At-large council candidates’ race full of contrasts
Steamboat Springs — It was only a week ago that the two candidates running for the at-large spot on City Council began to express differing opinions.
Both Kathi Meyer and Steve Ivancie noted that they felt like they were running “with” rather than against each other. Each is a fervent advocate for affordable housing, each has criticized the current council and the city staff for the way they work with their constituents and each thinks the city needs to manage growth.
After last week’s forum, however, that sentiment of togetherness disappeared.
One of the biggest divides that emerged between the two candidates had to do with their positions on the 3-2-1 transportation tax and the city’s role in dealing with the business community in the future.
Meyer supports the tax; Ivancie does not.
Meyer thinks the tax does well to make the people who benefit from the tax be the ones who are hardest hit. Because the tourists pay the brunt of the tax 90 percent based on chamber estimates it makes sense that they receive a large portion of its benefits, Meyer said.
She also thinks the fact that the city’s bus system receives at least 20 percent of the proceeds makes the tax a big help to the city’s general fund.
“The city has talked about trying to get a dedicated funding source for its bus system for years,” she said.
Ivancie, however, feels the tax was written on the business community’s terms, not the city’s. He said the make-up of the committee that determines how the tax money is spent is too weighted toward the business community. The basic premise of the tax may be good, but its present form is not, he said.
Ivancie, like some of the other candidates in the race, has identified this election as a competition between business community interests and the interests of the rest of the town.
He has portrayed himself as a working class candidate, modeling himself on the example of departing Councilman Jim Engelken, the council’s strongest affordable housing advocate. The issues Ivancie is most concerned with are affordable housing and diversifying the city’s tax base to allow it to decrease its dependence on the tourism economy and growth. The more dependent the city is on sales taxes, the more dependent it is on the business community, he said. He thinks the business community needs to have less influence in the government.
“Are we going to have a City Council that is made up of a majority of working people, where their priorities are focused on the local people, or are we going to have a City Council that primarily has the chamber’s best interests at heart,” he said.
He thinks the council needs to revisit the linkage program it had proposed implementing earlier this year. Linkage regulations would make developers create a certain percentage of “affordable” units in their developments.
Meyer also has a number of ideas to stimulate the construction of affordable housing. As a board member of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, she says she knows what can work in this community and points to the renovation of the Hillside Apartments and the approval of the city’s first affordable housing project in the West of Steamboat area.
She does not think the city should go ahead and pay for affordable housing directly, but needs to break down “roadblocks” to developing affordable homes. The bureaucracy of city government often keeps developers from being able to meet costs, she said.
And though she is now retired, Meyer says she knows just as much as Ivancie about working-class issues, having grown up in a blue-collar family.
In response to Ivancie’s claim that he represents the working people of Steamboat, she said council members need to have the entire community’s best interests at heart, not just the working class.
“I believe a good council person needs to represent all people in the city,” she said.
She said she thinks her stance on chamber subsidies and the transportation tax at least while the city’s main source of revenue is sales tax takes the entire community into account, not just business people.
“As long as the primary source of income for the city is sales tax, it has to be in a partnership with some entity that can encourage visitors to come here,” Meyer said.
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