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Our View: Board, council must show way

At issue: The new Steamboat Springs City Council and School Board

The success and effectiveness of the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Steamboat Springs School Board will depend heavily on the effectiveness of their new leaders.

Tuesday’s City Council races were close, demonstrating how evenly divided the community is. But it’s hard not to see the overall outcome as a rebuke of the current council. The resounding defeat of the council’s proposed property tax, incumbent Bud Romberg’s narrow loss to political newcomer Susan Dellinger and the successful election of council critic Ken Brenner indicate voters are not overly satisfied with the direction the City Council has taken.

Kathy Connell remains on the council but will step aside as president. We commend her service but agree it is time for someone else to lead.

Paul Strong, re-elected Tuesday without opposition, is Connell’s apparent successor. If so, Strong will wield unique power, not only as president but also as the swing vote between what appears to be two distinct factions. Connell, Nancy Kramer and Loui Antonucci comprise one; Brenner, Dellinger and Steve Ivancie make up the other.

Strong’s challenge is to bridge the divide. His success will come from knowing when to steer the two sides toward compromise and when to stand with one side over the other.

But first, Strong must deal with a more practical matter — undoing the damage caused by his predecessor’s reaction Tuesday night to Referendum 2A’s failure. Connell’s comments that the community is “spoiled” and needs to “bleed a little bit” further eroded public perception of the council. The city will need the public’s help in fixing its budget and tax woes, and Strong has to send an immediate message that, contrary to what Connell said, the community is the city’s partner, not its adversary.

The School Board largely has been united on issues in recent years. But now that Jeff Troeger and Michael Loomis have replaced Paul Fisher and Tom Sharp, there’s no guarantee that unity will continue.

Troeger has openly questioned the board’s stand on religious representatives in the schools, policy governance and the manner in which it has handled the proposed Montessori charter school. Loomis has questioned the board’s handling of the dispute between former Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Principal John DeVincentis, and the board’s stand on small class size.

Fisher’s replacement as board president — either Tami Havener or Paula Stephenson — must quickly build consensus on key issues the district faces. Most notably those are the Montessori charter school, policy governance and the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay plan.

There are three holdovers from the previous School Board — Havener, Stephenson and Pat Gleason. They form a majority that can control the board. But the president should remember that for the first time in seven years, the School Board had contested races, and Troeger won one of those races. That gives him a constituency on school issues that should not be ignored in a series of 3-2 votes.

To lead means “to show the way.” After one of the most hotly contested local elections — an election that at times revealed deep chasms — the presidencies of the City Council and School Board are more important than ever. They must lead. They must engage this community and show the way toward compromise, consensus and ultimately progress in our city and in our schools.


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