Our View: Don’t sweat the small stuff
November 12, 2013
Change is good, and this week, the Steamboat Springs City Council welcomes two new members to its ranks. Tony Connell won his post in a two-way race, and Scott Ford ran unopposed. Incumbents Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman were re-elected, also without challenge.
Because of the lack of competitive council races, debate about city issues was tame, and candidates did not fall under the intense scrutiny of an engaged electorate. So in other words, the easy part is over, and now the work begins as the council is faced with several important decisions right out of the gate, including employee pay raises and funding for a new police station.
When the City Council conducts its annual retreat and identifies its highest priorities, it needs to set out a logical course for accomplishing its vision. It needs to avoid the confusing processes of 2013 that clouded the goals of selecting a new purpose for the lodging tax and building a new police station.
During the past year, the council, at times, had trouble making decisions, giving the appearance that its members lacked a clear vision for the direction in which they wanted to take the city.
There also were instances of micromanaging and overthinking issues to the point where the council seemed stymied about small-picture items, like the recent discussion about whether to allow snow bikes on Howelsen Hill. Instead of approving a parks and recreation committee recommendation to allow the bikes, council members faltered and postponed the decision based on some negative input they received from members of the public. In our opinion, that's a decision best left to a qualified parks and recreation staff, and in particular, the department's trail supervisor.
Rather than waste time, energy and resident confidence on those types of discussions, we would like to see the new council focus on more important issues that have a far greater impact on the residents of Steamboat Springs.
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An example of a project with lasting impact is the U.S. Highway 40 median improvement project that was completed last week and celebrated with a ribbon cutting. The City Council and city leaders found a way to secure funding for the project through cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority Advisory Committee and then moved forward to bid the project quickly and made it happen in time for the start of ski season. First impressions matter, and for years, the medians on the south edge of town were unsightly eyesores. Thanks to the council, that issue has been addressed, and the gateway into the city has been greatly improved.
It is in the spirit of that project's scope and impact that we urge council members to think about what they want to accomplish in the next four years and then work to get those goals accomplished. Along the way, we'd encourage the City Council to share its vision for the city clearly with the public, conduct city business transparently and seek community buy-in on important projects. In other words, be visionaries, think legacy, get back to the basics of what's most important to this community and then get busy making those issues a priority.