We reported Aug. 28 that there are five fresh candidates running for Steamboat Springs City Council in the Nov. 5 election, all of them invested in the community and with business backgrounds that would serve them well in overseeing city government. And that’s good news, but it’s not all good news.
What is most disappointing is that four of the five candidates are running for the same District 1 seat, and the three other council races this fall are uncontested. If you are among the newspaper readers who have questioned recent council decision-making on issues like city staff’s exploration of a location for a new police department, that’s not reassuring news.
Public forums and Q-and-A sessions involving District 1 candidates Tony Connell, Clark Davidson, John Fielding and Toby Spikes this election season hold the promise of allowing voters to uncover information that will guide their decisions. Voters need to be able to test candidates’ understanding of the issues and identify differences of opinion that set them apart.
Incumbents Kenny Reisman, at-large, and Walter Magill, District 3, along with council newcomer Scott Ford, District 2, are running unopposed. All three are credible, but all three are assured of sitting on council beyond the fall campaign, and there is little need for them to take an even slightly controversial stand.
City Council races have not been this barren in recent election cycles. There were three contested races in the 2009 council election and the same number in 2011. The opposition was viable — collecting between 35 and 45 percent of the vote in those races.
Given the circumstances in 2013, it’s more important than ever that candidates and voters engage in a meaningful exchange of views about how we spend our money on city government in this sales tax-driven system.
We also think the broader community, along with the newspaper, should do some soul searching about how to attract more City Council candidates who come prepared to govern.
City Council members invest many hours in preparation for meetings, burning up time they could have spent with family or recreating with friends. Their salary is $620.80 per month ($724 for the president pro-tem and $826.40 for the president). But they don’t always feel the gratitude of community members who often are quick to criticize without fully understanding the issues.
We think it’s as important for the incumbents as it is for the new candidates to work for election, whether or not it’s a foregone conclusion. And we call upon those incumbents to go door to door to meet informally with community groups to learn, outside the influence of city staff and formal council meetings, what’s on the minds of their fellow residents.