Rob Douglas: Time to speak up
December 13, 2012
Next Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council will meet at 5 p.m. in Centennial Hall to decide whether to sell the city's emergency services building on Yampa Street to Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger. While Tuesday's vote is the first of two that are required to consummate the sale — the second vote is scheduled for Jan. 8 — it is the vote that will, in all practicality, decide whether the sale is completed as currently conceived.
Regular readers of this column know that I've opined against the sale of the Yampa Street facility based on a number of arguments, including:
■ The disregard by the council and city management team of their fiduciary obligation to the citizens of Steamboat to obtain fair market value when selling one of the city's largest real estate assets.
■ The irresponsibility of selling an existing, operational police and fire facility prior to having a completed, affordable plan to build a new facility.
■ The inappropriateness of using finite city reserve funds during challenging economic times to build a new public safety campus when there are more immediate infrastructure and personnel compensation needs.
■ The ineffectiveness of using public funds as incentives for private corporations.
Instead of rehashing those arguments or introducing fresh reasons why the council should reject the sale of the Yampa Street property at this time, I will risk the ire of Steamboat residents by pointing out that they bear some responsibility for the outcome of this momentous decision if they remain mute. In other words, anyone who feels strongly — one way or the other — about the pending sale of the Yampa Street facility needs to get off their duff next Tuesday evening and motor on down to Centennial Hall.
Throughout the years that I've been covering the City Council, the most common exasperation I've heard from council members is about how few of their fellow citizens ever show up at council meetings to share their thoughts, expertise or opinions on matters of import to Steamboat. In fact, if you wander down to Centennial Hall during the semimonthly meetings of the City Council, you'll rarely find yourself in want of a place to sit. During most meetings, the council and attending staff outnumber citizens who've come to observe or participate in the deliberations of the council.
This lack of regular, active, timely and vocal participation by citizens with the council often frustrates the council members who think they've worked diligently on an issue for an extended period of time, only to find after months of relative silence from their constituents — silence the council perceives as tacit approval — that there is vigorous opposition to the path the council has chosen.
The pending vote Tuesday might be an example of an issue where the council has had little feedback from the residents of Steamboat until recently. Fortunately, there still is ample time for folks to become familiar with the proposed sale of the Yampa Street facility and to share their opinion about the sale with the council. In fact, it appears that those in attendance Tuesday similarly will be situated as the council in that city staff will present yet another possible scenario for the relocation of the police and fire facility just moments before asking the council to move forward with the sale of the existing facility. If you're unable to attend the meeting but would like to share your support or opposition for the sale of the Yampa Street facility with the council, you can send an email to vdietrich@steamboat
springs.net and the email will be distributed to every council member.
Bottom line: Just as we all have a responsibility to be actively involved in the governing of our country, so to we have a responsibility to be involved in the governing of Steamboat. Tuesday is an important day in the governance of our community and a good time to speak up.
To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com