Steamboat Springs City Council re-election bids are unclear | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs City Council re-election bids are unclear

Medical marijuana likely will play key role in ballot decisions

Mike Lawrence

— Much remains to be decided about this November's city ballot, including which Steamboat Springs City Council members will seek re-election. There's little doubt, however, that medical marijuana will play a key role come fall.

The terms of four council members expire in November. Of the three reached by phone Monday, none committed to a re-election bid.

Appointed council member Bart Kounovsky, chief operating officer of Colorado Group Realty, said he'll likely launch his first campaign after replacing former council member Jim Engelken in September.

"When I was appointed, they asked me that (election) question and I told the council at the time that I would very much consider running when the appointed term was up," Kounovsky said. "I'm still heading down that path of very seriously considering running."

Kounovsky holds City Council's lone two-year at-large seat. Should he seek a four-year seat, he'd run in District 2, to represent the area of the city near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Council members Meg Bentley and Kenny Reisman currently represent District 2. Reisman's term expires in November 2013, while Bentley's expires this year. She could not be reached Monday to discuss her election plans.

Council member Jon Quinn was hesitant when asked about a re-election bid.

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"I have not made up my mind for sure, but I have been leaning toward not running again," said Quinn, who represents southern Steamboat's District 3. "I really enjoy the role of City Council and it's really stimulating. It's really, really interesting and it's going to be a difficult decision for me either way."

Quinn noted that he had one child when he ran for office in 2007. He now has a second daughter. He also cited the time demands of his job with Northwest Data Services.

"Other things may have to take priority," Quinn said.

Councilman Scott Myller, an architect, also said business concerns will play into his decision of whether to seek re-election. He represents District 1, which includes western Steamboat and much of Old Town.

"I'm thinking about it," Myller said Monday about a fall campaign. "I haven't decided."

Regardless of who's on the ballot, City Council's unanimous support May 17 for placing a ban on medical marijuana businesses before voters in November put that issue at the forefront of the upcoming campaign season.

Like City Council's much-debated approval of the Iron Horse Inn purchase in 2007 and the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation in 2009, the medical marijuana industry appears to be the premier issue of local campaigns in 2011.

"Absolutely," Quinn said about whether the topic will be key for city voters this fall. "No doubt. I think as people are looking at their options, they'll certainly be aware of the medical marijuana issue on the ballot, and my hunch is they'll have done their research on where people stand on dispensaries in particular and on medical marijuana in the community."

City Council voted against a ban, 4-3, in front of a packed Centennial Hall on May 17.

Bentley and Myller supported a ban, along with council member Walter Magill. Quinn and Kounovsky voted against a ban, along with Reisman and City Council President Cari Hermacinski.

In addition to finalized ballot language, City Council will discuss June 7 whether to allocate sales tax revenues from the medical marijuana industry to teen programs and youth education efforts. Also on the table that night will be whether to ask voters in November to approve an additional sales tax on the marijuana industry for those youth-related causes.

Myller noted that medical marijuana will be far from the only issue in City Council debates this fall, given the tight city finances amid an uncertain economy.

"If I do run, it seems like it'll be pretty easy to say we balanced the budget in the hardest economic time of the last 30 years," Myller said. "I kind of think this council has been hit with a lot of hard issues and I'm pretty proud of the way we've handled them."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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