City Council District 2 | SteamboatToday.com

City Council District 2

Incumbent Antonucci faces two challengers

Scott Stanford

— The three candidates for the District 2 seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council all say they will bring leadership and vision to the position.

Each of the candidates — incumbent Loui Antonucci and challengers Warren Harner and Charles McConnell — says he is fair-minded and independent.

But as they describe their leadership styles, their visions for the community and their sense of independence, clear differences emerge.

Antonucci, who is a partner in Old Town Realty and a construction manager, wants a third term on the council because he wants to give back and because “there are things that are unfinished.”

McConnell, a retired energy industry executive, said, “I have seen enough of the current council and I know I can do a better job.”

Harner, an airline pilot and federal law enforcement officer, said the “council has failed the working families of Steamboat Springs.”

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Harner noted that he is the only candidate in the District 2 race who is “one half of a working family.” Harner and his wife have two teen children. Antonucci and McConnell are single.

Harner said he would represent working families by being an advocate for affordable housing and for more activities for youth, including perhaps a viable teen center. He criticized the current council for not doing more for teens since Emerald City closed.

Harner supports recruiting “location-neutral businesses to the Yampa Valley that would allow our children to return to this valley for good-paying jobs.” And he thinks he can provide a fund of knowledge on aviation and airport management that would be beneficial to the city.

Antonucci said he has worked closely with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and its predecessor, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. He said the city has made strides in increasing the number of affordable units during his time on the council, including such projects as West End Village, self-help housing, Habitat for Humanity and the latest, Fox Creek. He said his experience in the construction and real estate business has made him an ally of the affordable housing effort. “I know what it takes to get these projects done,” he said.

Like Harner, Antonucci said he wants to create an environment that allows people who work here to “own housing here.” He also thinks the economy needs to diversify and said economic development should be focused on creating employment opportunities outside the tourism and service industries.

“Between my experience with construction and small business, I really do understand the problems people face,” Antonucci said. “I think the next five to seven years will be really challenging economically, and I think I can help face those challenges.”

McConnell said the city must take greater responsibility for its decisions. He said excessive cost overruns on projects are inexcusable. In particular, he cited the new Tennis Center, which came in at nearly $1 million over budget, and an artificial turf athletic field, which came in at twice the estimated amount of $250,000.

“I think it was not fiscally responsible for the council to blithely approve an overrun of nearly $1 million on the Tennis Center project,” McConnell said. “The city needs fiscal accountability. I can bring that.”

McConnell said the skills he developed as the CEO of Mapco Gas Products make him a problem solver. He said he would have handled the discovery of low water flow for some neighborhoods in the Mount Werner Water District aggressively. “I would have taken the reins of that the first time it came up and put the two parties together to start a project right away to fix that situation,” McConnell said.

He said he thinks Mount Werner bears the responsibility for fixing the water flow problem quickly, and that he would not have shied away from telling the district so.

The City Council frequently is closely divided on issues with Antonucci often voting in a block with Nancy Kramer and Kathy Connell, and Ken Brenner, Susan Dellinger and Steve Ivancie taking an opposing stance. Antonucci said the divide is most evident on major issues such as “airports, Triple Crown and tourism.”

Antonucci said it is unfair to portray the two sides as growth versus anti-growth. He said his votes have been guided “by a desire to preserve those things that make Steamboat special — its small-town appeal, its beautiful environment and its strong sense of community.” But he also said he wants to ensure Steamboat has a healthy economy that provides job opportunities for its residents.

“It’s not growth at all costs — it’s about responsible, managed growth,” he said. “You are not going to stop growth. Steamboat has been growing steadily since the white man got here.”

McConnell said he often finds himself in opposition to Antonucci’s decisions on major issues. “I am pro-controlled growth, and I find myself philosophically aligned with Brenner, Ivancie and Dellinger,” he said. “They have been people who have tried to get at problems and solve them.”

Not that he agrees with their position on all issues. For example, he disagreed with the opposition Brenner, Ivancie and Dellinger showed on the Urban Renewal Authority, a district that sets aside a portion of future tax revenues for the redevelopment of the base area.

“The base area redevelopment needs to move forward,” McConnell said. “We need to bring our base area up to the standards of our competition.”

Harner said he would not be aligned with either group of council members. “I am philosophically aligned with the families of this community,” he said. “I am not going to be put in a block with people who have made decisions that I have not been involved in.”

Harner said the city has failed to hold critical community discussions on such issues as the Steamboat Springs Airport, activities for teens and models for affordable housing. He said the city has demonstrated a lack of fiscal responsibility in the way it estimates costs, receives bids and proceeds with projects. And he said the city has largely ignored the challenges of working families.

“My father was a career police officer,” Harner said. “He taught me the value of truth, honesty and evidence-based decision making. I can promise unbiased, impartial representation and leadership free of conflicts of interest.”

McConnell said he has the time, energy and background to be an effective City Council member. He said his success in the corporate world provides him with a track record of leadership and accountability that the council needs.

“I am in a position where I don’t owe anybody anything. I have no agenda,” McConnell said. “Steamboat is not a small-town anymore, and I believe I have the skills to help this city deal with the challenges it will face in the coming years.”

Antonucci said he thinks the council has made significant strides in terms of its relationship with Routt County commissioners and that the city is on a path of responsible growth. He feels strongly about the pragmatic approach he has taken to council decisions. He said his decisions have been fair and that he has worked with his fellow council members to accomplish goals that benefit the city’s residents.

“I don’t believe you can get it perfect; if we are waiting on perfection nothing gets done,” he said. “In the final analysis, you have to be willing to compromise.”