Our View: Now is the time to engage
After living through a contentious presidential election and navigating a pandemic for more than a year, it’s natural for people to feel out of touch and disillusioned, but now is the perfect time to reengage with local government at the grassroots level.
Opportunities abound for residents to get involved, have a voice and make an impact on important issues facing Steamboat Springs and Routt County. Right now, local leaders are grappling with topics ranging from affordable housing to climate change to transportation to economic development. Many avenues exist for residents to follow those discussions and offer input.
For example, those who live in or commute through Steamboat Springs are encouraged to comment on the city’s transportation and mobility draft plan, which will offer a roadmap for Steamboat Springs City Council and the Planning Commission as they design future roads, trails and other transportation infrastructure. As city engineer Ben Beall said, “This transportation plan will guide our capital projects for years. Transportation is about more than just how we get around our community; it’s about our quality of life.”
Community members have until May 14 to provide feedback on the plan at EngageSteamboat.net.
City Council is also discussing various tax options to diversify the city’s revenue stream. Currently, council is looking at taxes on property, timeshares and lodging to fund tourism marketing.
It’s important to note the city won’t be pursuing all of these options, and if residents have opinions on what direction they think council should take, they can contact individual council members, whose contact information is published on the city’s website, or offer their thoughts through public comment, which is offered during every council meeting. Council is not expected to make a decision on which, if any, tax it will pursue until the end of May, so there is still plenty of time to make your voice heard on this issue.
At issue: Residents often wonder how they can get more involved and engaged with their communities.
Our View: It’s an ideal time for people to get involved and offer feedback on a variety of issues facing local government.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Residents also have the option to subscribe to listserves on the city’s website, which allows them to stay up to date on city business. People can receive emails or text alerts on a variety of topics, including commission and council meeting agendas, bids and RFPs, employment opportunities and news releases. To sign up, visit SteamboatSprings.net/list.aspx
This kind of access to City Council members also holds true for our Routt County leaders and area school board members. Commissioners and school board members can be contacted by email or phone, and public comment sessions are offered at their regular meetings, which are currently being held via Zoom.
In some ways, hosting meetings by conference call is more accessible, giving residents an easier way to tune into meetings and follow the issues. Rather than having to attend a meeting in-person, either in the evening for school board or City Council meetings or during the workday for county commission meetings, people can just click on a Zoom link and listen in from the convenience of their own homes or offices. When in-person meetings do resume in the next few months, we encourage local leaders to consider continuing with a hybrid live and virtual mix that should result in greater public participation.
We also believe communicating directly with local governmental bodies before decisions are made is a much more constructive way to ensure your voice is heard rather than commenting through social media, posting in chat groups or complaining after the fact. We also suggest you consider expressing your views on important topics by submitting a letter to the editor to Steamboat Pilot & Today. These letters are highly read by residents and local leaders.
And for those who want to get even more involved in local government, there are opportunities to serve on various city and county boards and commissions or school advisory committees. These positions are an excellent training ground for those who think they might eventually pursue elected office. Openings are posted on the city, county and school district websites, and the Steamboat Springs Chamber also routinely provides information about opportunities to serve through its email newsletter.
We’d like to see a diversity of voices represented on these boards, commissions and councils, and we encourage employers to consider finding ways to support their team members who want to get involved in local government. It’s time to realize that Steamboat and Routt County benefit when people from different backgrounds, age groups and socioeconomic classes are involved in the decision making process. And it’s important for people to realize you don’t need to have lived in the area for decades to offer your opinion and perspective.
We also suggest people get involved with issues they’re passionate about and areas where they possess applicable knowledge or expertise. This kind of volunteer service is a great way to make a big impact.
American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed residents can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” and we believe that philosophy holds true today. So don’t sit on the sidelines like an armchair quarterback, but instead get engaged, get involved, make your opinions known and watch the community change for the better.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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Wednesday, Oct. 20