Election Guide: Steamboat Springs City Council District 1 candidate Scott Myller
October 13, 2011
Occupation: Architect, self-employed
Prior political experience: Current City Council; Planning Commission, 2001 to 2007
Hometown: Apple Valley, Minn.
Years in Steamboat: 15
Family: Wife, Ellyn, and children Sophie, 17, Lesley, 15, and Peter, 13
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Civic involvement: Yampa Valley Housing Authority (2007 to present); Routt County Regional Building Department Users Group (2008 to present); Bike Town USA Initiative (2010 to present); Urban Renewal Area Advisory Committee (2007 to present)
(please limit answers to 100 words each)
Q. The city has had to make drastic budget cuts recently. Does this speak to a need for changes to the city’s tax structure? If so, what changes? If not, why is the current tax structure appropriate?
A. I promise that the city can operate on whatever revenue it receives. No change to the tax structure is necessary. Having said that, the city continues to be pressured into adding parks, services and capital improvements. We are outgrowing our ability to own and operate the great assets we have and new additions seem out of the question without either new revenue or reprioritized operations.
Q. Given that difficult budget decisions loom for the third straight year, should the city consider using reserves, which the city has built up to about 40 percent of general fund expenditures, instead of just cutting services? If so, which budget line items should be given priority? If not, which line items should be the first to go?
A. I think a combination of cutting services and using reserves is wise. I would like to see if we could cut services to balance the budget, and use some reserves to invest in minor capital improvements and maintenance projects. The reserves are very strong and now is a good rainy day to make some investments with those funds.
Q. To what degree should the city fund the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s summer marketing efforts? What is the appropriate role for city government in tourism promotion?
A. I will continue to support the chamber's summer marketing efforts at the current level. I believe it is appropriate to use sales tax revenue to help increase sales taxes. Above just increasing taxes, summer marketing also is an economic development tool, a good gesture to the business establishments that make the tax payments and since we are a tourism-based economy, will keep the community healthy.
Q. The city spent more than $2.2 million on bike-related efforts in 2011, including the more than $763,000 purchase of the Orton property and nearly $817,000 for the West Lincoln Avenue bridge and trail. Was that money well spent? Why or why not? Would you fund future bike-related efforts? To what extent?
A. I disagree that $2.2 million was spent on bike-related purchases. The Orton property was an important active open-space acquisition with or without bike trails. The West Lincoln Avenue Bridge has been on the Capital Improvement Program list for many years prior to my tenure on council; $750,000 of the $817,000 is funded from a GOCo grant. That bridge is not just for biking, either. Many of the other items that add up to $2.2 million are either staff time, funds offset by user revenue, or staff time donations to bigger causes like Ride for Yellow and grant-writing efforts. I can find $164,000 of direct cash spent on bike-related efforts. I feel these were appropriate and I will continue to support bike-related efforts to the extent the city can afford them in the future.
Q. Do you support a ban of medical marijuana businesses in Steamboat? Why or why not?
A. If it really were just medical marijuana I wouldn't be a supporter of a ban. I believe the current business is recreational marijuana, and I don't feel Colorado voted for recreational marijuana back in 2000. I also don't feel that being a recreational marijuana center for Northwest Colorado is the right image for our community. I do not believe we got what I thought I was approving back in 2009. In hindsight, I wish we'd said no back then.
Q. Do you support a 0.25 percent sales tax, for a period of five years, to supplement the winter air service program at Yampa Valley Regional Airport? Why or why not?
A. I do support this temporary tax. Even though it will be charged to all of us, even on necessities, it will tend to be paid (55 percent) by the tourists that use the air service. Airline seats are critical to the success of the community and we need to retain/increase as many as possible. Many of us locals also use the air service and enjoy the reduced prices.
Q. Identify a decision the current council has made that you agree with, and one that you disagree with. What would you have done instead?
A. I agree with support for the Bike Town USA Initiative, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, pedestrian and bike connections through town, signage, and Yampa River Core Trail mapping/signage.
I disagree with funding the Yampa Valley Housing Authority operations with Community Housing funds. Affordable housing is constantly mentioned as a priority in the community plans, but there doesn't seem to be any political will to fund it. Funding for affordable housing should come from all of us that have benefited from the disparity. Since YVHA is a body formed by both the county and the city, funding should come from the general fund, and the community housing funds should be held for affordable housing projects.
Q. List your top three priorities as a council member and how you propose to accomplish them.
A. 1. Maintain the assets we have — find funds either from reserves or in reduced services to maintain trails, upkeep facilities, add some funding to the CIP list.
2. Finish Bike Town USA projects — finish signing and mapping our trails, work toward funding a full-time bicycle advocate, find funding to better maintain trails, work with Routt County Riders and the Bike Town USA Initiative to make sure our town really can claim to be Bike Town USA.
3. Balance the budget — work with staff and council on finding opportunities on reducing services. This will be a difficult conversation, but we've shown our ability to work through hard issues. Raise the budget on maintenance.
Q. What should be the city’s role in economic development? What steps, if any, would you recommend the city take to help improve the local economy?
A. Maintain the assets we have. I'd like to see some investment in projects that make the community better. Those are the same projects that tourists will also be attracted to. As we invest in ourselves, the more attractive we become. Continue to work on raising the city's customer service as we deal with local businesses, applicants and those using our services.
I am very happy with the last four years of service, and I would love to continue to make Steamboat the best town we can be. Some of the work we've accomplished is as follows:
• We've balanced the budget in the hardest economic times of the last 30 or more years
• Reduced the city's expenses 40 percent since 2008
• Purchased the Orton property, 586 acres of open space on Emerald Mountain
• Raised the city's credit rating while most other governments have been losing their ratings
• Finished the base area improvements
• Had a Pro Cycling Challenge race finish and start
I would really like to continue the great start we've begun on the Bike Town USA Initiative. I really believe cycling can be the summer draw that we've all been looking for. It goes hand in hand with our winter skiing and will make us a year-round destination. We have an amazing list of assets in place right now. Becoming a bike town will not require much development to succeed.