Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Douglas here.
This week, I had the pleasure of spending an hour with Ronald “Chip” Ravenscroft while he gave me a refresher course about why the residents of Steamboat Springs chose to institute a tax structure that is based on sales taxes instead of property taxes.
When it comes to the history behind Steamboat’s tax structure — one that has served the city well for 35 years — it’s hard to imagine a better reservoir of knowledge than Ravenscroft. After all, he was the president of the Steamboat Springs City Council in 1978 when the city’s property tax was eliminated, leaving sales tax as the primary revenue stream for city operations.
Above and beyond the insights Ravenscroft shared on a range of issues confronting Steamboat, it also was time well-invested because Ravenscroft is a pleasant man with deep roots in the Yampa Valley. He was a driving force behind the creation of a number of key local institutions, including Routt County United Way, that continue to benefit many who call the valley home.
As I walked back to my office following our discussion, I once again was struck by how fortunate Steamboat is to have so many residents who dedicate significant portions of their time and money to maintaining the ’Boat as a wonderful community. Most days, when you open the Steamboat Pilot & Today, you’ll find at least one announcement or advertisement for a fundraiser, benefit or charity designed to assist an individual or group here in the valley.
In addition to the charitable spirit that permeates our community, there is another aspect of civic life in Steamboat that binds us to those who fought to secure the right to representative government: the role of citizen legislators.
With the traditional summer kickoff in Steamboat coming up with next week’s July Fourth celebration, it’s not too soon to note that four of the seven seats on the City Council will be up for grabs this fall. The terms of council members Cari Hermacinski (District 1), Kenny Reisman (District 2), Walter Magill (District 3) and Kevin Kaminski (at-large) expire in November.
Reisman and Kaminski are eligible to run again this year, and the safe bet is that both will seek re-election. Having served back-to-back terms, Hermacinski is barred because of the state term limits law that Steamboat found acceptable at the time of passage.
Voters might be under the impression that Magill also is term limited because, like Hermacinski, he’s won two elections in a row. However, Magill — with legal advice from city attorney Tony Lettunich — thinks he is eligible to run this year because his first election was for a partial term left open when Kaminski resigned his District 3 seat in 2007. Still, if Magill runs again — indications are that he will — he’ll certainly violate the spirit of term limits by seeking to sit on the council for more than eight years without interruption.
With the majority of seats on the council potentially in play, the current direction of the council could be significantly altered. It’s important that challengers to Reisman, Kaminski and Magill — along with contestants for the District 1 seat left without an incumbent — step forward and enter the fray of Steamboat politics.
To be clear, it’s not important that challengers enter the arena just to change the makeup of the council. It is important that every seat be contested so that every candidate is forced to actively interact with the voters and, in so doing, present detailed public policy positions on the issues confronting Steamboat while simultaneously getting feedback from the electorate.
In short, a vigorous debate about public policy challenges in Steamboat will benefit and inform the council that will be sworn in come November — no matter who wins.
The Steamboat of 2013 is different than the Steamboat of 2011 and, thankfully, far different than the Steamboat of 2009 — the past two elections that brought the current incumbents to office. It’s not too soon for incumbents and challengers to publicly state their desire to seek election this fall and to start speaking about the policies they’d pursue if elected.
Who will enter the fray?
To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com