Q. & A. with Kathi Meyer, Steamboat Springs City Council, at-large candidate
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council, at-large
Occupation: Retired financial executive
Prior political experience: None
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Years in Steamboat: 19
Family: Married to James Peterson, mother of Richmond Meyer and proud grandmother of Chance Meyer
Civic involvement: Steamboat Springs Planning commission, current cice chair, 15 years; Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board, president, 10 years; Steamboat Springs Area Plan Coordinating Committee, member, 10 years; Routt County Habitat for Humanity, former president, four years; Nordic Combined World Cups, organizing committee or co-chair, 1997-2008; Salt Lake 2002 Olympics, FIS official; Yampa Valley Medical Center, volunteer, three years
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. I am hearing loud and clear that our citizens want a hardworking, knowledgeable city council that conducts its business in public. Adding work sessions for complicated or complex issues would be helpful to educate both the citizens and council members. It would also facilitate a more transparent and open process of decision making. The city council should act, in its capacity of community leadership, similar to a corporate board of directors, with the city manager acting as a CEO who is ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations. The council should set policy and the city manager should implement those policies, with constant communication and feedback between both entities. I have a track record of working well with others and will listen carefully to all points of view before making a decision.
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. Our bus system was originally designed to move tourists between the ski area and the downtown, with U.S. Highway 40 serving as a connector. I would like to see an expansion of the bus system to serve more local neighborhoods, perhaps using smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, similar to the commercial shuttle system vans. I believe having more local access would increase year-round ridership. All potential funding sources must be considered and could be through a combination of sales of monthly passes, small daily ridership fees and leveraged with grants.
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. There is no silver bullet to fix this problem. Recent community surveys have indicated that the citizens and the business community understand the importance of housing as a basic need. The Housing Authority was created through a partnership with the city and county to be the main entity that works towards multiple solutions. I’ve spent the last 19 years working on community projects and programs geared to help low- and middle-income households have safe, decent housing. The city has a Community Housing Fund with almost $1 million remaining, which can be leverage through other state and federal grants to create more housing supply. Also, the city needs to constantly review its policies and practices to make sure that it is not inadvertently increasing costs through unintended or unnecessary regulations. The council should be leaders in settings goals, taking action and making sure that the people who represent the essential core of our community, our teachers, firefighters, nurses and service employees, have the opportunity to live in the town where they work.
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 absolutely support the recommendations of the citizens committee. Anytime there is a possibility to save the taxpayers $1 million to $2 million by city/county cooperation, we should take time to thoroughly examine this option. Now that a group of city/county stakeholders has been formed, I’m confident that when reasonable, educated community members come together, they will make the best decision on behalf of the all the citizens.
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. The community needs closure on this matter, while respecting the confidentiality of the people interviewed for this investigation. At minimum, some sort of executive summary addressing the overall allegations needs to be produced. Since the community spent over $100,000, there is an expectation of feedback or conclusions regarding this matter.
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 should be involved in some manner in the hiring of the new police chief, given the fact that we have a short term interim city manager. The council should set the expectation for the new police culture, while being mindful that public safety is of utmost importance, yet returning to an approachable community based police department. Having the new chief give regular updates to the council and the community would help to improve communication.
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. Only the voters can create a separate parks and rec district. I would welcome continued study on the matter but am concerned about the dollar amount of deferred maintenance of our facilities and trails. Does this create a new source of funds or does it just transfer the responsibility, financial and otherwise to a new public entity? Any new tax proposal that replaces over $4 million annually in the general fund would have to address how the new funds available would not just be reallocated to other general fund needs. I’d support a proposal that was “net neutral.”
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 spoke with eight current and former city council members over the last few months. My takeaways were: 1) Do your homework and be prepared for the council meetings. Conduct the people’s business in public; 2) Actively seek out the opinions of citizens, especially ones who don’t normally agree with you; 3) Listen to and trust the voters.
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. I would first identify core strengths and experience that a city manager must have to run a multi-faceted organization. Leadership by a successful manager includes being able to reach out and communicate with the citizens, who are the true customers of the city. Understanding and adapting to the history of the community is key. I would welcome a person who is collaborative in their approach and one who can put together a strong and talented team.
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. Since the city revenue is substantially sales tax based, the city must allocate resources to continue to develop this revenue stream. However, since the chamber’s mission is to promote Steamboat, the appropriate place for a designated economic development person is within the chamber structure. We are fortunate to have a highly desirable place to live, including a fabulous year-round outdoor environment and a topnotch education system. The continued growth of location-neutral businesses can be further expanded which will help to diversify our economy and increase sale tax.
We will have four new incoming members on council this November. I have skills and experience that are valuable to this new council. In my many volunteer activities, I’ve worked closely with a variety of people with various opinions and backgrounds, and I’ve learned that getting things done means working well with others. I know how city government functions — or should — through my participation on various city boards and commissions in Steamboat over the last 19 years. And my 25 years of experience in the financial management field has taught me fiscal discipline and the ability to understand complex financial structures. My last senior management position was responsible for over $1 billion in transactions annually and was the key profit-generating division in the company. My top four goals are: ensuring a hardworking, knowledgeable city council that conducts its business in public; restoring trust and confidence in our police force; continuing to be a leader in community housing; and continuing the focus on the fiscal discipline that emphasizes the core functions of local government.
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