Candidate Q&A: Joella West
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.
Joella West is running for Steamboat Springs City Council District 2.
Why are you running for City Council?
This city has changed a lot since the first time I came here in 2001, and especially over the past two years. Much of what we live with now is a product of decisions that may have been attractive when they were made many years ago, but need to be revisited in light of changed conditions. We need to think differently about growth, just as we’ve learned to think differently about public health and climate change. Growth got us where we are, but some of the consequences of that success are problematic to say the least. I’m afraid that if we don’t act to address these issues now, through inaction or fear of offending some particular interest, we will not get another chance, and instead of people moving here because it’s a great place to raise a family, people will move away because they can’t afford to raise a family here. The Chamber’s initiative asks our guests to “Visit Responsibly.” I think council’s vision should be “Grow Responsibly.”
Do you believe short-term rentals should have restrictions? If so, what specific restrictions would you support? And if not, why not?
It’s a business! It needs to be licensed. There are areas in the city that prohibit certain kinds of businesses. There is no reason that short-term rentals should be exempted from that. The trick is in making intelligent zoning decisions, based on data that is only now being gathered. We are very late to this dance and that is making it much more difficult, but Council cannot back away from it just because there are no easy answers, no choices that would be popular with everyone. And whatever measures Council adopts must be enforced.
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?
Transportation is key and touches many of the issues that are most critical today: traffic, lack of affordable housing, lack of workers, and climate change. We desperately need a Regional Transit Authority, which necessitates cooperation between city and county, and which opens the possibility of federal and state funding. I would like to see Council create a subcommittee to begin this process immediately and drive it forward to becoming a reality.
What parts of the Climate Action Plan do you think need to be prioritized? And how can they be funded?
Parts of this excellent plan can be accomplished in the very near future but others will require work over a much longer time. Promote using the bus as an alternative to private vehicles—but for that to be effective, we need to make sure that buses are available, accessible and reliable. We need to work together with the county to establish a Regional Transit Authority. We need to look carefully at our trails to identify and create more opportunities for bike-to-work and walk-to-work. Electric vehicle charging stations should be a requirement for new construction, as part of a program to encourage our residents to make the switch as electric vehicles’ appropriate to our area become available. New municipal buildings (City Hall and fire station) should be LEED certified. Development of the Brown Ranch property should include LEED certification as a requirement for all construction.
The city has a goal to diversify its revenue streams and reduce its dependence on sales tax revenue. How would you propose accomplishing this?
I don’t believe that our commercial property owners are the enemy when we talk about a property tax. They (and I include myself) are legitimately concerned about disproportionally adding to their costs because of the way TABOR works. On the other hand, I don’t believe that a property tax would have even the slightest effect on real estate sales in town. Council must not only “revisit the issue” but work with property owners to bring forward a property tax that a majority of our residents can support. It should be clear to our citizens that passing a property tax is not a way to inflate the city spending, but to stabilize revenue. I believe that it should be directed to the general fund, where it really belongs, and that there are ways to make this comprehensible and acceptable to our residents.
What steps should the city take to ensure that there is affordable housing now and into the future?
We must do everything possible to support Yampa Valley Housing Authority, both in its ongoing project of building affordable housing complexes in town, and in its good fortune and great challenge to make the Brown Ranch into a sustainable, affordable and attainable place for people to live. We must also finish the research on short term rentals so that we can fully understand their effect on affordable housing, and calibrate our response accordingly.
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?
Council has a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) sub-committee. This is not a group whose purpose is to give lip service and move on, but to address concerns that are serious and require long-term attention and action. All three members of this sub-committee will leave Council in November. It’s essential that voters consider this when choosing new members of Council. The city can’t address issues unless Council provides direction and requires action.
If elected, what would you do differently than those elected before you?
I don’t think it’s either fair or productive to judge past councils on the basis of today’s conditions; however we do need to learn from actions taken by them that have not had results that are acceptable today and going forward. I will represent all of our citizens, not just a particular segment, a particular interest, not just the loudest voices. I will endeavor to listen, to collaborate, and to propose and support intelligent choices. I will always be respectful but never fearful.
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The Mountain Urban Renewal Authority and the money it diverts from the Steamboat Springs School District has been discussed in the race for Steamboat Springs Board of Education.