The city's 2013 budget proposal includes $350,000 worth of cuts to free bus service and would eliminate the yellow line, scale back evening summer bus service and eliminate nine full-time driving positions. The Steamboat Springs City Council will weigh in on the proposal during a budget retreat Tuesday.

Photo by John F. Russell

The city's 2013 budget proposal includes $350,000 worth of cuts to free bus service and would eliminate the yellow line, scale back evening summer bus service and eliminate nine full-time driving positions. The Steamboat Springs City Council will weigh in on the proposal during a budget retreat Tuesday.

City eyes major cuts to free bus service to balance 2013 budget

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Reader poll

Do you support the city's proposal to cut Steamboat Springs Transit funding by eliminating the Yellow Line and nine full-time driving positions as well as reducing evening bus service in the summer?

  • Yes, the cuts have to come from somewhere. 33%
  • No, free bus service is too important to residents and visitors. 61%
  • I don't ride the bus, so I don't care. 6%

675 total votes.

— Lexi Miller recently asked Google Maps what her life would be like without the city's free Yellow Line bus.

She didn't like Google's answer.

“My fastest mode of transport to school would be my bike,” the Colorado Mountain College student said Thursday. “It would take me 17 to 20 minutes to bike from my house on Broad Street to (the Alpine Campus). In the wintertime, I would walk. It would be more like 30 minutes, and it would be more dangerous.”

Miller, who doesn't have a car, recently learned that on Tuesday morning, city officials will present a 2013 budget to the Steamboat Springs City Council that would ax the Yellow Line, drastically reduce evening bus service in the summer and eliminate nine full-time driving positions.

Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the $350,000 worth of proposed cuts to free transit, combined with some restructuring of the city's fire department and scaling back of the city manager's contingency and economic development budgets, will help close a $600,000 budget deficit for next year.

The cuts also will allow the city to tap into its reserve funds only to make a $330,000 debt payment on the Iron Horse Inn.

Hinsvark said as the city worked to meet the council's conservative request to budget for 2013 without expecting any gains in revenue, it found it was limited in what it could cut to close the budget deficit.

“You can't reduce your fire and police departments, and our parks and recreation department has already had some severe cuts to their total number of personnel in recent years,” Hinsvark said. “We just really didn't have a lot of places to look” to balance the budget.

As the city claims the cuts to its transit department will make it more efficient and provide the best way to balance the budget, Yellow Line riders like Miller are moving forward with a hurried grass-roots campaign to persuade City Council to save the bus service.

Riders likely will find out the fate of the bus route at the council's budget retreat Tuesday.

The costliest color

Questions about whether to discontinue the Yellow Line aren't new to the City Council chambers.

The line — which services CMC, Old Town, the Hilltop area, Howelsen Hill and Fairview — is the city's least-used route, and it costs the city the most per passenger to operate.

According to the transit department, 28,730 passengers used the route in 2011, and it cost $289,179 to operate. Those passengers represented about 3 percent of the 1.05 million riders who utilized Steamboat Springs Transit last year.

The city estimated it paid an average of $10.07 per Yellow Line rider per trip, which is much higher than Steamboat Springs Transit's overall cost of $2.74 per rider per trip.

Citing that low ridership and the high price tag of running the Yellow Line last year, City Council President Bart Kounovsky and council member Cari Hermacinski said in April that they were leery of continuing the route next year, and they voted against the city's request to pursue a grant to operate a new bus on the route.

“I think we’ve got to be able to do this in a more efficient and effective way,” Kounovsky said in April about the operation of the Yellow Line. “If (CMC) has half the ridership on that route, and they are telling us they don’t need the service or they don’t want to pay for it, I struggle with that.”

CMC, one of route's biggest users, had told the city it may not be able to continue contributing money to the route because of budget constraints. In 2011, the college contributed $38,000 to the route's operating costs.

On Thursday, an official at the campus said he hopes the route continues.

“It is a crucial link to the campus,” said Brian Hoza, the Alpine Campus' dean of student affairs. “The people who use that line to get on campus use it as their primary means of transport. We're trying to develop more sustainable lifestyles and encourage public transport here, and it feels like (eliminating the Yellow Line) is going the wrong direction for what our students need.”

He said some CMC students are working to persuade the City Council to not approve the city's proposal.

Getting used to free

Earlier this week, Miller started an online and paper petition that has gathered more than 250 signatures from residents who say they depend on the free bus service to get around town.

“The Yellow Line is very important to me,” Miller said. “If it's cut, I think there's going to be a chain reaction, and we're going to start losing more of our public transportation, which is pretty vital to our community.”

Community members have signed the petition explaining why they depend on the service.

From her home on Logan Street in Old Town, longtime Steamboat resident Maybelle Chotvacs said ending the service would hurt locals like herself.

"If we never had the bus, it would be different," she said. "But we have had the bus for several years now, and if they take it away, it's going to inconvenience a lot of people."

A $350,000 challenge

Steamboat Springs Transit Operations Manager Jonathan Flint said the city's directive to cut $350,000 from his budget was a challenge for a department that always is working to increase efficiency without reducing services.

After he showed off the features of his headquarters Thursday, Flint said cost-cutting is an annual goal for his department.

Recycled oil is used to heat the transit department's headquarters. Bus routes have been finessed in recent years to save gas and defer maintenance. New Hybrid buses have saved the city thousands of dollars in fuel. Even the water used to wash the buses is recycled.

But Flint said in this tough budget year, the efficiencies can go only so far.

After six to eight weeks of examining bus ridership data and looking for other possible ways to save money, the director put a whole bus route and the employment of several of his drivers on the chopping block, among other things.

“I feel very confident we've already cut all the peripheral things we could,” he said. “The next step, unfortunately, is service reductions. It's a tough thing all around for us looking at reducing the service — for the drivers who provide the service, for the passengers and for the council that makes the final decision.”

In addition to eliminating nine full-time driving positions and replacing some of them with seasonal slots, the proposed cuts to the transit system would conclude summer bus service at 7 p.m. instead of midnight, and also eliminate about 14 stops across town.

In his office that is adorned with several model buses, Flint said he understands the city's need to cut costs in tough financial times. He also said he respects the tough decisions city staff and the City Council ultimately will make when they work to approve a budget this year.

But in an ideal world without budget cuts, Flint said the Yellow Line and the current level of personnel would remain.

“I think we're hitting a good target,” he said. “For where we are right now with the community that we serve, the transit system is doing a good job.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Paul Hughes 2 years, 2 months ago

It's time -- way past time -- to consider charging a modest fee for using all of the routes -- something like a dollar for riding all day. It probably won't pay the entire costs, but it would avoid this sort of last-minute decision to cut service just before the busy season. I can't believe that we couldn't figure out how to do it for next winter.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

Well, this city's budget alternates from being plentiful if considering building a new police station or needing cuts depending upon what revenue projections they decide to use.

The same budget that is making cuts because of an unrealistic budget decision to project no revenue growth is also expected to continue to add to what has been called plentiful reserves because revenues are actually expected to increase 2%.

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Jason Miller 2 years, 2 months ago

"The cuts also will allow the city to tap into its reserve funds only to make a $330,000 debt payment on the Iron Horse Inn"

I will never understand why the city bought this turd?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

Jason, A) They panicked and thought they needed to buy housing for seasonal employees such as bus drivers. B) They accepted as fact the fantasy on how it was a good deal. How it was a good deal to buy something sitting on the market during a boom and being ignored by all other buyers is truly mystifying. C) The truly evil part was how that city council included a slush fund into the bonds so they didn't have to pay for it during their terms and then had a screwy bond payment schedule with low payments the first years and then rising in later years. If there was ever an example of irresponsible financing during the boom then there is little worse than how the Iron Horse financing was set up.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

It is easy to disagree with the financing, and it should have been done with public review. At the time these were the central reasons against the Iron Horse. Affordable housing was a community supported goal back then, and there was no consensus that the housing itself was a bad idea.

Turd? There are many examples of projects engaged that after late 2008 became equally poor judgment. Think this one hurts? Look at the vacant RiverWalk site that used to have 40 mobile homes on it. These were not successes. Neither were they crimes.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

But key difference is when private sector screws up then those investors that knew they were taking risks are the losers and bankruptcy and/or foreclosure can subsequently create opportunities for the next set of investors.

When public sector screws up on a real estate speculation then the public pays for it year after years as a continual waste of tax dollars.

So sure lots of people lost money, but it was a horrible mistake by city government to ever consider speculating in the local real estate market.

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Harry Thompson 2 years, 1 month ago

Scott, I've noticed in these forums and at city and county meetings a lot of people have trouble understanding the difference between the private and public sectors.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

Harry, Well, the distinction between private and public does get a bit blurry in SB which spends so much public money subsidizing flights and parts of the private sector.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

It is very telling that someone like Steve doesn't seem to grasp the difference between private sector risk and publioc sector risk.

Private investors go to the party voluntarily and pay the price when they are wrong... or at least they should. Public sector party's, like Steve likes to throw, carry a mandatory attendance for taxpayers who pay the price when folks like him are wrong.

I doubt he ever has, or ever will see the distinction. And he is far from alone, especially in Routtopia.

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Harry Thompson 2 years, 1 month ago

Mark, Out there in Routtopia there is a certain group of people who have taken it upon themselves to save us hillbillies from ourselves. Only they are stepping all over us in their attempt to create their vision of Shangri-la. They do their bidding under the guise of somehow being superior intellects and more enlighten than all us dummies, who have poured our hearts and souls into keeping this valley a place that we and our families can stay.

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John Weibel 2 years, 1 month ago

Sustainable is a great thing, but..."We're trying to develop more sustainable lifestyles and encourage public transport here, and it feels like (eliminating the Yellow Line) is going the wrong direction for what our students need.”

If a bus line costs $10.07/rider that flies right in the face of "sustainable".

First and foremost for something to be sustainable it needs to be profitable. Yes it is public transportation, but at $10/rider would not cab fare be as cheap and with multiple riders going to the same destination at the same time it might be less expensive.

Just because it is a centralized public bus system, does not make it sustainable, walking or riding a bike are.

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 1 month ago

Mark, if the private party throwers are really good they can get the public to pay for the party after they lose all their money i.e the banks. I think the best way they could have given the banks money would have been to pay off all the individual debt, the banks would have had cash on hand and individuals could have started the cycle over again.

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John St Pierre 2 years, 1 month ago

It is my undrstanding that there is a actual agreement with a certain commercial operation here that the city busses cannot charge a fee..... this was instituted at the time of the city transit inception so as not to interfere w private enterprise....

ALSO

Ever notice that there are no hotel shuttles after 10-11 pm.... especially in the winter... why should they when the city does it for them for free....

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Alan Geye 2 years, 1 month ago

I find it interesting that so much of the above dialogue departed substantially from the primary question of reducing the net operating expenditures. Paul Hughes offered a possible solution, but actually that could be structured in many ways. For example, if the Yellow line costs approx $10 per rider, maybe we should ask those riders to pay $5 per trip? Their individual subsidy of about $5 per trip would still be more than twice the public subsidy of all other bus service.

I support the idea of free public transit conceptually, but there is an unintended consequence we all must wrestle with. In the absence of a price mechanism, all users loose the benefit of a personal cost benefit analysis. It's therefore easy to feel entitled.

It might be interesting to ask the users of the Yellow line, what would you be willing to pay for this service? Would you be willing to pay more for extended hours of operation? I'm not going to speculate, but I suspect if a reasonable price mechanism were applied, the number of users may be different. That's both good and bad news because I feel the objective of public transit is not exclusively monetary.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 1 month ago

I drove city bus for one winter. I did not like yellow line. You sat and sat and sat. One shift took two days to pass in my imagination. The other lines took 4 hours to pass. You were always moving and trying to keep on schedule.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

Kevin, The banks should have been left swinging in the wind like the rest of us. Ditto for GM and Chrysler.

When private businesses win big they should leep their earnings; when they lose big they should twist in the wind. And they should do both without subsidies.

The memory of searing pain is what keeps men from sticking their hand back on the hot stove. Remove the pain and you remove people's responsibility.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

What about putting it out for bids? Let a private taxi service like Alpine and others have a shot at it. They might get the cost down a bit, no?

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Tim Keenan 2 years, 1 month ago

"the proposed cuts to the transit system would conclude summer bus service at 7 p.m. instead of midnight, and also eliminate about 14 stops across town." End summer service at 7 pm? What are these guys and gals smoking? That's long before sunset. Maybe end it at 10, or Spread it out, but to end it at 7 is absurd.

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Tim Keenan 2 years, 1 month ago

How do we go about making an official comment about this?

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rhys jones 2 years, 1 month ago

Once, in a State-mandated class, we undertook an unofficial study into the vast disparity in DUI rates between Routt County and any other area we could find, basing our results on police blotters published in the local papers, and covering weeks and months. One predecessor surveyed a midwestern town he was familiar with, college town, mixed use, similar population, virtually NO public transit, and still came up with a rate of 20 or 30 to 1.

So to compare apples to apples I compared us to Aspen, and after making all the proper adjustments (city only, no County, for instance) we still beat 'em about 13:1 over a seven-week period in late ski season.

"No fair!!" cried a lady in our class "Roaring Fork Transit is a GOOD bus service."

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Harry Thompson 2 years, 1 month ago

Let's start with a question, does Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins, L.A, N.Y.C or Miami have free bus service? Don't think so! Steamboat started the service basically to compete with the other resorts that offered free bus service to guests.

Somehow the everything should be free to the locals crowd, saw an opportunity and here we are today. It is truly time to get back to a you use it, you pay for it stance and I'm not just talking about the free bus. Another quick observation, the free everything crowd are somehow missing in action when it is "do something for Steamboat day."

A possible solution, would be a monthly fee for the "free bus." Before I get my head bit off for suggesting people pay for what they use. There could be a do something for Steamboat and earn a month pass program.

Time to grow up, this town does not have the financial ability to continue with the free programs.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

The free bus has practical benefits of simplified operations as well. It takes time for all riders getting on at the ski area to pay. Instead of piling in front and back then they have to enter single file in the front. And thus to serve all the passengers during peak times would require more buses with more drivers.

The handling of the money also requires staff with security checks to prevent theft or skimming.

I recall some years ago when this was decided that the actual cost difference between free bus service and bus fares after the various costs was not that huge. Not only is free bus service kind to tourists, it also has practical benefits. By encouraging ridership then it also means there are more parking spots available for customers. And free bus reduces living costs for low wage service employees which prevents those people from being too hard or expensive to hire.

Thus, it is reasonable for the city to offer free bus service. But poorly ridden routes are very hard to justify and probably need to get cut.

These budget cuts are also the result of revenue projections intentionally chosen to be less than expected. The biggest reason this is a tough budget year is because city council made a political decision to create their budget based upon artificially low revenue projects.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps the first step on the path to wisdom might be to stop calling it a "free" bus.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

As Alan Geye put it: The objective of public transit is not exclusively monetary. A general truth, at least in my view, which explains many of the differences posted above.

Scott W. gets there in a different way acknowledging the parking, employee, and tourism benefits of the free bus.

The public sector contemplates a realm of community benefits, and even obligations, that are not the same as private sector risk. Grading such public acts as inherently flawed because of "who pays", seems to disregard that "who pays" is also "who benefits". Ditto for the private sector.

The key should be that public and private sector acts have two different constituencies. Ignoring that difference seems bound to confuse the budget discussion above.

A second, related point: We were thrilled that CMC invested here. There are reasons for the yellow line will acknowledge this public-private partnering.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

Harry, You comment, "Out there in Routtopia there is a certain group of people who have taken it upon themselves to save us hillbillies from ourselves. Only they are stepping all over us in their attempt to create their vision of Shangri-la. They do their bidding under the guise of somehow being superior intellects and more enlighten than all us dummies..."

A fair context for what you describe is the balance folks are seeking in bus service. You might be for less service, I might be for more. Superior intellect is moot, isn't it, given we are both lobbying forum readers, or a City Council, and they will decide on the merit of our reasons rather than "guise" and "intellects". I have found that sitting across the table from, or speaking at podiums next to, people I disagree with erases the "superior" syndrome you fear. We are all neighbors, and all carry a right to speak in favor of a world done our way.

It would be more accurate, and friendly, to say BOTH sides "have poured our hearts and souls into keeping this valley a place that we and our families can stay".

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

It is commendable to pour ones own heart and soul into something. To force another mans heart and soul into ones endeavors in not commendable at all.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

Mark, If there were 2 of us, your standard might apply. But with a Steamboat Springs population involved, speaking in terms of "forcing one man's heart" does not begin to describe a conversation about the City bus budget, or anything else this City will spend money on.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

Collectively, it's the same thing. Tyranny is no different, whether it comes from a king or a mob.

I think the standard applies both ways.

Compelling other men to provide a service or product is not commendable, either way. It is not something that should be excused lightly just by calling it a "community decision" or "democracy" or some other euphamism. It is wrong to compell others to serve you; it is something that should be avoided as much as possible and not undertaken as lightly as it is today. In fact, it used to be called slavery.

Back in the 1800's (and all other centurys) people used force and violence to enslave others and compelled them to do their bidding. Today, people send the government to do the exact same thing on their behalf. Apart from the third-party aspect of the equation, what's the difference???

Saying the community is better off with a bus than without it might be true. Back then the community was better off with cotton than without it too! Did that make it right???

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

If the plantation owners should "pick their own damned cotton" then riders should "buy their own damned bus", no???

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

The city is not compelling anyone to do anything on than to pay sales tax. That could be viewed as part of the problem since people are choosing to drive or walk instead of riding the Yellow Line.

Government is always making choices regarding what provides the most benefit to the community. The level of road maintenance, number of police officers and so on do not have some engineering handbook saying what are the correct numbers.

The people of Steamboat Springs have agreed to tax themselves at these levels so presumably the public supports government making these sort of choices. (Unlike Oak Creek where the Town Board is taking huge sums of money from the utilities without it being approved by the public).

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

Scott, Actually there are engineering texts that describe road maintenance cost as a function of the level of disrepair. Allowing lower grades of disrepair are shown to incur inordinately higher costs.

There are probably similar texts for number of on-duty police (or firemen) per citizen which relate to service or crime in a small town. The budget was a lot of by-the-department numbers. Doubt they will do the city-to-city comparison on department staff levels like they did on payroll.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 1 month ago

Mark, Again, if there are very few of us, your rationale has a chance. With 12,000 people, it makes no sense. Each contributes their own approved budget that they are willing to be taxed for?

I don't think you are describing a problem of tyranny or mobs. Your problem is with organized society.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

I am most certainly describing tyranny. Tyranny: The unrestrained excercise of power Tyranny of the Majority: A scenario in which decisions made by the majority place its interests so far above those of an individual as to constitute active oppression.

This condition is very real, and it is precisely and EXACTLY why things like changing the Constitution requires a SUPERMAJORITY.

When society is organized voluntarily I have no problem with it. All men can engage and dis-engage in its mechanizations at will. They can throw in on those deals which seem fruitful to them and abstain from others while other men do likewise in various degrees. THAT is the beauty of a free society... or it was.

I understand your point about needing one plan, not 12,000 plans. However, there is a reasonable solution between the seemingly conflicting needs.

The solution is to have coersion minimalized by involving government is as few aspects of our lives as possible. This is where we seem to diverge most often.

I find that the fans of more government usually want it increased NOT for the betterment of all, but for the purpose of keeping their "yellow line" or their "whatever". At this point, their logic of having one plan instead of 12,000 spills over into using government as a club to get their way at the expense of "the commons".

Saying our town is better of with a yellow bus line is easy. No argument there.

Saying everyone (or even a majority of townsfolk) is/ are better off having government impose such an operation even on those who will, thank God, never see inside of a bus is an entirely different matter.

Are restaraunts good for a community? Yes Are grocery stores good for a community? Yes Do bus lines improve a community? Yes Do we need government restaraunts, grocery stores, etc? Only the blindest among us would want to go there. But the same majority that would never want to go into a "government" restaraunt can't seem to see any other way to move people around town... Hmmmm

Talk about needing to think outside the box sometimes...
How hard could it be?

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rhys jones 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm really happy every opinion is only 1/12,000th.

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mark hartless 2 years, 1 month ago

But "every opinion" does not count. 6,001 opinions are 100% of an operating decision.

Therefore 5,999 opinions don't count at all; even when the 5,999 might (I said might, not always) have better knowledge of the subject at hand; even when the 5,999 might (again, might) "contribute" a majority of the revenue required to implement and sustain the decision.

If the 6,001 decided through popular vote to eliminate the 5,999 altogether would that be fair? After all, it's a "democratic" decision.

Do we take a popular vote of passengers at the airport about whether an aircraft is air-worthy, or do we consult only experts in aviation? Which plane would you rather fly in?

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rhys jones 2 years, 1 month ago

While some opinions are LOUDER than others, they still only count for 1/12,000 each, and THANK GOD for that.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

Which plane would you rather fly in?

Well, if 6,001 people are comfortable flying in the plane then it is certainly not clear that 5,999 doubters actually have better knowledge.

If the 6,001 decided through popular vote to eliminate the 5,999 altogether would that be fair? After all, it's a "democratic" decision.

Which is why US Citizens have Constitutional Rights to protect everyone from the tyranny of the majority.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

And it is not tyranny for the public to approve taxes that are then spent differently than some would like.

There is a potential for the general public in a town to increase taxes to a point where it hurts businesses. Thus, businesses start to leave and the tax revenues decrease. So then the city has to correct it's competitive position or tax revenues will continue to decrease. That problem is not tyranny, but bad management.

I note that current situation in Oak Creek does cross the tyranny threshold because Town government is proposing taking more money from the town owned monopoly utilities than is raised by all voter approved property and sales taxes. Town government sets utility rates to whatever they want so that there is enough money to take from the utilities to pay for more of whatever town government wants to spend. Property owners and residents have no option other than to pay water, sewer and electric utilities.

Town of Oak Creek general fund is even going to take a cut from the town REQUIRED trash service.

Now that is tyranny!

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rhys jones 2 years, 1 month ago

Scott -- I don't have a dog in the OC fight, so I'm not going to waste any time on it, other than to say, if I DID have a concern, I'd be studying my laws: Colorado has a Public Utilities Commission designed to regulate rates, as utilities are a form of taxation, and subject to many of the same limitations. Oak Creek may be leaving themselves open to a massive class action, if their rate structures or increases are illegal.

At the end of the day, there is always the ballot box. If you don't like the way the current regime is running things, vote them out. Circulate recall petitions. Whether your beef is utility rates, yellow lines, or late buses, you always have the option of creating your own petition and standing outside City Market garnering support. Everyone has a voice, should they opt to use it, in a meaningful way, not just bellyaching in the local forums.

While some might prefer a more autocratic system, we have arrived at what is arguably the fairest method of government yet devised, subject to our own mutually-agreed enhancements, and the way I see it, you've got three choices:

-- Accept things the way they are, -- Change the system, or -- Leave.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 1 month ago

Rhys, Government owned utilities are exempt from PUC regulations.

TABOR and such did not clearly distinguish between fees and taxes. Oak Creek is using this loophole to claim they are fees and not taxes.

So yes, I have written a rough draft of a initiative petition. I've sought proofreading and popularity feedback. There will be a final form seeking signatures soon enough.

And I have previously submitted an initiative petition with enough signatures to be put on the ballot. In January I had collected enough to greatly simplify the Town's land use rules for downtown. At which point the Town Board caved and basically told head of Planning Board, newly hired town administrator Mary Alice and Kerry and myself as petition organizers to work it out. And so in an afternoon we rewrote pages of land use code that was rubber stamped by the Town Board.

I also led the effort to repeal ordinance 609 which would have made property owners liable for their tenant's unpaid electric bills.

So yes, I fight to change the system in Oak Creek. Having two petitions approved in a year would be more than anyone else. I learned so much with the first petition that now I am far more willing to use that method.

With the County Commissioners, they first don't make such bad mistakes on the scale of Oak Creek Town Board and second, they are responsive and eager to engage the public seeking to learn one's concerns and to express their thought processes. I always feel better about County government after going to a meeting or writing a letter and getting a response. In contrast, going to Oak Creek Town Board meetings after Jay Elliott retired as mayor is just so depressing. They simply ignore public comment and make no effort to respond. This is a Town Board uninterested in the public. And so insane proposals such as the equivalent of a 15% of revenues sales tax on mandated monopoly town utilities water, sewer, trash and electric without even asking for voter approval seems like an acceptable idea. Trash is going to require an immediate rate increase to pay for the Town's theft of funds.

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