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Born in Denver
Point well taken.
Good Morning Ken –
I understand your perspective. In the greater scheme of things the wee town of Steamboat Springs License Plate Readers (LPRs) would be no big deal. The reality is, as you pointed out, that this technology is already being widely used. In all likelihood as the technology gets better and the price drops the use of LPRs will be common place. In addition, the ease by which the data from the LPRs will be integrated with other law enforcement and surveillance systems will be widespread.
Essentially LPRs are capturing “investigative” data on people who are not involved in criminal activity. For me this is worrisome. The very real possibility exist that this data could be used by law enforcement for nefarious purposes.
It was not that long ago that we learned that technology was being used to capture cell phone calls and perhaps the content of the call itself. All being done in the name of national security. I know that this realization has had a “chilling” effect and has made some people more cautious about what they say and talk about on their cell phones.
LPRs could easily be used to see who attended a meeting. Locally folks could easily become more cautious about exercising their constitutional rights such as attending political rallies. Or, even “Coffee with Council Member Scott Ford”. I have little trust that policies could be developed that would limit the use of the data captured by the LPRs. From my perspective the best policy is NOT to allow them in the first place.
(Although I am a member of City Council, my opinions are my own and may not be shared by other Council members.)
Thank you Stuart!
Is it anybody’s business to know that I was parked downtown at a given location for a period of time? I think not. Although this nifty piece of technology could possibly increase the parking enforcement efficiency, is it worth it? Again, I think not. We were told Tuesday night by Police Chief Joel Rae that the information could easily be permanently deleted. It is not that I do not trust what Chief Rae is telling City Council but who watches the watchers to be sure this has taken place?
I have had folks tell me that they have nothing to hide and therefore who cares that the City of Steamboat Springs captured the time and location of where their vehicle was parked. I do not have anything to hide either – however – knowing that a government agency knows where I have been and for how long is a bit too creepy for me. We do not need this “creepy” technology in Steamboat Springs.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and my not be shared by fellow Council members.)
A bit of background. At the June 17th City Council meeting possible locations for the police station were discussed. The following 7 sites were discussed. Site 1: 9th and Yampa remodel; Site 2: 9th and Yampa new building; Site 3: 8th and Yampa; Site 4: Fox Creek; Site 5: 10th and Lincoln; Site 6: Highway 40; Site 7: Pine Grove & Central Park Drive. Council members Connell and Kounovsky stepped down because of possible conflicts of interest in the sites being discussed that evening.
At the end of a lengthy and at times spirited discussion council member Reisman made a motion that only sites 4, 6 & 7 be considered going forward. This motion was seconded by Magill. When the vote was taken Magill, Myller and Reisman voted YES. Macys and Ford voted NO.
One never says never – however – City Council voted on June 17th to direct staff to look going forward ONLY at sites out of downtown. It is highly unlikely that the current City Council will consider reopening a site discussion that includes any downtown location. I feel that the battle to keep the police station downtown has been fought and lost. I did my best.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by fellow council members.)
What about the YVMC site concerns you?
I will admit that after reading this editorial I am conflicted. Every year as the holiday season approaches there are various appeals to shop local. I understand the sentiment. However, I contend that the local population does shop local. We shop local because we buy the vast majority of our groceries locally. We also purchase our household supplies ranging from dishwasher soap to batteries at the same stores we buy groceries.
I struggle that sales tax is collected on groceries. This simply means that for every $100 a family spends on groceries $4.75 is collected for City, School District and Winter Air Service. Collecting sales tax on groceries is a prime example of the worst kind of regressive taxation. In addition, the population that lives immediately outside of the city limits and yet buy groceries locally has a very limited voice in how that sales tax is spent.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)
The City’s contribution of $50,000 of tax payers’ monies to the USA Pro Challenge Committee is only a part of funds the committee will be using to host this event. I think it is a reasonable expectation of the tax paying citizenry to know if this $50,000 made a difference.
I would like to stop guessing about local economic impact. I am confident with a little effort and “brain-power” a measurement methodology can be developed and agreed upon by all locally involved parties that can be used not only for the USA Pro Challenge but for other special events that will be hosted in Steamboat Springs next summer. The biggest challenge associated in developing an agreed to measurement methodology is not to make it so complex that it is not done.
Personally I am glad that Steamboat Springs is getting another opportunity to showcase the town. Does this increase awareness result in more “visitors” coming to town over the next 1 to 2 years either domestic or foreign? Likely yes, however, almost impossible to measure. I can live with that.
I spend my working hours “hip-deep” in all sorts of demographic/economic data. I have taped to my computer monitor a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that states, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” This helps me keep perspective.
(Although I am a member of City Council, my opinions are my own and may not be shared by fellow members.)
Hi Michael –
You ask some great questions and I have some answers with a dose of perspective.
I would agree with you that there is a shift taking place with the demographics of the summer visitor. The visitor is becoming older. According to summer market research done by RRC and Associates for the Chamber in 2006 the average age was 42.3. Eight years later in 2014 the average age is now 49.2. About 34% of the summer visitors in 2014 were age 55 or older.
In addition, the average summer visitor is more affluent. In 2014 over a third of the summer visitors had a household income greater than $150K. When we consider that during the summer months 40% of the visitors are from Colorado and the median family income in Colorado was just over $72,000 a Steamboat Springs summer vacation that involves staying in paid lodging may only be affordable to the top 20% of families in Colorado.
In both 2013 & 2014 about 40% of the Summer Visitors had also come to Steamboat Springs during the winter. In 2014 of the folks coming to Steamboat Springs in the summer about 40% were first time summer season visitors and 60% repeat visitors.
Now a dose of my perspective -
I am all for making some much needed infrastructure improvements downtown. The current sidewalk situation on both Yampa and Oak can only be described as a hodgepodge of missing connections. It’s goofy!
The cost of providing pedestrian lighting and sidewalks on Oak Street is about $1 million. The cost of the Yampa Street pedestrian promenade and lighting is about $1.2 million. Sidewalks along the side streets would be about another $1 million. Add another $2 million to make all the street crossings ADA and grade compliant the total cost is over $5 million. Is this a lot of money? Yes. Is this doable? Yes. It is simply a matter of City Council setting priorities. For example, $7 million has been set aside for a future police station. Does the priority of a new police station trump downtown infrastructure improvements? Another approach Council could consider would be dedicating all or a portion of future sales tax revenues in the event of a surplus to these downtown infrastructure projects.
In addition, nothing says all these improvements need to be done in one year. I would welcome seeing a phased approached. Right now the only option being discussed for these infrastructure improvements is a Downtown URA and Tax Increment Financing. This is an all or nothing approach. To put it simply City Council is being told by staff that without a URA the infrastructure proposed for downtown will not happen. There are other ways to fund these infrastructure improvements without the “baggage” associated with a URA.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)
Good Morning Scott W –
A point of clarification the $660K in in the “community support” budget approved by City Council and to be given to Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association in the 2015 budget is for Summer Marketing. The Ski Corp has the primary responsibility to market the winter. There are no dollars in the City’s budget for winter marketing beyond a small amount for promoting Howelsen Hill.
This $660K ear marked for Summer Marketing does not cause me a great deal of heart burn because these funds have their roots in the vendor fee. A business that collects state sales tax is allowed to withhold 3.3% from the total tax due as compensation for administering the sales tax properly, keeping the records and remitting the funds timely.
The City of Steamboat Springs does not have a “vendor fee” hold back on its sales tax because it collects its own portion of the sales tax due.
At some point in the 1980’s an amount equivalent to the vendor fee was viewed as a source for summer marketing funds. In addition, there was a time that the City would match these funds Since the mid 1990’s the City no longer does this practice. The projected sales tax collection in the 2015 budget is about $20 million. The vendor fee equivalent would be about $660K.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of other council members.)
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