Q. & A. with Jason M. Lacy, Steamboat Springs City Council, District 2 candidates
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council, District 2
Prior political experience: None
Hometown: Marion, Kentucky
Years in Steamboat: 8
Family: Married to Dervla Lacy; two sons, Declan, 4, and Ronan, 20 months
Civic involvement: City of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission (2009-present), serves as chairman and has for past four years; Routt County United Way (2009-2015), served as president, vice president and treasurer; Routt County Habitat for Humanity (2009-2011), served as treasurer and board director; Seminars at Steamboat (2013-present), board director; Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board (2012-2014), served as board director; STARS (2008-2014), served as treasurer and board director; Yampa Valley Autism Program (2009-2014), served as treasurer and board director; Northwest Colorado Bar Association (2007-present); Colorado Bar Association (2007-present); Downtown Redevelopment Committee for Steamboat Springs (2012-2014); Yampa Street 2A Funding Committee, (2014-present), serves as chairman; City of Steamboat Springs Survey Committee (2015); Rocky Mountain CASA Dancing with the Stars competition (2015); Best of the Boat award recipient, Best Attorney, fourth place (2014); Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council (2014-present); Leadership Steamboat (Class of 2007-08)
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. My primary goal in running for city council is to ensure that the public knows its government operates with openness, transparency and inclusiveness for all citizens of Steamboat. I will promote work sessions on all important policy topics to ensure that extensive dialogue and full public input is obtained on all issues. I have been involved in work sessions for over six years as part of Planning Commission and I routinely see their value. Moreover, I would like to formalize alternative options for public input such as Coffee with Council and other small group, interactive discussions so that the community has the chance to engage in real conversation with city council members. Finally, as part of public comment received at meetings or through written correspondence I will commit to responding directly to all meaningful comments received from our community.
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 free-to-rider bus system is still viable in its current form today. However, in the future, the growth of spending necessary to keep up with transportation needs in our community may dictate a change in how the bus system is funded. If such funding changes are necessary, the city will need to confer with its community partners including the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., Colorado Mountain College and other entities that benefit from the free city bus system to discuss possible collaborative funding efforts. As with any city services that face funding challenges, we must have all options on the table and look for ways to partner with those that benefit from such services.
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 does have a role to play in promoting affordable/workforce housing in the community, although the city itself should not be managing any affordable units. The role of the city on this issue is two-fold: 1) the city should create a regulatory environment that fosters the creation of attainable market rate housing, and 2) the city should find ways to provide financial support to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. On the regulatory front, the city needs to look at ways to promote more density in certain areas of the city including small lot subdivisions, and we need to find a way to grow west as set forth in the West Steamboat Area Plan. Our community surveys have consistently shown housing as a top issue and we need to maximize options for people of all income levels to live and work in Steamboat and Routt County.
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 of the citizens committee to coordinate with Routt County to construct a shared public safety facility. I know most of the members from this committee, and I have the utmost confidence in their knowledge, insight and research on this issue. Importantly, by constructing a shared facility, it is estimated to save upwards of $2 million in taxpayer monies versus a stand-alone facility. Plus, this seems to be an excellent opportunity to create a more streamlined and efficient working relationship between the sheriff’s office and city police department and for processing any inmates into the county jail.
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. It is the duty of your government and my strong preference to maximize openness and transparency on all issues. In this vein, I certainly understand the community’s desire to have some kind of information released about the three investigative reports that have not been shared with the public. The city council needs to perform its function of oversight to make sure that the $100,000 plus that was spent on this investigation yielded meaningful results. Moreover, the council needs to inquire of staff as to whether a summary of these reports can be released, particularly in light of the fact that the city faces potential litigation due to such non-release. Any such summary report(s) should only be released if the confidentiality of all personnel that were interviewed is strictly maintained and so long as such release does not present a real risk of future litigation for the city and council members.
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. The council’s role in the wake of this investigation is to work with the city manager and the city attorney to make sure that policies are implemented to help prevent any further erosion of the public’s trust. Based on the recommendations from the released portions of the internal police investigation, it is clear that some changes in human resource practices needs to occur on a city-wide level so that these issues are hopefully avoided across all departments. In addition, after significant public input and feedback from council, the city manager needs to hire a police chief that is committed to community policing efforts and engaging the public in a positive manner. The current police department is doing an excellent job despite being understaffed, and it deserves a leader that can set the right tone for the future.
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. This is certainly an option worthy of consideration as the strains of additional amenities and maintenance will likely outpace the growth of overall sales tax collections on a percentage basis. If such a district is created then that would free up many millions of dollars from general fund and capital improvement expenditures. We should engage the community to determine whether the public would like to take this approach, and if so then I would want to find a way to lower the sales tax rate so that a similar decrease in net dollars received would occur. A sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation and thus it disproportionately hurts those at the lower income levels. Thus, if the voters decide to create this parks and recreation district, I would want to offset the increased parks and recreation district tax revenue with a commensurate decrease in sales tax revenue.
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 spoke with at least a dozen current and prior city council members prior to finalizing my decision to run. All of them were very willing to share their perspectives on serving the community and helped me to understand both the wonderful aspects and sacrifices that are involved. The most important take-away from those discussions was that every person said it was one of the best experiences they ever had and they were honored to have the opportunity to serve. I also learned that a key component to the success of any council is that its members must be open-minded and receptive to the ideas of all council members and the public in order to find the right solutions to all issues. Finally, a commitment to conducting all council business in public is a prerequisite to success.
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 choice of our next city manager is a huge issue for the next council. My first criteria is to find a city manager that has a clear track record of success in working with multiple councils at the same organization to show that he/she can work effectively with a diverse group of people. I also want to find someone that has demonstrated the ability to fully engage with community members by specific examples of public outreach and a person that is committed to consistent community involvement. It is also crucial to find a city manager that has a strong background and commitment to working with council to create a clear economic development strategy. In short, our next city manager should be a leader that constantly fosters communication and collaboration with council, city staff, and most importantly, the public.
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?
A. The city does a great deal to help stimulate sales tax receipts by its support of summer marketing and by investing in improvements in the mountain area and downtown. However, the city can and should do more, not necessarily in terms of dollars spent, but by being a leader in establishing an economic development strategy for the community. In particular, the city should coordinate with the chamber and broader community to identify the smartest and most realistic ways for economic diversification to occur. I personally feel that by targeting location-neutral businesses and employees to move here that we can better diversify our economy and increase sales tax collections due to the higher relative incomes and low reliance on local economic conditions for these businesses. With our active, lifestyle-oriented economy and future enhancements in technology and broadband access, we have a real opportunity to improve our overall economic strength.
From the time I moved to Steamboat Springs, I have devoted myself to serving this community, and I am ready to step up to the challenge of being part of your next city council. As you can tell from the questions answered in this election guide and at all of the candidate forums, the next city council has many issues that need to be resolved. There will undoubtedly be other challenges ahead, and it is imperative that the voters choose candidates that have a past track record of relevant leadership, collaboration and team-building experience. I have demonstrated my inclusive approach to governance and problem solving as part of my service on numerous nonprofit and civic organizations. As part of your next team of council members, I am committed to consistent outreach and engagement with all members of the public as part of our normal decision-making process. My significant past work experience as an attorney, CPA and financial advisor and my extensive community service involvement has prepared me for the task at hand.
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