Approximately one decade ago I commented to a then-Steamboat Springs city councilperson that I did not see how council was able to make consistent, logical decisions given what appeared to be a random stream of ideas, suggestions, concepts arriving on their desks. That person asked what I meant.
I replied that it was not obvious to me that there was a solid context — call it a long-term direction if you wish — into which these various thoughts would be fit, and so dealing with each one was, to a greater or lesser extent, a one-off decision. Such a long-term plan flows naturally from the multiple, very consistent visioning exercises and area plans that have been developed over three decades, which emphasize maintaining a sense of community, the importance of open space, ensuring historic continuity while developing the town economically.
In the immediately past several weeks, this newspaper has had articles and comments concerning significant potential expenditures at the rodeo grounds, the need for sidewalks on several downtown streets, extensions to the Yampa River Core Trail, the proposed new police station, long-term traffic concerns on Lincoln Avenue through the downtown part of the city — which come readily to mind. Obviously, the situation hasn’t changed in a decade.
City Council and city administration could, while adhering to Colorado state requirements, prepare multi-year operating and capital budgets, both of which would obviously address in a structured manner, these and other issues that fit the community’s expressed desires. And these could be subdivided, especially the capital budget, into categories such as regulatory requirements, environmental, maintenance and expansion.
Elaboration in this manner would allow not only City Council, but interested parties as well as average citizens, to better understand how our monies are being spent, and if our desires are being met.
On Thursday, Rob Douglas asked “Who is driving city policy?” In my humble opinion, City Council has defaulted, for a very long time, in driving city policy, by not creating a process to force open policy discussions.
A planning and budgeting process that begins with the very broad picture early in the year, and then narrows progressively through three or four stages, to annual budgets and capital spending plans, as outlined above, will go a long way toward “driving policy.” I suggest it is well past time that City Council create such a process.
Clearly, the citizens are asking for it. We are early in the year, City Council, now is the time to begin.