Q. & A. with Heather Sloop, Steamboat Springs City Council, District 3 candidate
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council, District 3
Occupation: Community affairs and regulatory manager for Southwestern Energy.
Prior political experience: 10 years with Routt County as senior engineer; 2 1/2 years with Routt County as deputy coroner
Hometown: Steamboat Springs
Years in Steamboat: 14
Family: Husband, Peter Sloop, president of Sloop Painting; children, Vivian, 5, and Otto, 4.
Civic involvement: Community Agriculture Alliance board member; Holy Name Catholic Church Parish Council; Colorado Northwest Workforce board member; Routt County Multi-modal Road Users advisory board member; Club 20 voting board member for Steamboat Springs and Routt County; Routt County Riders member
Q. Two recent surveys show confidence in the city council is low in the eyes of the community and city staff. How would you work to improve the community’s confidence in the council?
A. Confidence in the council stems from the internal relationships amongst its members and especially its relationship with the city manager. Council must communicate openly with each other and as a collective whole to the public, while maintaining the utmost professionalism. I will bring strong leadership and communication skills to the council to ensure we are productive. My belief is that the relationship between council and the city manager is a partnership, that communication between council and city manager must be clear, specific, on-going, and without negative emotions. The city manager should have clear direction of the council’s goals for our city and the manager should work with council to help them set policy, process and procedure.
Q. Is the city’s free-to-rider bus system still viable as is? If not, how should it be funded in the future and what changes should be made?
A. The city’s bus system is an asset to locals, tourists and our satellite communities to the west. The viability of the bus system is dependent upon ridership, grants and partnerships from within our community. Funding for future transportation services must be approached through a community-wide effort. We need to assess driver wages and
retention, ridership and partnerships from within the community. Any decision regarding transit should be made with the focus of how it benefits the community and its visitors. Without proper vetting through these channels, council will not be effective in making the right decisions.
Q. Does the city have a role to play in promoting affordable/workforce housing in the community? If so, what policies would you support as a council member to promote this type of housing?
A. The city has an important role in housing. We need to tackle the housing issue on a three-fold basis. 1) Initiate a revolving loan fund for entry-level needs, establishing down payment assistance through this fund; 2) We need to work with the community and nonprofits to educate buyers and renters on the realities of buying a home and the cost of maintenance or long-term rental; 3) I believe we should implement the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan and look at developing future goals, focusing on what we can accomplish today and what we can afford in the future.
Q. Do you support the recommendation of a citizens committee to work with Routt County to build a shared public safety facility in west Steamboat next to the county jail? Why or why not?
A. I do support the recommendation for a shared facility. The citizens committee invested time and resources to give our city the best plan for our future. Partnering with Routt County will generate a greater bond between these two law enforcement organizations, which will inevitably enhance our community policing. Having a masters in criminal justice/policing, I know that this facility will be an asset to our city. I sit in on both Routt and Moffat counties’ public information officers group meetings, and I see how communication within different agencies can increase effectiveness for both entities.
Q. Do you feel the city has released enough information to the public about the internal police investigation that led to the departure of the police chief and the deputy police chief? Why or why not?
A. My educational background in policing and investigations affords me the ability to look at the events from the investigation in a different light. In an information rich society, we hunger for more. We lose sight of the intricacies surrounding personal privacy and confidential interviews. One way to alleviate the tension from reports 3, 4, and 5,
is that the city could retain a retired judge to review these reports and, while maintaining confidentiality, give a general briefing to the public so that the community can be assured that history won’t repeat itself.
Q. Some current council members have suggested the public’s trust in the police department has fallen because of the recent internal investigation that led to the departures of the police chief and the deputy police chief. What do you see as council’s role in the wake of that investigation?
A. Council’s role is to have a city manager who will be able to convey the needs of the city and its police department through the hiring of a new chief. As a criminal justice graduate, I know how important community policing is. From beat cops downtown to detectives investigating, it boils down to hiring a chief who will extend the city’s beliefs to the officers. We need to respect, admire and especially welcome our officers into each of our lives and not treat the department as its own isolated society. Officers live, work and play here too. Respect needs to be reciprocal between the city, the community and our police department.
Q. The city’s parks and recreation commission does not believe the city’s vast portfolio of recreational amenities is adequately funded by the city’s general fund. Is it time to create a parks and rec district with its own property levy to remove that category from the general fund?
A. In Colorado, voters must approve new special taxes within taxing districts. If the voice of the voters is to establish a new district and levy, I will work hard to support their wishes. During my tenure on council, I will be pleased to lead efforts to further explore the concept using a committee much like the police station and 2A exploratory efforts.
Q. How many current or prior city council members did you speak with before deciding to run for office? What were the three most important take-aways you had from those conversations?
A. I began discussing my candidacy five months ago with five past and present council members. I’ve been doing my homework by regularly attending city council meetings since then and getting a feel for the time investment needed to be on council. First, I have learned that each decision the council makes, council members will be judged. Second, that transparency is necessary for the council to be respected by the community and the city staff. Third, and foremost, collaboration and respect amongst council members, and especially the city manager, is the most important part of a successful office.
Q. One of your first major jobs as a council member would be hiring a new city manager. What would you look for in a city manager?
A. The city manager must be personally invested in the success of the council and the entire community. He/she must be able to know when to act and when to seek advice. They must be a good administrator. Being educated on the important goals of the community, being fiscally minded and strong communication skills are a must. This person must possess the ability to think with foresight, stand behind their decisions and exhibit complete transparency. Aside from the obvious professional skills required for the job, accountability is what I’ll be looking for.
Q. The city’s general fund is almost entirely dependent upon sales tax revenues. Does the city do enough, too much, or not enough to stimulate sales tax receipts?
The city is very fortunate to be so economically diverse. Generating additional revenues should always be welcome. Having long-term vision on alternative revenue streams is part of what we, as a community, must do together. Bringing ideas to the city, through our business partners and all interested parties can only benefit us as we grow in the future. Honoring the foundation of successful approaches while staying open minded to growth areas is the key to stimulating receipts.
I want to be a part of the new change in the city. We should be looking forward to this new wave, a council full of fresh faces, a new manager, attorney and chief of police. As a long-time local, I have the innate hindsight to understand where we have been and the insight to listen to my constituents to know where we want to be in the future. My experience working alongside county government for 10 years gave me the opportunity to learn and understand policies and procedures within government. Working in the private sector, I have built relationships among community residents, the business sector and government. Being a working mom and wife gives me a great understanding of what it takes to live and raise children in our beautiful town. From daycare, to housing, to business, my experiences have given me a broad perspective of the needs and ideas about solutions which will help lead us into the next four years and beyond.
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