Karen Halterman: Taken out of context
July 29, 2006
I wish to address the article contained in the July 23 edition of the Steamboat Pilot & Today regarding the town of Oak Creek’s finances.
I initially had grave reservations about speaking with your newspaper because too many times what is actually said is not what ends up in print. What I did say, both to Scott Stanford and Alexis DeLaCruz, was edited and taken out of context and more importantly most of what I did say was not printed.
I did say that in the 1998 election the people of the Town of Oak Creek voted against the hiring of a town manager. The mayor and board that took office in 2000 chose to hire a town manager anyway. The town’s revenues at that time were no more than they are now.
The town manager was hired at a very lucrative salary, benefit and monthly expense package. A new chief of police was hired with a very lucrative salary, benefit and expense package.
The police department had numerous police officers and the town had a full-time treasurer and double the office staff that we currently employ. I questioned how the town at that time could have expended the money for all of this and I believe that situation helped to contribute to the town’s general fund problems then and at present. Each board inherits the actions of the previous board, which can snowball.
I stated that in a small town there is a smaller resource pool of individuals to run for public office than in a larger municipality, the effect of which is that your basic citizen has little or no experience with government operations, specifically budgeting.
As to the budget class hosted by DOLA that our board attended last week in Steamboat Springs, I strongly encouraged (not ordered) everyone to attend, which was well attended by myself, the mayor, the treasurer and all but one board member. It was an excellent class and I feel that every board would benefit from this opportunity. All of us felt that we got a lot out of it
I did comment that I felt that there was no one on the present board with a firm grasp on government fund accounting. I also said that I don’t believe that past boards have necessarily had a firm grasp on fund accounting, which is integral to the budget process. I stand by that statement but would say that this was not meant to say that these good people are not capable of administering town business. What is meant by that is that unless a person has a background in government fund accounting they will find it much more complex and rigorous than balancing your checkbook.
It is our democratic system that allows citizens to run for public office and it is a privilege to serve your community in this manner. There are no prerequisites for financial education and experience, managerial education and experience, just a willingness to serve, which entails the huge responsibility of tackling the many aspects of government administration such as state statute and finance. It takes time, effort and cooperation.
My initial gut reaction and reticence to speak with the Pilot & Today on this story was a wariness that has justified itself. Accurate and well-researched articles are a mark of good journalism, which I believe the public is entitled to. Sensationalism is pretty commonplace, and most of us can filter through it, but I believe it does not serve the reader well and that he/she deserves better.
In the future, I will not ignore my gut instinct and will simply reply to the Pilot & Today with “no comment.” It is my hope that such comment will be correctly reflected in your newspaper.