Our view: There’s plenty on 2004’s plate | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: There’s plenty on 2004’s plate

There is no way to have known at the end of 2002 that we would experience the things we did in 2003.

There was no way to know that we would lose one of our own — Staff Sgt. Mark Lawton of Hayden — in the war in Iraq. We could not have predicted the departure of school Superintendent Cyndy Simms or longtime Sailors football coach Mark Drake. Or that Steamboat’s Johnny Spillane would shock the skiing world by becoming the first American to win a world championship in Nordic combined skiing.

There was no way to foresee the tragic plane and automobile accidents, no way to forecast contentious debates about where to put a gravel pit and where to build a judicial facility.

That these events happened in the past year is not necessarily shocking — such events cannot be predicted, but they are to a degree expected. They are a part of life, things that happen to a community and its people. What is important is that we demonstrated our resiliency in 2003 as we have in years past — our ability as a community to persevere through triumph and tragedy.

On the eve of 2004, we cannot predict what will befall us during the next 12 months. We hope for peace and prosperity and for more triumph than tragedy.

While we can’t predict what is in store in 2004, we can and should enter the year with priorities to focus on and goals to accomplish. We offer a few:

n The city of Steamboat Springs must develop a tax strategy incorporating the proper mixture of revenue sources, including sales taxes and property taxes in addition to new sources such as a lodging tax. The formation of a citizens committee to undertake this review is an important first step.

n The failure to date of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan needs to be addressed. The city and county must remove the obstacles keeping the plan from moving ahead.

n Progress on consolidation of our water and fire districts should continue. Development of a single water and sewer utility with equalized rates and common facilities is a sensible and logical goal. So is the creation of an autonomous, equitably funded fire protection district.

n The city should continue to press for recreational water rights on the Yampa River. The Yampa is an important asset to our city’s economy and water rights can provide an important insurance policy.

n More has to be done at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The airport is a critical asset to this region and its current condition is simply unacceptable. We must push government leaders to continue committing financial resources to the airport and to speed up the timetable for future improvements.

n It behooves voters to become engaged and informed. This year, they will have the opportunity to vote for president, U.S. senator, state senator, state representative and a number of county offices including sheriff and two commissioner seats. We will elect a new congressional representative for District 3 and, undoubtedly, a number of local issues will come before us.

n The school district should focus on completing and implementing the Knowledge and Skills Based Pay Plan approved two years ago and work to resolve the Montessori charter school issue before it proves even more costly.

n And we must continue to enhance and invest in our efforts at economic gardening, to strengthen our industrial base, our work force and our wage scale. At the same time, we must continue to provide the safety nets — affordable housing, child care, LIFT-UP, etc. — to help those residents struggling to make ends meet.

Whatever our experiences in 2003, we should all recognize how fortunate we are to call this area of Northwest Colorado home. We already enjoy a tremendous quality of life, and the opportunity exists for us to enhance that in 2004.

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