Steamboat City Council to consider starting new informal coffee meetings with constituents
March 17, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Local residents soon could have a more casual way to chat with Steamboat Springs City Council members outside of a three-minute public comment period at council meetings.
Council member Scott Ford on Tuesday night will propose that the body soon start a monthly "Coffee with the Council" series.
He said the new meetings would allow for more give and take than the current system of public comment in which council members can’t ask questions of their constituents.
"I can’t help but think that at the end of the day, this helps serve everybody better," Ford said. "The dialogue and the give and take is healthy for everyone involved."
Ford said the informal coffee series already is being done successfully in cities and towns such as Longmont, Golden and Fruita.
He is proposing the series be attended each month by two council members and be backed by a $2,500 annual budget for coffee and pastries.
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"We’re citizen legislators, and we’ve got to be in touch with the citizenry," Ford said. "There’s a lot of ways to do it. This is just one."
Currently, citizens have a few options to engage with council members.
Many send letters or emails to the council before a decision on a certain topic, as was the case when the city was considering night skiing.
Others speak during public comment periods at council meetings or stop council members in the grocery store.
Ford said what’s lacking is a scheduled opportunity for community members to engage with their elected officials outside council meetings.
He added that some constituents who find the formal, televised public comment period in Centennial Hall "intimidating" might find it easier to engage in the informal coffee setting.
The coffee meetings proposal comes as several council members have been talking about other ways to strengthen their communication with city staff and the community.
Items being kicked around so far include returning to the practice of the council and city staff having work sessions outside the regular council meetings.
Ford said the coffee idea isn’t meant as a replacement for proposed work sessions.
Other council members, including Scott Myller and Walter Magill, have suggested the use of more executive sessions to discuss sensitive items such as ongoing real estate negotiations.
The council will talk about the coffee idea near the end of Tuesday’s meeting during council reports.
Other agenda highlights include an annual report from City Manager Deb Hinsvark on the state of the city and a discussion about how the City Council should proceed with setting specific goals it wants to accomplish in the coming years.