Lenny Herzog: Editorial misses mark
July 8, 2012
I found it amazing that the editorial board of the Steamboat Today so thoroughly misunderstands the issues surrounding the Oak Creek Police Department ("Our View: Oak Creek police issues like deja vu," July 4).
The residents of Oak Creek were effectively denounced because they rejected a sales tax proposal that was to "have generated funds to pay for a second police officer." The proposed tax was rejected for very good reasons. The reasons are too numerous for this letter, but a highlight is that the tax in question, unlike what was stated in the editorial, would not have generated enough revenue to pay for another full-time officer. The editorial stated that there was an $80,000 shortfall for a second officer. The proposed tax increase would not have generated that sum of money, and therefore the proposed tax was not a solution to the problem.
The statement that the defeat of the sales tax proposal meant "Oak Creek effectively said it wasn't interested in more police" is an arrogant presumption. Clearly there are some (editorial staff) who are unaware of the realities of the town of Oak Creek, and they may be better off not offering their uninformed perspective.
Many of the people of Oak Creek not only work in Steamboat Springs, they shop there, too. Steamboat Springs has been the recipient of Oak Creek residents' sales tax dollars that go to such things as the Steamboat Springs Police Department, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund and air service program, to name a few interesting ones. Oak Creek residents also pay county sales and property tax, which if I am not mistaken goes to help pay for the Routt County Sheriff's Office.
I challenge the editorial board's "guess" that the county commissioners are "acutely aware of Oak Creek's situation." I challenge the editorial board of this paper to understand the severe economic difficulties of the town of Oak Creek. I challenge the editorial board's assumption that Oak Creek, when all of its residents can fit into just one of Steamboat's hotels, has a simple solution to funding a fully staffed police department.
It is quite ironic that I repeatedly have witnessed Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies patrolling the city of Steamboat Springs when the Steamboat Springs Police Department has approximately 35 paid employees (according to the city's 2012 budget). What is the budget for a police department of 35 people? Maybe $3.2 million. Compare that to $120,000 in Oak Creek.
It is also ironic that in the same issue of the Steamboat Today, it was stated that the Steamboat Springs City Council prudently voted down pay raises for city employees. Yet Oak Creek is supposed to come up with more money for city employees. It is also ironic that the editorial trounces Oak Creek for turnover in the police department. As noted by Steamboat Springs City Council member Sonja Macy in the same article, she perceives the turnover in the Steamboat Springs Police Department, among other departments, as an "urgent" problem.
The people of Oak Creek probably don't, as the editorial states, want "a stronger police presence." They just want adequate service. I believe that the Steamboat Today, judging by its editorial, may be a poor judge of the "true desire for full-time law enforcement" in Oak Creek. The sole observation for a solution to the issue by the Steamboat Today was that an inadequate and inappropriate tax should have been passed instead of being rightly rejected.
I commend the Sheriff's Office past and present for the efforts it has made with the limited resources it has to do what it can for the county, including Oak Creek. I do not believe it is an Oak Creek vs. Sheriff's Office issue, as insinuated by the paper. I believe that it is a Routt County and Oak Creek issue. If Oak Creek were to unincorporate, it might be strictly a Routt County issue.