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Bowling for the common constituent

— It takes a special person to sit on Steamboat Springs City Council. One must be willing to sit, and sit, and sit. That special person must be able to endure sitting through a five-hour meeting with just one potty break. Many are called, but few can hold it.

Seriously folks, anyone “lucky” enough to be elected to City Council has put themselves in the position of sacrificing untold hours of private time for the good of our community.

And anyone who expects to receive gratitude in return is in for a big surprise. It’s one tough job.

Steamboat will seat a new City Council Tuesday night it’s a pivotal time in city government. As soon as the new council members are sworn in, the council as a whole will select a new president who will act in a role that corresponds with that of mayor in most small towns.

That makes this an opportune time to offer City Council some unsolicited advice.

Here goes.

The next City Council of Steamboat Springs needs to spend more time at the hair salon.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not critiquing the coiffures of council members past, present and future. I could do that, but I’m as qualified to judge haircuts as planning commissioners are to enforce architectural guidelines.

What I am really suggesting is that our new City Council invest a little precious time in hanging out with their constituents.

Have you ever noticed how people who cut hair, be they barbers, stylists or cosmetologists, know more about what’s going on in town than almost anybody else?

First they dunk their clients under a stream of warm water, then rub shampoo in their scalps and loosen them up until they are ready to blab like Homer Simpson at Mo’s Tavern.

Council people could learn a lot from hair stylists. For that matter, they could learn a great deal from Homer Simpson.

Steamboat’s new City Council members should attend the Wednesday night bowling league and find out what people are talking about between strikes and spares.

Better yet, they should join the Wednesday night bowling league.

They could hang at one of the local quilting bees and find out that quilters talk over more issues than the merits of the Log Cabin pattern versus the Ohio Star pattern.

What I’m trying to say is, City Council members need to get a little closer to the average Betty. And I’m sorry, but holding public hearings and open houses just doesn’t replace mingling with their constituents on their own turf. You see, there are people who have plenty to say about the way their city government is run but would never show up at a meeting. You might fault them for that, but it would be your loss.

I know what veteran City Council members might say in response: “Don’t you realize that on Mondays we go to the A.P.C.C. meeting? And on Wednesday we sit in on D.A.G. so we can report their progress to C.M.L. before we go to H.R.C.? Thursday and Friday are even busier! How much of my personal life am I expected to give up?”

And that would be a fair question. But it also represents one of the dangers that lurks out there for council members. It’s all too easy to get so intensely involved with the very real demands of government that one can become insulated from what the average guy on the street is thinking.

So I guess what I’m asking City Council members to do is to take a pass on some of the endless committee assignments they’ll be asked to accept in order to make time to remain close to ordinary citizens.

When you turn down the committee assignment, just say you already have a board meeting that day. Then, on Friday, go have lunch with the senior citizens at the community center. Or attend the organizational meeting of the adult coed soccer league. Better yet, go to Mo’s Tavern and listen to what the regulars are gossiping about.

In summation: Here is my advice to City Council. If you want to talk to Ned Flanders, fine then, hold a public hearing. But if it’s the wisdom of the common person that you seek, then it’s Marge and Homer Simpson with whom you must have an exchange of ideas. And therefore I say, get thee to a bowling alley.

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.


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