Candidate Q&A: Gail Garey
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.
Gail Garey is running for Steamboat Springs City Council District 1.
Why are you running for City Council?
I moved here more than 20 years ago with my husband to raise our children, Madison and Noel Keeffe, in a community that values its character and natural assets. My husband and I both worked full time while raising our family. I actively volunteered in the schools and with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Right now, our community is at a crossroads. I am running to ensure that present and future generations have the same opportunity we did to live and work in this community and enjoy all it has to offer.
We need to grow in a way that balances our quality of life, our economic vitality and the preservation of our natural environment and community character.
My priorities include: implementing the Climate Action Plan, ensuring affordable and attainable housing for locals, working collaboratively to provide solutions for early childhood care and education, and supporting local businesses and fiscal sustainability.
Do you believe short-term rentals should have restrictions? If so, what specific restrictions would you support? And if not, why not?
Registering and regulating short-term rentals is long overdue. Regulations need to be consistently enforced. Enforcement should be self-funded by the permit fees. There should be fines for violations and permits revoked for repeat offenders.
Regulation and enforcement, however, will not address the impact STRs are having on our workforce housing and our neighborhoods. We can’t charge a large enough fee to replace even one single family home that is lost from the workforce housing market.
STRs are basically small hotels. Hotels are allowed to operate in commercial zones, and STRs are allowed nearly everywhere. Council is moving in the right direction with the consideration of overlay zones to determine the appropriate location for STRs.
These overlay zones have not been finalized. We need to make a decision as a community about where STRs are appropriate and whether the number needs to be capped to address the workforce housing 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?
A safe and equitable multimodal infrastructure that removes vehicles from the road, relieves congestion and reduces greenhouse gas emissions is critical to the future of our community.
To do this, we need to ensure there is a robust transit service by increasing the frequency and accessibility of the daily routes, so it is a viable and convenient option.
We also need to support a transition to electric vehicles by transitioning the city’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. Longer term, we need to invest in infrastructure. For example, identifying locations that can serve as “hubs” where people can park and charge their vehicles and then be transported to downtown or the mountain.
We need to commit local funding for transit services that will position our community to receive state and federal funds. Moving forward with transportation strategies that align with our Climate Action Plan will make us competitive for other funding.
What parts of the Climate Action Plan do you think need to be prioritized? And how can they be funded?
The CAP creates a clear roadmap to reduce greenhouse gases. The key is integrating those actions into city operations, funding the actions and holding ourselves accountable.
As chair of the Organics Task Force, which worked to create the community composting program, expanding the service to increase accessibility and affordability is a priority and straightforward strategy for reducing greenhouse gases.
Commercial and residential buildings in Routt County represent 52% of greenhouse gas emissions. The city needs to be vigilant in adopting the most current building and energy codes to ensure that new and renovated buildings are more energy efficient.
The city has a goal to diversify its revenue streams and reduce its dependence on sales tax revenue. How would you propose accomplishing this?
First and foremost, council needs to examine the city’s expenses and remain vigilant in looking for ways to be more fiscally responsible, including opportunities for self-funding. For example, the Steamboat Springs Airport is running at a deficit. The city would be well served by asking staff to propose options for the operations to cover the costs.
I do believe that reliance on sales tax is volatile and that it is important to diversify revenue streams.
The current council has examined various revenue options over the past couple of years, including a property tax, and has yet to resolve the issue.
In order to maintain the level of service our residents expect from the city, we need to continue to monitor sales tax, budget conservatively and engage the community in a discussion on ways to diversify the city’s revenue sources.
What steps should the city take to ensure that there is affordable housing now and into the future?
Anyone who works in Steamboat Springs should be able to live here, whether they are a seasonal worker or a wage earner who lives here year-round. Partnering with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority to make Brown Ranch a success is a top priority.
But we cannot rely on Brown Ranch as the only solution. Given the immediate crisis for both affordable and attainable housing, council needs to direct the Planning Department to analyze the impacts of our land use planning and zoning on the development of affordable and attainable housing.
Our Community Development Code should prioritize and encourage growth where it is most appropriate, supporting a community with affordable and attainable housing where people live and work.
This includes considering policies that have worked well in other mountain towns, like inclusionary zoning, deed restrictions, higher local density and secondary units.
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?
To create a more just and equitable community, City Council must continue to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.
The city is leading by example by hiring a consultant to review its policies and practices to identify gaps and barriers currently in place, providing training and working to diversify its staff. In addressing those issues, designating someone to be responsible for following-up and reporting on those results is critical and leads to impactful change. We should continue this work.
The city also needs to create mechanisms for reaching out to underrepresented groups, which involves working collaboratively with local community members and organizations, to break down barriers and solicit input from a diverse set of voices. This diversity of perspectives can create opportunities and creative solutions.
Additionally, the city needs to examine its current practices and work to prioritize access and support for its services to residents who are historically underserved.
If elected, what would you do differently than those elected before you?
Council needs to be accessible and representative of the community. I applaud council’s efforts to increase opportunities outside the formal meetings for community members to talk with council members, such as having the booth at the Farmer’s Market.
I would like to build on that to create a process for increasing accessibility and engagement of council members with individual community members, organizations and businesses. This will also create a mechanism to break down barriers that prevent input and engagement from individuals who wouldn’t otherwise bring their issues to a formal council meeting. My goal will be to identify common issues of concern that need to be addressed by council proactively rather than reactively and allow for ideas to be presented informally for discussion prior to introducing them to the full council. This would be a structured process so that topics and areas of concern can be tracked and addressed proactively.
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