Candidate Q&A: Eddie Briones
Editor’s note: Steamboat Pilot & Today has asked each of the local candidates in the 2021 Election on Nov. 2 to participate in a Q&A to better inform voters, asking the same questions related to each specific office. Visit SteamboatPilot.com/election for the latest election news and information.
Eddie Briones is running for Steamboat Springs City Council at-large.
Why are you running for City Council?
I have lived in this community over 25 years and I feel now is the time to dive in and give back. I welcome the challenge, and I am ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the character and soul of Steamboat Springs. I want to be a voice for the teachers and healthcare warriors, the construction, landscaping, and trade workers, the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industry, the lift operators, the ski instructors, and basically all of the amazing locals, in every occupation, that make this town work. I want to speak for the locals, who have sacrificed, and continue to work extremely hard, to be able to call Steamboat Springs their home. We cannot function without the working class and I’m proud to be one of them. I have no personal agenda other than what is in the best interest of this town. This is an amazing place for locals and visitors alike and I plan to work hard to Keep It Steamboat.
Do you believe short-term rentals should have restrictions? If so, what specific restrictions would you support? And if not, why not?
Yes, I do believe that short-term rentals should have restrictions. There should have been regulation from the beginning. This conversation, while tense, is long overdue and occurring in all tourism-focused communities. It’s not about overregulating; it’s about bringing short-term rentals down to a more manageable and sustainable level. This town depends on tourism but we also need to provide long-term rental opportunities for our local workforce. I don’t pretend to have the answers right now but I have been researching Summit County, Telluride, Aspen, and other Colorado communities to gain perspective. At this time, I support a permit process, potentially a lottery system that is capped annually, as well as being taxed accordingly. With this taxation, let’s incentivize homeowners to provide long-term rentals. We need a balanced approach because the current situation is not beneficial in combating the housing & staffing crisis.
In your opinion is transportation a key service the city should be providing to the community, and do you have any ideas on how the city can provide sustainable funding to continue the service at current levels or expand it?
I believe transportation is a key service and I feel that there’s a creative solution to keeping this service free, or at least down to a minimal cost. Many Colorado mountain communities help fund their transportation services with paid parking. This may not be ideal for all but I also feel that encouraging the free transportation system is both environmentally and economically beneficial. Potentially we provide a free local’s pass and then sell a multi-day or weekly pass to visitors, which are sold with their vacation packages. It may not be sustainable for the city to be the sole-funding source of this program but I also feel it would be a shame to lose. To reiterate, I don’t have an exact solution at this time but I do look forward to working with the other council members, as well as the city, to find a palpable solution for this community.
What parts of the Climate Action Plan do you think need to be prioritized? And how can they be funded?
This question correlates well with the previous transportation question. Commercial buildings make up 32% of the GHG’s (greenhouse gases) coming from the city, transportation is 26%, and residential makes up 22%. We need to encourage utilization of the free transportation services and encourage more electric vehicle use and provide charging stations. We need to reduce single occupancy vehicle travel and encourage sustainable commuting options. I do feel that the Climate Action Plan and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 74% over the next 30 years is essential to the overall health of our outdoor culture. There should be no question that Routt County has experienced drought conditions like never before, as well as backyard wildfire threats. The funding should be a community effort, as well as researching and applying for grant funding specific to these types of proactive organizations.
The city has a goal to diversify its revenue streams and reduce its dependence on sales tax revenue. How would you propose accomplishing this?
Let’s start by raising the accommodations tax from Steamboat’s current 1% to Colorado’s average of 2.9%. This could generate revenue without raising sales taxes. I also feel it may be beneficial to revisit the lift tax, which was addressed in January 2021. This tax could generate an additional $1.8 million annually, at a cost of 4% on each lift ticket. The average daily lift ticket costs $200. This lift tax would add approximately $8 to that cost, which we know visitors will pay. With that, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Aspen, and Vail already have current measures in place. While we want to maintain the authenticity of Steamboat, we need to be realistic in the rising costs of operation. If the pandemic has proven one thing, it’s that people long to be outside. The City needs to partner with Alterra, SSRC, and the lodging industry to collaborate and find a probable solution.
What steps should the city take to ensure that there is affordable housing now and into the future?
The lack of affordable housing is an ongoing issue and at this point, it has surpassed emergency status. This town cannot survive if the local workforce cannot afford to live here. I want to listen and be the voice for them. The housing crisis is multi-faceted and unfortunately, not one to be resolved immediately. That said, I welcome the challenge. We need to have difficult conversations and objectively regulate short-term and vacation home rentals. Then we incentivize businesses and second homeowners to provide long-term rentals for the local workforce. In the future, we are fortunate to have the Brown Ranch. While this is a few years out, it’s progress in the right direction. I believe with smart planning, forward thinking, and a thoughtful approach, we partner with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority to provide a diverse inventory of housing types. This is an opportunity for high-density development at an affordable cost.
Council has prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion for a number of years. What steps do you think the city should take to move forward in this space?
According to the most recent American Community Survey, the racial composition of Steamboat Springs was over 95% White, 1.66% Asian, 1.52% Black, and 1.08% other races such as Native American and Pacific Islander. As a full-blooded Filipino, who was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, I feel I am a strong candidate to speak up for diversity and inclusion. I love and respect the outdoors and am thrilled to call Steamboat home for over 25 years. I believe in supporting organizations like Integrated Community as they help integrate children and families into the local community. I also feel we should continue to partner with the Chamber to target outdoor programs for those less fortunate. Skiing and my love for the outdoors changed my life, which is why I feel it’s important to get everyone into the outdoors.
If elected, what would you do differently than those elected before you?
First, I am one of seven people elected to work for the greater good of Steamboat Springs. In the past, over 10,000 people were eligible to vote and it was surprising to learn that only about 2,500 actually did. If we want to see change, then it is imperative that we vote. It is important to elect a council that will work well together. I have no personal agenda other than what is best for the city of Steamboat Springs. I pride myself on having a level head, an open mind, and a great listening ear. I want to be the voice for the local workforce and play a pivotal role in moving our stagnant issues forward. City Council has accomplished great things in the past but now is the time for action. Affordable housing and the staffing crisis need to be prioritized and resolved as soon as possible with thoughtful decision-making.
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