Blair Picard: Turn the ’Boat in a different direction
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
As a 30-year visitor, 15-year property owner and six-year resident, I urge you to consider that we, the residents and owners of our city, are now in an ongoing struggle to restore and preserve the character of our home. I am running for Steamboat Springs City Council District 2 to push the pendulum in the residents’ favor.
For more than 20 years, the income and wealth of our guests and newcomers have far exceeded our own averages here. Both trends have accelerated in the past 10 years, resulting in a doubling of real estate prices. We are being overrun by short-term rentals. Meanwhile, average resident income is up only 50%. We have relentlessly promoted our city as a resort destination and succeeded. The majority of our residents cannot compete for housing. This phenomenon has resulted in not just much higher housing costs but critical child care shortages, a serious lack of workers, a short-term rental mess, parking and traffic issues, etc.
The problem is not our guests and new residents, God bless them all. Our City Council has not foreseen the issues, analyzed them late ad nauseum, delayed decisions and taken little effective action. I want to help provide the foresight, timely analysis and decision making and spur action to turn this tide and get this pendulum swinging for our residents’ favor. It will take smart, tough, determined and passionate leaders to lean into these headwinds. As a Harvard economist, former council, mayor and your neighbor who is always listening, I have those qualities. It will also take money and intelligent action to do so without raising your taxes.
• Short-term housing: We estimate 3,000 units, 211 are on the rolls. Identify, license, regulate and tax. Soon. Get that system in place and build the roster as we go. Even up the playing field; penalize bad actors. You hide, big fine. Three strikes and you’re out with unruly guests. Precisely draw exclusions in residential areas. Vail and Breckenridge collect about the same sales taxes as we do. But their lodging tax collections are four times, or $3.6 million per year, more.
• Parking and traffic: Aspen pays for their free buses with parking fees. Draw the lines around downtown and install. Residents park free at rodeo and have defined exemptions downtown. Work with Ski Corp. on fee parking at the mountain. Free ski area parking is a dinosaur. The technology is there. Do this.
• Water and sewer: Find reasonable usage rates and add a surcharge for excess use. This is a valuable resource for now and the future. Consumers must pay more for overuse.
Totals $3 million to $5 million, with very little coming from residents; invest in resident affordability.
• Housing: $24 million Brown Ranch land was manna from heaven. Millions more to get the property ready for development. State promises a bundle, but we must ante up. too. Let’s hound Gov. Jared Polis mercilessly.
• Child care: Serious shortage of both facilities and qualified employees. Another important step to incentivize labor. Devote multiples more than the $68,000 the city now spends.
• Lack of employees: Use the Chamber to build incentives. Housing and child care won’t solve it all.
Candidates, including an opponent, talk about economizing. I am not a tax and spender. Government must run a tight ship. They fool themselves, and you, by arguing we can solve our resident affordability and restore our community without investing dollars. Present and previous local governments added to the problems by inaction. Together, new and current leaders can work together to right our ship.
Turn the ’Boat in a better direction. Vote for Blair Picard for City Council District 2.
Blair Picard is a candidate for Steamboat Springs City Council District 2.
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