Election Guide 2013: Clark Davidson
October 16, 2013
Prior political experience: none
Hometown: Lynchburg, Va.
Years in Steamboat: 8
Family: wife and daughter
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Civic involvement: Steamboat Springs Arts Council board member and executive director, administrator of the city's Arts and Culture Coalition Funding (2012), Steamboat Montessori School board member, consultant for STARS, member of Budget & Finance Committee for ACLU of San Diego, consultant for Jonathan Tarr Foundation in San Diego
Q. List your top three priorities as a Steamboat Springs City Council member and talk about how you would go about accomplishing them.
A. 1.) Invest in our core community assets. I would work with city staff and partners to identify needs and costs and then create project plans with sensible budgets and timelines.
2.) Partnerships. City Council should work to develop all of its partnerships, including the county, ski area, local utilities and businesses and the nonprofit sector. In our current climate, collaboration with these partners has diminished. We need a collaborative spirit.
3.) Police station. I'd work collaboratively with my colleagues to revisit this process that has lost the community's trust. If we truly identify this as a top priority, we ought to develop a long-range plan that addresses both police and fire. Our plan must be collaborative, including working with the West Routt Fire District, and based on the reality of our future needs, safety and cost estimates.
Q. This budget season, the city wants to bring some employees back to a 40-hour workweek and give market raises to some workers for the first time in years. After years of budget cuts and furloughs, what do you think of the city's current level of service and the state of employee pay? What changes should be made, if any?
A. For most, it appears the city's current level of service is satisfactory. Furloughs impact lower wage employees more than high wage employees. The city's management team enjoys top wages. As such, they should be available during what most consider a "normal" work week. An approach for raises based on cost of living versus a "market" raise may be a better option. Most people in Steamboat Springs work for less than "market rate," and the city jobs are stable jobs with benefits (unlike many in our community whose jobs do not offer benefits or stability). If some city employees appreciate the extra day off and reduced pay, they should have that option so long as it does not negatively impact services. Continued staff reduction on Fridays can meet most people's needs (and desires) and keep our expenses down.
Q. For more than a year, the city has pursued a new public safety campus in a variety of locations. Staff is expected to come back with the latest round of potential sites for council to consider in December. What do you think of the process the city has taken so far? How would you direct staff to continue with this process?
A. It's been a debacle. City Council should stop this process until an asset management plan is developed. Without a plan, the current process is wasteful, in both energy spent and money invested. The large, vocal community feedback is not being acknowledged by the council or staff. After the public outcry against these efforts, why does the city manager continue to push? Where is council? Shouldn't they be leading? The "facts" provided to the community regarding this "need" seems similar to the child who "needs" a new toy. The fact is that most people who live in Routt County make sacrifices to do so. Maybe they don't make as much money, maybe they work an extra job, and maybe their office space is far from ideal. Although their accommodations could be improved, it doesn't mean the only solution is a $10 million facility; there are many other viable options.
Q. The city's recently approved rules for the sale and use of recreational marijuana are likely to be revisited in the coming years as Amendment 64 is implemented statewide. What do you think of the city's approved rules that zone pot shops out of the downtown commercial district and place restrictions on using the word marijuana in signs for businesses? Should marijuana shops be regulated like liquor stores?
A. The council should follow the law and the will of the people and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Council's decision to limit advertising opportunities and drive locations through zoning is counter to my understanding of the constitutional amendment passed by the state and approved by 69 percent of city voters. The state will grapple with the evolution of this industry into the legal marketplace. However, like it or not, tourists will come here and want to purchase marijuana. They should easily find it versus embarking on a wild goose chase that opens opportunities for black market dealers and access by youths: it's inefficient, wasteful and potentially dangerous. People should be able to walk to purchase marijuana, not drive. Lastly, I believe the city's zoning decision was one based on fear, and decisions based on fear are often not the best decisions.
Q. How will you vote on the current council's recommended spending of the lodging tax? Explain why.
A. Not having reviewed the actual grants submitted, it would be imprudent of me to criticize or challenge the selected projects versus the grants not awarded funds. I did review the original accommodations tax ballot language and inquired about past uses of the tax. This money can be used to "improve" any capital asset, not only be spent on a "new" capital project. If we were to remodel the buildings at the base of Howelsen Hill to improve the training facilities there, or update the rodeo grounds for better safety, and the project takes care of deferred maintenance at the same time, that's a legitimate way to spend the tax revenue. To build more assets at this time, which will require additional future investment, is not prudent when we have been unwilling to invest in our current assets.
Q. The city has in recent years implemented a new microgrant program. It also provides funding to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. What should the city's role be in promoting economic development?
A. I disagree with the microgrant program because the city should not be involved in choosing "winners" and "losers" in private industry. Several of these grants provided an advantage to a single business competing with others in our community. These dollars may be better spent on our local nonprofit organizations, many of whom have partnered with the city for decades to provide needed services to area residents and tourists. Nonprofits are well practiced at squeezing as much out of a dollar as possible. (They can actually get blood from a turnip!) I support the Chamber and believe they have a difficult task, considering Vail spends $2,500,000 each summer and we're spending $600,000 (about the same amount as we did 10 years ago). We must be competitive, and we need a demonstrable return on investment, both of which the Chamber wants to address.
Q. In recent years, the city has taken a conservative approach to budgeting and has built up a substantial reserve by doing so. As sales tax revenue here continues to show modest gains in the wake of the recession, what are your budget priorities? How should the city use reserves?
A. My budget priorities are to ensure we spend money wisely to invest in the future, with a focus on our community assets. We need to first ensure we properly fund our essential services and strongly question any other spending decisions. As our sales tax revenue rises, we need to be reminded that there will be "rainy days," and we must plan accordingly to ensure that our essential services are maintained during the downturns. Reserves should be used to rectify our deferred maintenance, pay down debt where available and set aside a portion for the future. We are ready to spend it all on a police station that will provide no future revenue, increase our expenses, and is likely to be obsolete in the future as technology reduces each year the amount of square footage officers need to perform their jobs.
Open ended statement: Like you, I appreciate and use our community resources and assets. They are what brought me here and my commitment to the community is what has kept me here. I will proudly raise my daughter to be a Steamboat Springs native who can depend on the amenities and services that so many youths before her were able to access. We need to wisely invest in our future, spending our dollars where we get a strong return on investment. City Council needs to be at the forefront of creating a vision and partnerships for the future: with the county, with the ski area, with the area utilities, businesses and the nonprofit sector. My background includes business and law. Both of these professions require reason and accountability. Our city government is no different. As your City Council member, I will bring a balanced approach to economic growth. I will listen to you and ensure the community has a voice, representing all interests. I will ensure we embrace our heritage as it provides our community strength and differentiates us from other mountain towns. I am the right choice to better manage our future.