Our View: Time’s a wastin’
March 17, 2014
We looked forward this week to hearing the results of the Steamboat Springs City Council's belated goal-setting retreat, which we had hoped would produce a list of tangible projects to be accomplished this year and perhaps in 2015. Instead, we were disappointed to find the process had resulted in a list of five broad policy statements that struck us as mission statements not specific goals.
To wit: "We maintain and improve core services for the citizens and visitors of Steamboat Springs."
Well, we certainly hope that has always been the case. But what about an action plan? Will City Council return more of its employees to full 40-hour weeks in 2014 in order to improve the delivery of core services? We can only wonder.
It's not as if members of this City Council have failed to achieve tangible goals in the recent past. One need look no further than the stretch of U.S. Highway 40 between Pine Grove and Walton Creek roads, where the snow banks have already melted away from highway medians, newly beautified with brick red pavers, aspen trees and shrubs.
That was a project that had been kicked down the highway in Steamboat Springs for at least 15 years before City Manager Deb Hinsvark came up with a funding solution and council seized the opportunity last summer and fall. It was not the result of a specific goal-setting process but should serve as a reminder that members of this council have shown they have resolve.
We'd like to see more of that in 2014.
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Another of the objectives that came out of the March 11 retreat read: "We serve as a community leader in sustainability by conducting daily operations with a focus on resource efficiency, cost effectiveness and respect for the natural environment."
Sustainability is a fine concept. But we would rather hear the council resolve to do everything in its power to secure the fate of the Sustainability Council's Green Machine recycling dumpster in the Safeway parking lot. Current zoning regulations are threatening the future of the Green Machine program, and it's a service that City Council's constituents value greatly. We think it's an attainable goal.
To be fair, we are aware that several council members went into the retreat hoping to leave with measurable goals on paper. Somehow, after eight hours, it didn't happen.
We also were mystified that in a resort town that depends upon grants and sales tax receipts and is one of only a handful of municipalities in Colorado that does not have its own property tax, this City Council's list of objectives included nothing about economic development.
We think it self evident that any city initiative that helps to produce several points of positive change in sales tax numbers represents the straightest path to improving the fiscal health of city government.
This year's goal-setting process stands in stark contrast to December 2009, when a different City Council confronted with a recession set the goal of stabilizing existing businesses in Steamboat Springs and sent its city manager into the field to meet with employers to hear ideas about what was needed to improve the local economic climate and help to stimulate job creation.
In November 2013, after a City Council election that featured just one contested race, we urged the individuals in the new council to be visionaries, think legacy and begin prioritizing the issues that are most important to the community.
We would renew that plea and urge council members to get back in the room, with or without a facilitator, to make a list of six to 10 goals that could be achieved this year, and next, find some consensus and take the first step to accomplishing them.