City Council District 2: Making changes
District 2 candidates vow to leave their mark
If there is one thing the candidates for the District II seat of the Steamboat Springs City Council race have in common, it is their vow to make changes if elected.
When seven-year Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner announced she was not going to run for re-election, two seasoned politicians, Kathi Meyer and Ken Brenner, and one newcomer, Marcus Williams, decided to make bids for her seat.
Meyer and Brenner ran in the 2001 election. Brenner lost to Loui Antonucci in the District II race and Meyer lost to Steve Ivancie in the at-large race.
Meyer, a six-year member of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, said she wanted her votes to be more than recommendations to council and believes her financial background could lend a hand to the city’s financial woes. The retired real estate lender and financial manager sees the city’s biggest challenge as its declining revenue.
“The city must make better spending decisions,” she said. “I spent my career protecting other people’s money. I have the ability to do that on behalf of the citizens of Steamboat.”
Brenner, who served on the council for four years as the District II representative, said he would like to restore the balance on council that he feels was lost in the last election. Brenner said he thinks the council is over-represented by the banking, lodging and resort industries.
The third-generation Steamboat resident has questioned the current council’s following of public process and believes more community input was needed in the city’s negotiation of the Mount Werner Water consolidation agreement, the tax proposal and the most recent complaints over the city planning and police departments.
“I am clearly hearing from people that they don’t feel represented,” Brenner said.
Spurred by the council’s decision to ask voters to approve a consolidation agreement with Mount Werner Water and the difficulties he faced with the planning department in building his house, Williams said he decided to run for council almost a year ago.
The two-year Steamboat resident, a builder with plans to start a piano bar in Ski Time Square, has one campaign promise. If he can’t get a bus route for residents and single mothers in the Hilltop and Tamarack area, he won’t run for re-election.
“My opponents are both talkers, real politicians,” Williams said. “They talk and talk and talk, and they will listen and listen and listen, and by the time they’ve finished, absolutely nothing will have been accomplished. If that’s what you want, vote for them. Either one will do.”
All three candidates oppose the 3.55-mill property tax on the ballot but have different views on how they would change the city’s tax structure. The 3.55-mill tax would raise about $1.3 million, which would be dedicated to fire and ambulance services but also would free up money in the general fund for capital improvements.
Meyer said she would support a property tax, but only if combined with some form of tax relief. She wants to re-examine the city’s tax structure, where the main source of revenue is sales tax.
She calls for smarter spending decisions and has criticized the council for approving capital projects in the past 12 months, such as the traffic light at the Stock Bridge Transit Center and the nearby playground.
“If the city is in as much financial trouble as it claims, then we are giving mixed messages to our citizens,” Meyer said.
Brenner calls the proposed property tax a bait-and-switch tactic and says residents should expect their tax dollars to go to basic services, such as fire and ambulance services, first.
If the city wants more dollars for capital projects, it should propose a specific tax for them, Brenner said, and pointed to Centennial Hall, a recent fire truck purchase and improvements to the ice rink as capital projects voters would have supported.
Brenner would support a 2 percent reduction in sales tax that would be offset by an increase in property tax. But this tax would not raise any additional revenue. “This would give us a more stable revenue stream, improve our bond rating, distribute the tax burden more fairly throughout our community and reduce dependency on tourism,” Brenner said.
Brenner and Williams said there should be dedicated funding sources for transit, marketing and airline programs.
Brenner believes that dedicated funding source could be an accommodation tax. Although the city does have an accommodation tax, right now those funds are strictly dedicated to the Haymaker Golf Course.
The city’s relationship with the chamber is a unique one, Brenner said, and most resort communities have marketing districts or lodging taxes to promote tourism.
“I think the business community would be excited about (a lodging tax),” Brenner said. “It would make it easier to know where these funds would come from, and it wouldn’t make it a political battle every time the chamber asks for funding.”
Williams said a dedicated funding source should be put in place for fire and public safety, air service programs and transit. One of the reasons Williams said he ran for council was to see transit service reach the Hillside Village Apartments and Tamarack Drive area.
Williams said the council’s decision to give $100,000 for the chamber to implement a summer air program was a good one, but it should have come from a dedicated funding source.
“We need to have a mechanism that we use in the city to ensure people get in and out. And not just the tourists, but our location-neutral businesses,” Williams said.
All three candidates have different takes on how to manage growth.
Meyer is staunchly against a growth cap, fearing it would limit the housing supply, drive the price of housing up, put Steamboat further behind in affordable housing and negatively impact an already fragile local economy.
Meyer believes the growth tools already in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan — using existing urban growth boundaries and an adequate public facilities policy to limit growth if basic services are not available and a “growth must pay its own way” policy — can effectively manage growth.
Brenner did not agree with the council’s decision to take the growth rate and time mechanism out of the area plan. As a Routt County Planning commissioner, Brenner proposed forming a growth commission that would look at specific problems with growth rate and solutions to those problems. The commission — comprised of representatives in the community, the business community, elected bodies, city, county and staff — would then make a recommendation to the governing bodies.
Williams doesn’t like the phrases “growth control” or “growth management,” but said the city must prevent the area from becoming over-developed. Williams would support a growth control that limits building permits per year.
Big-box stores, such as Target and Home Depot, also don’t belong in Steamboat, Williams said. And he believes areas west of town should be developed before the South Valley. “Any leaders who think they have the crystal-ball perfect answer to growth are unrealistic,” Williams said.
— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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