From the editor: Step up and serve
Steamboat Springs — “Step Up and Serve” is the name we’ve chosen for a pair of forums the Steamboat Pilot & Today will be sponsoring June 10 and 17. The events, which will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. both nights in the newspaper’s community room, are open to anyone in the community interested in running for Steamboat Springs City Council.
Those who read the daily newspaper and follow current events know the important role city council members fill in our community. The council is charged with overseeing a -multi-million dollar annual budget and making decisions on how to fund city programs, departments and capital improvements in the short- and long-term. Council members also establish ordinances and policies that govern how the city operates. They serve as liaisons between the public and the city, and in that role, must be ready and willing to communicate openly with their constituents.
Just last week, the council was faced with a serious agenda of business items, including a discussion on whether or not to amend the city’s ordinances to expand the number of recreational pot shops allowed to operate within the city limits; action to reinstate the city’s winter bus service schedule; completion of a six-month performance evaluation for the city manager; and a conversation with the city attorney pertaining to serial meetings and compliance with the state’s open records law. And all of that was covered in a single council meeting.
It’s not an easy job but it’s one that’s monumentally important when it comes to local democracy, and we’d like to see an increase in the number of qualified and committed people running for city council.
I was approached by a small group of community leaders who wanted to find a way to offer interested citizens information about what it was like to serve on the City Council and what they needed to know to run a successful campaign. I liked the idea, and we eventually settled on hosting two evening forums where information could be shared and questions answered.
The first session on June 10 will focus on what it’s like to serve on the City Council from a first-hand perspective. We’ve invited former City Council members Loui Antonucci, Paula Cooper Black, Cari Hermacinski and Jon Quinn to talk about their experiences on the council. The panel discussion will focus on how the council works, its relationship with city staff, the time commitment required to serve on council, how to effectively communicate with constituents and other topics.
On June 17, the theme of the forum will shift to the essentials of running for office. City Clerk Julie Franklin and Hermacinski will guide that discussion, offering insight into fundraising, successful campaigning and the laws pertaining to both. I will also be part of the discussion, offering information on the Colorado open records act and how to establish a positive working relationship with the media.
Each of the sessions will include plenty of time for questions and answers, and those serving on the panels will also be available after the forums to answer questions one on one.
It is our goal that people attend the informal, no-commitment-attached forums to learn more about running for public office whether they intend to put their name on the ballot in November or in subsequent years. The purpose of these sessions is educational with an overriding purpose of widening the candidate pool.
This November, four seats on the Steamboat Springs City Council will be up for grabs — the District 1, 2 and 3 seats currently held by Scott Myller, Bart Kounovsky and Sonja Macys, respectively, and an at-large seat held by Kenny Reisman.
I, for one, believe it’s vitally important that voters have a choice in candidates this fall — candidates who offer differing ideas and views about how the city should operate and who know how to share their vision with the public. Ultimately, it would be great to have contested races in each district, with two or more candidates running for each seat. This type of competition for office will foster constructive community debate, get more people interested in city government and increase voter turnout for local elections.
It’s my hope that the upcoming forums demystify the process of running for local elected office and inspire more community members to step up and serve. For more information about the events, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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