And what's with this claim that "drive up" is not part of Steamboat's culture? (better tell Wells Fargo to remove their drive up teller window right there in the main street). Next thing our City Council overlords will be telling us what type of movies or cuisine or sports should be part of our culture.

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mark bond 3 years, 2 months ago

You go Dan! I was just about to say all of the same things, but you did it for me! Thanks!

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jerry carlton 3 years, 2 months ago

Since I turned 18 years old, I have lived in 10 cities and towns in five states and Steamboat/Routt county is the most regulated place I have ever lived.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Ditto, Dan! And don't stop with the "council overlords". ANYONE who has zero vested interest should have little say in the matter. It's their land, their money and their business.

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beentheredonethat 3 years, 2 months ago

It's their land, their money and their business....IN OUR CITY. THAT IS THE REASON WHY REGULATIONS SHOULD BE IN PLACE AND SHOULD BE ENFORCED.

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tcb 3 years, 2 months ago

Well put, Dan! Well done! Meg Bentley is trying to postition herself for re-election pure and simple. We don't need(or want)anyone else telling us who to patronize. Competition is a good thing...Lyon Drug , Safeway, City market etc could use some healthy business competition. I'll shop, eat, sleep, and stay where I want to...without any help from council.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Wrong thinking about the lessee, right thinking about the building design.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Dan, As a rule, I agree we shouldn't be considering economic consequences as we apply our code. But when seeking more than 2 variances, a commercial project becomes a PUD, where "public benefit" becomes part of the criteria. Its fair game, and Meg is correct to speak to it.

I might still agree with you if council had gone out of their way to obstruct a business. This is the opposite case. Council went out of their way, reversing the planning commission and staff, to add a business.

More problematic, they also added many thousand commercial square feet to the supply side of our economy. Adding supply where demand is already insufficient? With Routt foreclosures nearing record levels?

I think Kevin Kaminski points to the right problem, but I may disagree with his answer - if he is saying we should be yanking liquor licenses. That would be picking winners. Let the economy shrink their number.

Don't move the goalpost closer for Walgreen's or any other new development. Don't move it further away for my liquor store.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Better to say, we shouldn't be considering economic consequences as we apply our code TO A GIVEN APPLICANT.

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skidattle 3 years, 2 months ago

Funny someone mentions the Wells Fargo building. Probably the ugliest most non-conforming structure on the downtown strip. It should have been torn down before the Harbor Hotel!

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cindy constantine 3 years, 2 months ago

How many readers really understand what the vision of South Lincoln would be under the revised code from 3rd Street to the City line close to what I call "hotel row"? Some of the 11 variances have to do with having residential living units above small offices/retail space. Do you honestly think that is an appropriate design for the busy corner of Pine Grove Road and Hwy 40 where Staples, Ski Haus and Safeway are on the other 3 corners? IMHO CC recognized that the new code may not be reasonable for that entire stretch of Hwy 40. Just an assumption on my part. And with the sentiment supporting Lyons Drug, having Walgreens may be the best advertising tool they have had for years as everyone will flock to the local business to help it compete. (If their sentiments were genuine) : )

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Troutguy 3 years, 2 months ago

And yet the city limits the number of MMJ dispensaries in town. Anyone else see the double standard here?

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pitpoodle 3 years, 2 months ago

Well said, Meg and thank you. Keep Steamboat -- Steamboat, not Ft. Collins or other "Anytown, USA. Hello people, Lyons Drug cannot buy at the same wholesale prices that Walgreens or another big box store can. Walgreens has much more advertising dollars than Lyons ever will be able to afford. This causes an uneven playing field to the detriment of Lyons and the detriment of our community. There is only a limited number of dollars in Steamboat for drug store items. I cannot imagine the world you live in, if you think people will flock to the local business when no one will even take the time to attend a council meeting to speak in favor of a local establishment. If Meg is positioning herself for reelection, this is a great start. Also, time for other candidates to start thinking of running for council and defeating the members who just sold out to yet another developer. Think about it. You can win.

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 2 months ago

I like the idea of keeping small town character, but it is an uphill battle in our market system. On the other hand much of our wages are low end, and competition helps these folks. For small businesses to survive they have to provide services that are immune to economies of scale..

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Queenie 3 years, 2 months ago

I totally agree with Dan and with Scott's comment "Wrong thinking about the lessee, right thinking about the building design."

I am so sick of government telling me how and where to spend what's left of my paycheck after I've paid all my taxes just like I've done since I was 15 years old! I thought we were in a democratic nation with free enterprise and competition. It's not my job to keep local stores open, that's their job. If they have what I want at a price I'm willing to pay then I will spend my money there. If they don't, I will go somewhere else. If they want my business, earn it. Make me want to support your business. For example...I won't pay $50 for a bag of dog food here in town when I can get the exact same bag for $37.50 at another store 17 miles west. AND....I go there anyway so don't tell me the trip itself makes up the difference, trust me, I've done all the math on that one.

You want socialism? Head north.

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Rob Douglas 3 years, 2 months ago

For those who care about actual facts when it comes to so-called big box stores and their impact on small businesses and the potential benefits of creative destruction that happens in truly free markets, it might be worth taking a look at this study titled: Has Wal-Mart Buried Mom and Pop? see: http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv31n1/v31n1-1.pdf

For those community socialists who don't give a damn about the American system of free markets and who believe it's the role of government to steal the property and labor of others - like the author of the above letter to the editor - carry on.

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Neil O'Keeffe 3 years, 2 months ago

Try getting your history right Rob before you start lecturing us about government stealing the property and labor of others. The labor strikes and struggles of the working class during the late 1800's and early 1900's was all due to the robber barons stealing labor where and whenever they could. They purposely kept wages low and frequently broke strikes by using prisoners/free labour and or imigrants to keep the workers divided.

Our free enterprise system has shown time and again that when the capitalist instincts are left unchecked and unregulated it is the working class that pays the price. We could all benefit from reading about the true history of our system rather than the history from the victors largely represented by the plutocracy that rules this country. Call me a socialist or any other Glenn Beck type insult your less than creative mind can come up with. My interest is that of the working class not the ideologues representing special interest that love to keep us fearful and controlled.

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kathy foos 3 years, 2 months ago

Amazing that Meg would attack low wage workers(they ,we,shop also you know).South Routt workers don't have a bus,you do that for another county.We dont get your subsidized housing either,but you know what? We work for low wages now since thats what Steamboat employers offer in the last few years.Yes its the locals loosing their homes and being broke because the employers want to lower the wages and they manage to do it with imported workers and to hell with the locals from where ever they commute from.I'll bet most of the subsidized housing goes to those imported workers that the employers bring in,but you dont fault the employers at all,just those low wage workers ,instead of some high class business to bring in professional workers.If there was such a thing as a bigot about low wage workers ,you would take the cake.If the new Walgreens hires americans only I will buy everything from them.If Albertsons works its way here(if you dont stop them in their tracks like a socialist)I will totally shop there.I love all people ,but dont encourge visa workers to come,bring down our wages and then complain that we have those jobs.You know what,things are so hard for locals,think about them for once,we aren't going anywhere,there are some hardy folks in this Valley and hopefully we can make this into a good economy again.Maybe you should be more concerned that you let Steamboat over did the condos ,its all you see. People are used to having a Walgreens everywhere(for a long time now) your little campaign to rid the world of Walgreens is doomed to fail.If you all have such good control of the Steamboat economy that you can say, no to free enterprise,why are there so many low wage workers(shoppers)?People come up here for the mountains,fishing ,winter sports,not your design.Maybe YOU dont want to see the store,so be it,dont go in ,look the other way,there will be sick kids that have medicine in the middle of the night if needed,and the parents can drive right up...Yea!

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1999 3 years, 2 months ago

kathy, the drive up will be going for one month only and the store will never be 24 hours.

it will be closed within a year.

walgreens is hardly the answer to our collective economic woes.

it will hire builders and managers from out of town.

good grief.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

1999, I am willing to wager you any amount of cash you like that the Walgreens will be open longer than one year. Name the figure.

Beenthere, I agree that there should be rules and they should apply to everyone equally. I just think the rules should be 1/10th of what they are.

But what part of the city is "ours"? There is a difference in "ours to enjoy and call home" VS "here's my deed to MY property". I see a lot of people in Steamboat who have big ideas of how things should be. It has always ammused me how many of the people who clamor for parks, bike trails, open space, etc have never paid a dime for those things and even recoil at the suggestion.


A system whereby every land use decision is subject to the scrutiny of a political body such as planning, or worse city council, is a system that is ripe for corruption, cronyism, bribery, and manipulation of all kinds.

The number one thing developers hate is uncertainty. They can overcome high lumber prices, high land prices, topography challenges, wetlands, structural challenges, etc, but developement is steifled when the rulebook changes constantly.

The uncertainty of having to take every land use issue to council or even planning is unacceptable. Print a list of SIMPLE rules and let everyone who complies have a building permit in under 2 weeks.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

"Big box retail, ... cost taxpayers more than they produce in revenue, according to a fiscal impact analysis in the Town of Barnstable (villages comprising 48,000 people on Cape Cod), Massachusetts. The study was conducted by Tischler & Associates (now TischlerBise - see http://www.tischlerbise.com/)of Bethesda, Maryland. ... for each 1,000 square feet (of store area), net annual deficits/surpluses of: Big box retail: $468 deficit. Shopping centers: $314 deficit. Fast-food restaurants: $5,168 deficit. Specialty retail (includes small-scale main street businesses): $326 surplus."

http://www.nextstep.state.mn.us/res_detail.cfm?id=1061

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Kathy, Its probably a mistake to think a chain store is making it easier on low wage workers, because such stores remove dollars from local economies. Two studies in coastal Maine and Austin TX found that big box stores also export dollars out circulation from a local economy. Of $100 spent at a chain store vs. a locally owned store, the chain store recycles $14 into the local economy while a locally owned store recycles $41 into the local economy.

The difference is because locally owned stores use local banks, local graphic artists, local accountants, local upper and middle managers, etc. Take the gross revenue of a Wal-Mart or a Walgreen's, and that's a lot of money going elsewhere instead of into local pockets.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Rob's linked study had this conclusion: "There is no question that Wal-Mart does cause some mom and pop businesses to fail. However, those failures are entirely compensated for by the entry of other new small business elsewhere in the economy through the process of creative destruction."

The study has some interesting info, but it appears to be based on incredibly general sampling - the entire U.S., so it is not measuring the impact of a Wal-Mart on its neighborhood. If I read it correctly, its measuring the impact of 5,000 Wal-Marts on the small business economy of the whole U.S. That sampling allows credit for a lot of small business growth entirely unrelated to Wal-Mart.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, I think you've read how resort counties are leading Colorado in foreclosures. Used to be the front range counties would have this honor in our busts, but this time its Routt and the other resorts seeing the most failure.

It makes sense the basis for a high foreclosure rate is too much inventory. If the rules are too strict here, how is it we built so many more excess units than everyone else?

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 2 months ago

I love the new Rob Douglas. He just calls it like he sees it, no more attempts at "rational discourse" with the adults. His links are "facts" if you are interested, if not you are a community socialist, hate the free market, out for a hand out or to looking to rob the hard working business owner. Straight up black and white, agree with me or you are wrong, not a single shade of gray.

I haven't listened to the Cari and Rob show ever, but I'm sure Rob is making a hard charge to cash in on some tea party love on the radio, maybe some regional syndication. Throw a few death panels in there, some birther conspiracy action, a little secret Obama Muslim Brotherhood support and you have the right mix for a run at 15 minutes in today's political climate. Good luck at your new media lap dog job. How do labels work for you Rob?

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jk 3 years, 2 months ago

It's funny how many people in this town have commented regarding having a Walgreens in town yet nobody seems to care about spending $ on a new Dodge Charger for our police force VS spending money to keep our streets plowed?? To tell you the truth I could care less if Wallgreens comes to town or not, what do I need to do to get the plow to run down my street like it used to??

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ybul 3 years, 2 months ago

Vehicles get old and need to be retired, you can not have a police car breaking down. It would make sense to rotate the police vehicles into another branch of the government, but as a vehicle ages the chance of failure increases. You do not want that to happen when hot on the trail.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 2 months ago

"Of $100 spent at a chain store vs. a locally owned store, the chain store recycles $14 into the local economy while a locally owned store recycles $41 into the local economy."
And, this is the basic problem. It makes sense to use the big box stores in another town and accept the smaller amount of leakage from those purchases. I would rather not have big box stores that cause loss of Steamboat's character, loss of local businesses, and loss of local (better paying) jobs. Instead, we'll get Walgreen's lower paying jobs that could easily import workers and gain a look for Steamboat that takes us from unique to mediocre. This is a complex situation and requires council to think things through and avoid making decisions based on surface information and pressure from developers. And, especially not react to someone like Mr. Douglas who seems to believe any community code is should be watered down to avoid socialism. When do people's wishes in the community count? I thank Meg Bentley for doing what is best for Steamboat. Too bad Douglas is a top advisor to the rest of council.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Lewi, More excess inventory exists here for several reasons. 1. More people have to leave resort towns than non-resort towns during a recession. This is true almost BY DEFINITION. And they moved to the front range communities to which you reffer, buying homes there and abandoning homes here. 2. There was a bigger building boom here because people could make more proffit here than on the front range. 3. There are more "affordable housing" busybodies here than on the front range. Since price controls tend to shift production away from normal housing for normal people and toward luxury (or in our case second or third) homes it is logical that these are the very type of people who would abandon homes way sooner than the avarage front range homeowner of a principle residence. The principle of shifting production to avoid government imposed rules such as affordable housing is one that many need to learn but I fear they/ you never will. Another way to look at this is... If I "help" you get a house by making the cost low (you have little or no vested interest) what have you to lose by walkin away? 4. Since resorts depend on "discretionary" spending that (again BY DEFINITION) dries up during a recession more than front range spending there were more trying times here. How's that?

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Lewi, The Cape Cod study fails to point out that taxpayers are also CONSUMERS. How much $$$ did the consumers save by forcing prices down? Since there are more consumers than taxpayers I'm guessing way more than was lost to them as "taxpayers". Also, it screams that government should be LESS involved. Retailers' job is NOT to produce revenue for the state. It is to provide products for consumers and profits for investors...period! Revenue is an ancillary by-product.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Sledneck, Developers here went for luxury homes because that is what was selling and had the highest profit margin. There was no government policy driving $400+K homes in Sierra View or Stagecoach except that those were seen to be the most profitable.

You cannot blame everything on local affordable housing policies.

Your #4 is the accurate driving factor of what happened and is happening locally. During the boom, discretionary spending was huge and people could buy just about anything and so developers thought they had a massive market for luxury homes.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, I agree with your points (except affordable housing) and with Scott's. As you mention, job departures is a big factor in the inventory. A long time carpenter friend, who sharpened saw blades as a sideline, said he could gauge a recession by the stack of sharpened blades that never got picked up. His stack of blades equates with house inventory no longer lived in.

But you are also describing that our construction peak was higher than the average. It just doesn't follow that our rules applied during this buildup were too strict.

We agree in part, Govt should not tinker and treat the codes like an interest rate. Let the market work. I am saying don't lower the bar as incentive to new inventory while excess supply is our biggest problem.

And yes, the Cape Cod study is not the whole story. No study is. The Austin and Maine studies are about $$ leaving the local economy thru chain stores. And Rob's link was about, nationally, businesses with under 10 employees increased in number and in revenue up to the year 2000.

Personally, I think the $$ leaving the local economy is the most important element of chain stores. With a 31% $$ recirculation difference of chain vs. locally owned, I don't think the cheaper products are as cheap as they appear.

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Kevin Nerney 3 years, 2 months ago

Several comments have been made regarding low pay and Walgreens. Just out of curiosity what is Lyons Drugs paying their average employee? Not picking on Lyons just wondering, I know Safeway and City Market are pretty low paying employers.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

There is absolutely a correlation between affordable housing laws and higher priced, less affordable homes. If anyone wishes to deny this categorically I think I can bury them with evidence to the contrary.

However, I hope someday we can take the "affordable housing" debate up to what it really is; A question of whether or not local state or federal governments need to or should keep their "finger on the scale" of a free market so as to make it "fair'.

I believe the fairest, most efficient, most orderly and even the most compassionate market is the least regulated one. As regulations creep in there grows up around the regulations a "good-ole-boy" network which does NOT create fairness; rather it arbitrairly removes the markets rightful authority to reward hard work, smarts and hustle and "re-distributes" those rewards to those whom government favors, whether or not those individuals exibit any aptitude for business whatsoever.

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Zed 3 years, 2 months ago

^^^ This is a good point. Who wants to bet money that Walgreens does not end up hiring locals but instead follows City Market and Safeway by bringing in "guest" workers from Senegal, Peru, etc? My understanding is this allows them to avoid paying any benefits and a wage lower than the cost of living. I think everyone I see working at Lyons is of routt county, whereas maybe 50% of city market workers comes from out of town?

Every dollar is a vote.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Sledneck, But the local affordable housing policies were so weak and ineffectual, that their effect on the overall market was like a gnat on an elephant. How did a handful of required units in SB affect Maribou, Catamount Lake, Hayden and so on that had to make no provisions for affordable housing?

I think it would be interesting to see the evidence you have found for cities comparable to SB.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

If the policies are so ineffectual as to have no impact on the overall market then what good are they? And if there was no impact on the market yet the taxpayers subsidised it then there is your answer... it is a net loss And if the taxpayers had kept the $$$ how much good could each of them done for their own families? Government can't "stimulate" someones economy (housing or otherwise) till it "de-stimulates" someone elses bank account first. I so wish Americans could understand this.

I will pull some affordable housing data together.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, AH never expects to affect the overall market, only a slice of it for some of the workforce. Telluride and Crested Butte are the more progressive models, so you should find them ripe for your critique.

"Government can't "stimulate" someones economy (housing or otherwise) till it "de-stimulates" someone elses bank account first. I so wish Americans could understand this." That fits Rob's stereotype. Probably works great for the political machine and Rob's employment, but its also a farce.

The far right leaps to the self-serving conclusion that investment is a zero sum game. It is not. At the high end of such investment, research and development is funded to a huge extent by the government, and the private sector feeds heavily on that public investment, creating a larger economy. At the lower end of that investment, sidewalks bring consumers to the merchant, creating a larger economy.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

More accurately, investment can lead to efficiency. So the interstate highway system increased everyone's wealth by allowing goods to be transported at lower cost.

Sidewalks can make it much more efficient to walk between properties and thus allow a potential customer to visit more stores in the same amount of time and to not worry about damaging shoes, clothes or their recent purchases while walking in snow or being splashed by passing cars.

Government generally should expect to still exist in 5 or 10 years and so is often better prepared than citizens to plan for the longer term. Something like efficiency standards for toilets or light bulbs is easily viewed as a stupid annoyance by individual citizens, but government can expect to see the benefits of not needing new water, sewer or power plants due to minor annoyances. And then citizens do not face the challenges of needing new larger facilities so it is a worthwhile trade of accepting some minor annoyances now to avoid some major expenses in a few years.

Now, that does not make it acceptable that YVHA took reckless risks when acting as a public sector development company and is now facing a financial crisis of its own making. YVHA also bought vacant lots in Sierra View that are obviously deeply under water. A 2006 constructed Sierra View condo now listed at $84,900 for 1,053 sq ft and a garage.

And as we see with the airline subsidy program, someone can always come up with a rationale justifying spending public funds on anything with some sort of argument that will bring so much more money in return. But public sector is so much harder to have anyone be responsible and be fired so mistakes and bad policy is so much harder to correct. If YVHA had investors with money at stake represented on the board then they would have corrected their issues or been replaced long ago.

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Bill Dalzell 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, One of the major points of affordable housing is to keep community character. You may have a point in some markets, but most definitely not all. Aspen is a case study in affordable housing. It has been established for years, and has multiple levels of affordability. It is an extreme example, but one that works. It allows hourly wage workers to live in town and integrate with other more fortunate locals. It also provides housing for people with as high of wages as doctors. As crazy as it seems to have a doctor in an affordable home, it seems to work there. I would love to see what you are talking about, as your statement does not make much sense. BTW I am not sure Steamboat needed affordable housing and agree, if they did, it doesn't make much sense in today's market.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

It's a farce that government must take $$$ from someone before it can spend it??????? Your're right, Lewi there is another way... inflate the currency. Taxes or inflation, take your pick.

I wouldn't point too hard at the right about those "zero-sum games". That is EXACTLY and PRECISELY the lefts current argument for not wanting to lower taxes... EXACTLY the same nonsense, Lewi.

I do understand and agree on the "sidewalk theory" as far as it goes, but again you guys fail to acknowledge that it is not GOVERNMENT buying the sidewalk or interstate; in the end it is the businesses and consumers who paid for the sidewalk... no? I have developed many projects and the local governments never bought me one damn bit of sidewalk, water line, sewer line, electric service, etc. I, and ultimately my tennants bore those costs FULLY. However, I have ran sidewalks, sewer lines, water lines on local municipality owned land at a loss to me. And guess what that municipality does with that infrastructure... it uses that infrastructure as collateral to issue more debt for which WE, the private citizens, are responsible. I know I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer-far from it. But I was not born yesterday. All the things government has "invested in" "incentivised" "subsidised" "penalized", "affordablized" or otherwised ALL had a cost that ultimately was borne (or will be) by only one entity... TAXPAYERS.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

OK, Scott, Lewi, Let's start off slow.

Economics is the study of the use of limited resources which have alternate uses, no? Can we agree on that?

And, if so then economics is about trade-offs rather than permanent solutions, yes?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Sledneck, The sidewalk analogy is a weaker example, the far clearer case is the interstate highway system so please use that as your example. Sidewalks are typically built by the property owner while highways are paid by the government.

I see a problem with your definition of economics. A better definition is: Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

While resources are limited because they are not infinite, it is certainly possible to increase capacity so that previous pricing models cease to be valid. Not that long ago, computer networks would charge customers by how many thousands of bytes and now maybe they charge per billions of bytes. The Washington Monument cap is aluminum because that was a precious metal at the time.

I have no idea what you mean by trade-offs vs permanent solutions. Certainly coal, oil and minerals removed from a mine have been permanently removed.

Other than those clarifications, I welcome the next step of your argument.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, I'll let Scott answer in general. Two make a better debate than three.

Sorry, you are right that the government takes money from us to spend and invest. Even treasury bonds meet that criteria. The farce is that taxes amount to robbery, as Rob has described it. Your post didn't go there. You are compensated, you just don't like government deciding the shape of your compensation. I think Scott is discussing with the economics of that exchange.

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Until we can agree that government has NO money apart from what it confiscates from its citizens we are never going to reach a mutual conclusion. Interstate Highways are not paid for by governments, they are paid for by taxpayers. Governments initiate and organize their construction but they do not "pay" for them. Can we agree on this?

Production, distribution and consumption of goods and services IS the SAME thing as "use of" but your definition should work. I was using British economist, Lionel Robbins' classic definition of Economics... either way is fine. So we agree on this?

All resources are limited by their quantity and by their alternate uses. While it is possible to increase capacity, demand, etc this does not change the FACT that resources are limited... so we agree on this?

"Trade-offs vs permanent solutions" is simple. For example, There is no permanent solution to hunger so people must have food regularly. But they also need shelter, clothing and desire myriad other things. The "solution" would be for everyone to have everything they want. The "trade-off" for most people is they chose SOME food but maybe not as much as they want because they also want shelter. So they choose SOME shelter but maybe not as upscale as they want because they also need/ want a car. So they choose SOME car but maybe not the Lamborghini because they also want clothing... This is what I mean by "trade-offs". We give up one want for another/ we prioritize constantly. So we agree on this?

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Lewi, Yes, I would agree with that description: I just don't like someone else deciding the shape (or size for that matter) of my compensation. Correct, good. Now, I want you to tell me WHY I do not like "someone else" deciding. You know my reason if you dig deep. Hint: it ain't about me me me.

However, Treasury Bonds DO NOT meet the same definition as taxes and I think you know exactly why, don't you? Nobody puts a gun to your head if you don't buy bonds! So let's not confuse a voluntary act with a compulsary one. ok?

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, I was not trying to say govt bonds equal a tax. Just responding that all government money does not come from taxes or "confiscation".

Can you make your argument without these marginalizing terms?

Your "confiscation" denotes an act of seizure. This frame seems to separate government as an entity separate from the people. Isn't it fair to say the people are seizing from themselves?

And the description of "compulsory" seems to apply in different degrees rather than as an absolute. Some of governments' revenue is much like a business charging a fee for a necessary or optional service (water service, a turnpike), some of it as a sales tax, some as property tax, some is a return on bonds, some is the cost of meeting development codes. Brian Olson began the above venture with a voluntary choice that he was going to accept such taxing.

Trying to establish a revenue as voluntary or compulsory seems beside the point. The LMD is a case where a sub-group of citizens opted to tax their visitors. Is that voluntary or compulsory? Does it matter?

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Lewi, Bonds are not taxes but neither are they a source of government money. Bonds are a means of government BORROWING money, not an ultimate source of ACTUAL money. BIG, BIG difference.

Returns on bonds go to bondholders and are an expense for government, NOT a source of revenue.

There are no "degrees" of cumpulsory.

"Confiscation" IS an act of seizure, by definition.

People have no more right to seize my property because they are in the majority than a 10 man rape gang has in raping a woman because they can "out-vote" her. So the concept of the people seizing from themselves is ridiculous. A lynch mob is a democracy, Lewi. I live in a Republic

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." W. Churchill

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Sled, The majority does rule here. But within the lawful constraints against lynching and other harms. Those lawful constraints also being set by majorities. Majorities of a ballot, of senators, of justices...

If you are disagreeing with this system, what body would you recognize as legitimate in the asking of your taxes? How would that body be populated, if not by popular vote?

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sledneck 3 years, 2 months ago

Our founding fathers despised democracies. (majority rule) They feared them for good reason. They described democracy as "two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner". Madison wrote against them as did Plato, Aristotle, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Alexander Hamilton said "Real liberty is never found... in the extremes of democracy." Madison said "Democracies have ever been found incompatible w/ personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have violent in their death." John Adams said "That the desires of the majority are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of history of the world."

It saddens me that so many seem so proud of the fact that "the majority does rule here... Those lawful constraints also being set by majorities."

Real liberty is found in inalienable rights that can not be taken away even with a 99% vote. You can have your democracy, I have no use for it.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Sledneck, It is going to be very difficult to proceed with this discussion if you insist upon using pejorative descriptions instead of normal descriptions. I am not going to agree that government relies upon confiscating money. Confiscate suggesting seizing as a penalty or capricious act while taxes is money collected by government to pay for services. You may hate taxes or think they are fair contributions for the betterment of society which is why the term "taxes" is the fair term because it is not an attempt to spin it as good or bad.

I am not going to play a semantic game of government being the taxpayers or the voters, landowners, corporations or whatever. Governments are organizations that have authority to make decisions that includes collecting revenues primarily taxes and spending money. So the US Government did decide to built the interstate highway system, collected revenues (or issued bonds to pay for it over time) and paid for it (contractors were paid).

I don't see how you "permanent solutions" situation could ever exist and so I don't see any relevance to that term. Since you also argue against it, then I think we agree that is not viable.

I think most economists would rephrase your "trade-offs" as opportunities that have opportunity costs. That any economic entity has opportunities which have opportunity costs which could be cash, commitment to pay a loan over time and so on.

So, your turn on the economic discussion.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

As for the opinions of our Founding Fathers on democracy, they saw the flaws of government swinging to the wills of the voters of any particular moment and so created a government that had specified rights (Bill of Rights) that government could not infringe and designed the US Government with checks and balances with 3 branches of government to reduce the impact of any one election.

They absolutely did not "hate democracy". They thought democracy was the only just means of granting government authority, but also saw reasons why a democratic republican with an independent judiciary as the better form of democratic government than having citizens vote on every governmental decision. The quotes from the Founding Fathers are in the context of why the US Constitution should be ratified and why a republic of elected officials was the better form of government.

Your analogy equating paying taxes to a gang rape is so stupid and offensive that if you do not see why it is wrong then you need help.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 2 months ago

Interesting comment. I spent some time in perusing republicanism, Madison, Hamilton. Separation of powers, dueling legislative bodies, supermajorities... as protections for minority rights and limit on mob rule. The 17th amendment seems a possible mistake.

Still, where is your preference made real on this planet? Who has come closer than we have?

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

Lewi, Ths seventeenth ammendment required direct election of all US senators. We agree that it was a mistake. A huge mistake in my opinion. And there can be no doubt that it put more power in the hands of the "dumb-masses"

I do not believe any nation has come closer than America. I believe the wealth, prosperity and relative peace enjoyed by this nation over the course of the last 400 years is a direct result of several things. First, that we are a nation of laws, not of men; meaning it doesn't matter who you are or who you know, if you work hard and are smart about it you can do great things and have great things. Second, we are free. Freedom is the most important thing a man can have. It allows men to persue their dreams. Computers, light bulbs, telephones, airplanes, life-saving medicine, modern construction, agricultural tecniques that feed the world and many other things we take for granted are real today because of freedom, not because of government. "What will you do without freedom?" Third,personal responsibility. We are responsible for ourselves; for our own protection and for our own actions. Did the pioneers in covered wagons have government to protect them from cradle to grave? No. And they were better for it.

The problem I see is that all of those things are disappearing faster than the polar ice caps. It's not that we have not done great things but that we seem poised to piss them all away. Americans' ignorance, laziness, enviousness and self esteem (don't even get me started on peoples self esteem) has caused them to believe a big big lie; that this nations prosperity can and will continue forever no matter our personal conduct.

Theyare willing to have the state take their neighbors property for their benifit. They are willing to pass unbearable debt onto their posterity. They "vote themselves largess from the public coffers". they feel entitled to things that did not even exist at ANY PRICE 100 years ago. Worst of all they are determined to remain about as ignorant, collectively, as any population in the history of earth. This puts great fear and anger into my heart.

"If America expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was and never will be." T. Jefferson

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

Scott, My point is simple and I'll try to be brief.

You have agreed that there are limited resources and that they have alternate uses so the debate is basically over.

There are alternate uses for limited resources on this earth. Twas ever thus and will be till "Gabriel blows his horn".

Therefore, when resources are removed from an individual or family it reduces their ability to obtain certain goods, products, services, etc.

Therefore, when government takes resources from one and bestows them on another it can ONLY be considered an ALTERNATIVE use of those resources, not a solution. (this is government helping peter at the expense of paul)

The funds granted one individual to improve their lot in life are EXACTLY PROPORTIONAL to the DEGRADATION of the persons life from whom the funds were confiscated, taken, taxed (whatever term you need to use to feel better about it).

So, the difference boils down to one simple thing. Should Paul keep what he has worked for or should it be taken away and given to Peter who has not earned it? And what are the consequences?

Short term Peter's life is improved, no doubt, but only at Pauls expense. Now Paul is no fool and he is watching Peter drive off in a car with "PAULS CAR" on the license plate. Scott, lets be very honest here. What is the end result? Quite simply it is to rid the world of "Pauls" and fill it with "Peters".

To quote Jimmy Buffett "I don't wanna live on that kind of island..."

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Sledneck, The flaw in your logic is that economics and wealth is not a zero sum game. A zero sum game is where the total items remains the same and one can only benefit if another loses. Poker is a zero sum game.

Economics is not a zero sum game. Economics has growth from labor adding wealth (the labor of turning trees into a house adds wealth) and more efficient products as well as new products.

The tax money paid by US citizens that did temporarily slightly reduce their wealth that was then spent to create the US interstate system, resulted in lower expenses while traveling, greatly cut the cost of transportation and allowed larger more efficient businesses to compete in more markets. So the $1 in taxes increased that taxpayer's wealth by $5, $10 or $100 depending on how it is calculated. Creating the US interstate system was most clearly NOT a zero sum game and created more benefits than it's costs.

The same benefit of government spending is also made for education. In the list of what made the US so strong economically, many people would put the US public school system. Because US citizens were all born equal then it was worth educating everyone, not just the children of the elite that could pay for private schools. The cost of educating a child is returned many fold on average by improving that person's earning potential over their lifetime.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Steve, Sledneck, The 17th amendment had absolutely become necessary because senators being appointed by the states had ceased to be the states appointing experts able to counteract the populist rabble of Congress, but had become prized political patronage. Thus, senators were being more notable as corrupt political hacks part of a state's political machine than as noble statesmen. Public elections was the best way to deal with that.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

If I took your money against your will and returned 2x in 3 years would that excuse me from taking it in the first place? If I take your car but return it with a full tank of gas and new tires does that mean it was not theft? If I take your VW and return to you a Lamborghini is it not still theft? Maybe you didn't want the damn Lamborghini because it only carries 2 or it's too expensive to ensure or whatever. The point is I had no business taking your property and deciding how to use it, EVEN IF I do something austensibly positive with it. It's not my business or my property; PERIOD.

How do you know the people who were taxed for the interstate highways were not on the verge of some breakthrough that would have led to high-speed rail or personal airplanes or a star-gate, etc? Something that would have made those individuals fabulously wealthy. In turn, they might have done for aviation or science what Ford did for automobiles. They might have gotten for themselves that Lamborghini instead of getting the "Chevy" of an interstate.

Yes, there are benifits to interstate highways but you MUST acknowledge it came from the sacraficing of some unknown alternative which might have made the interstate transportation system pale in comparison.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

And if I take your money and promise to return a million-fold in 3 years how are you going to buy food and shelter in the interrim?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Sledneck, I get the idea that you do not like taxes.

Yes, there are opportunity costs of collecting taxes. But opportunity costs for cash is more along the lines of the interest rates on bonds. It makes no sense to suggest that the money paid in taxes would have had fantastically better returns or results than the rest of the nation's money. Since taxes take cash out of the economy, it slightly raises the opportunity costs on private market investment. But taxes does not explain why someone would fund an Edsel over a stargate. The perceived risk and expected return is what explains investment choices. Also, government often creates tax breaks for investments which reduces the opportunity costs for investing and subsequently slightly increasing the opportunity costs for personal consumption.

Taxes have not removed all capital from all investors. So if someone had the brilliant idea of how to do something fantastic then paying taxes would not have killed that idea because the return on the brilliant idea would have been so great that they would have acquired the funding elsewhere to fill in the gap from paying taxes.

If you promise million-fold returns in 3 years and I think it is a credible promise then the expected return so exceeds the opportunity costs of other uses of my money so I judge the opportunity costs of living with less vs selling a stake in the investment and so on.

So there was some opportunities lost from funding the interstate highways, but there is no reason to expect those opportunities would have done any better than all of the other opportunities that were not worth funding at the time.

BTW, I want to describe why there can be growth without requiring accepting the idea that there is infinite capacity. The distinction is that while particular segments of the economy such as fast food hamburgers could reach a point where all viable locations are being operated and it is truly not possible to grow, that the overall economy has so many segments so far from saturating their particular market that the overall economy has plenty of room to grow and add wealth.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

I have no objection to taxes for Constitutional purposes. If they were levied for those alone the taxe rates would be around 15% of current levels.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

How do you know that one of the million dollars of taxes collected by the government and pissed away last year was not THE million that the private sector would have used to find that cure for cancer? But instead you guys collected it and gave it to " Earl" for a house in Steamboat when Earl should be living in Greely. Earl is better off. The rest of the world has cancer.

Alternate uses, amigo!

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Maybe paying taxes caused some nutcase to not have enough money to buy automatic weapons to carry out his intended massacre and thus saved 50 lives. Maybe the lives that were saved included the scientists that were going to find the cure for cancer.

It is possible to create any number of hypothetical situations, but economics is not the study of outlandish hypotheticals.

An economist would study how taxes and tax breaks affected the opportunity costs for investors and if it increased the opportunity costs then what were the other opportunities that were no longer worth investing.

So your hypothetical would require that the research so close to finding the cure for cancer was unable to find any investor willing to invest despite the potential payoff from owning the cure to cancer.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

alternate uses. I could have cured cancer ...but instead I bought u a house.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

"nutcases with automatic weapons" don't pay taxes, Scott.

Any mo knows that trying to steer society with taxes only steers them in an altogether uncontrollable direction.

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