Candidates remain positive at annual First Impressions forum
Steamboat Springs — A sampling of area city council and school board hopefuls kept the discussion positive during a forum hosted by First Impressions Wednesday.
Nine of 11 city council candidates — five of Steamboat’s six and one of Hayden’s four — attended the forum. No South Routt school board candidates were present.
Most candidates were complimentary of the ideas of others and built upon the answers of previous hopefuls during the forum.
City council candidate Erin Walker brought inventive ideas to the discussion, including highlighting the need for licensed teachers for infant care programs.
“While affordability is certainly an issue, I think one of the bigger issues is finding teachers to care for the infants,” Walker said.
Walker was also first to bring up the idea of the city working with developers to potentially offer incentives for incorporating daycare space into a developments.
Several city council candidates brought up the importance of the Human Resource Coalition, a city grant program for non-profits, and the importance of supporting the work of First Impressions.
When asked about the biggest challenges faced by families with children 8 and younger, council candidates Rich Levy and Jason Lacy both pointed to the high cost of living and the role it plays in affordable childcare and housing availability, while council candidates Michael Buccino and Heather Sloop and Steamboat school board candidates Michelle Dover and Lindsay Wert pointed specifically to childcare affordability as the most significant issue for families.
School board candidate Joey Andrew said there is a need for more preschool providers that work with schedules of working parents.
Steamboat school board candidate Anne Lowe, who works at Yampa Valley Medical Center, was the first to bring up YVMC’s GrandKids program as a successful model for employer involvement in childcare.
Two-year Steamboat school board candidate Sam Rush emphasized that all issues need to be considered with the funding structure of TABOR kept in mind.
When asked how school districts might partner with the community to support early childhood education, Greg Hermann, the lone Hayden school board candidate who attended, said he believed preschool providers should be allowed to make use of downtime in public school facilities.
When asked about improving the lives of families with young children, council candidate Robin Crossan pointed to the need to build on existing community partnerships, including with the Boys & Girls Club, and collaborate more with the business community.
When asked whether there could be changes to conditional use permits to make way for more childcare facilities in various areas of town, Kathi Meyer, a 15-year planning commission member and Steamboat Springs City Council hopeful, said the city could work to ensure there are no barriers within land codes.
Steamboat Springs City Council candidate Chuck McConnell questioned whether there was a possibility that space could be donated for creating new childcare facilities.
Michael Shaler, also a candidate for the Steamboat Springs City Council, said it’s important to focus efforts on making living in Steamboat attainable for young families.
“There is no single, silver bullet that’s going to solve all these issues,” Shaler said.
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