Our View: Too late for 700 survey
September 26, 2010
There was a time six months ago when surveying city voters about their specific reasons for voting no on the annexation of Steamboat 700 could have served as a valuable tool for growth planning and discussions. Unfortunately, that time has passed.
So too should the Steamboat Springs City Council pass on a proposal from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments to conduct a voter survey. Instead of investing $11,000 or more on a survey too late to be reliable, city leaders ought to consider how that money can be better spent in a time of significant revenue decreases and correlating budget reductions.
It appears the council is heading in that direction. During a discussion about the proposed survey at last week's City Council meeting, council members and city residents in attendance were divided on the issue. Ultimately, the council agreed to address the survey in the context of the city's 2011 budget, which is the subject of a daylong meeting Oct. 5 in Centennial Hall.
Some council members have said there's little useful information to be gained from a survey that will reveal across-the-board answers from residents. They question how those answers can be analyzed in a way that will offer clear direction about future growth in and around Steamboat.
We disagreed with that line of thinking six months ago, and we wish the city would have taken prompt action to query voters on the reasons they voted no on Steamboat 700. But the lapse in time since 4,253 city voters cast ballots on Referendum A leaves us little room to argue with the council's current — and continued — reluctance.
Even the survey proposal from NWCCOG acknowledges the rapidly diminishing reliability of voter feedback.
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A request for proposal from NWCCOG dated July 2010 states: "Four months have already elapsed since voters cast their ballots and before long, voters' memories may erode, weakening the data's validity. Therefore, if the survey can be completed before mid-September, respondents to the survey will more likely recall accurately the reasons why they voted for or against annexing Steamboat 700."
This Editorial Board offered a similar sentiment in early April:
"And do it soon because there's particular value in engaging residents while the issue is fresh in their minds and before the passage of time and changing economic and other circumstances alter the reasons we remember for why we said 'yes' or 'no' at the polls."
Mid-September already has passed, and it will be five days into October before the council meets again for that budget hearing. City Council President Cari Hermacinski suggests that Steamboat's new city planner provide guidance on how the council could best use $10,000 on community planning. Others are suggesting the cost- and labor-intensive job of updating the Community Area Plan. We're not sure what the best answer is, but we know it's not a survey of residents on a vote that took place almost seven months ago.