Q. & A. with Michael Buccino, Steamboat Springs City Council, District 2 candidate
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council, District 2
Occupation: Interior designer
Prior political experience: None
Hometown: Palm Springs, California
Years in Steamboat: 19 years
Family: Janelle, my wife of 16 years, and children, Mikey, 13, Anya, 12, and Grayson, 10
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 will encourage fellow members of the city council to join in additional work sessions when business requires more in-depth perspectives from council members. Steamboat’s leaders have an obligation to communicate with the public, and I will be proactive and responsive. I will listen to your goals/ideas for the future and communicate those to the city manager. I applaud Scott Ford for the Coffee with Council meetings and anticipate joining and/or starting my own. What I want is more dialogue between public and council. During public comments, there have been some great ideas and thoughts. I desire a more peer-to-peer discussion when an idea peaks my interest. Work sessions could open that dialogue.
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. After living in Steamboat for over 19 years, I have always loved the idea of free public transportation. I do not support a rider fee at this time. If the budget limits enough appropriate funding, there are other options to consider. I visited Glenwood Springs this summer and had an opportunity to use their buses. They have a reasonable $1/day fee for all riders. The cost to retrofit each bus would be offset the first couple of years if adopted. I would rather look into using some of the air tax overages to increase the transportation budget. However, the air tax is a limited funding source unless voters extend in the future.
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?
In promoting, yes, in creating, no. Our city should not be in the landlord business. The purchase of the Iron Horse Inn is a recent example of this failed attempt. We should be looking at the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which was adopted in June 2006. Government is much better at controlling development with zoning, planning and incentives. I would encourage developers to bring forward some ideas and work with Yampa Valley Housing Authority to help us solve our housing problem. In the past, our city created an enterprise zone around Downhill Drive and Copper Ridge area. These incentives helped encourage developers and business owners upgrade and build their own infrastructure that grew their business and our tax revenue. This is one example of how the city can offer partnerships to solve our housing problems.
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 wholeheartedly support the citizens committee’s recommendation. I spoke with law enforcement officers, both in the city and sheriff, and I have yet to hear anything negative regarding a shared facility. Any current riffs between the departments are only temporary. I support the results of the citizen committee for a shared facility, which will build relationships and offer more efficient law enforcement for our community.
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. I do not feel the city has given the public adequate information. I understand there are some parts of the investigation that will have to remain private, however, there has not been enough non-confidential information released to let the public restore trust in the police department. Yes, I still have questions. With a new city manager, council and police leadership, I feel we have a great opportunity to move forward in a positive direction and put the past behind us and restore trust in our public servants.
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. I find it frustrating and odd timing when the two top law enforcement officers chose to resign and retire the day before our past city manager let that part of the report public. As a council member, I would focus on the new city manager’s ability to hire the right police chief. Council needs to require a high level of transparency that has been missing in recent years.
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. I have a limited knowledge of the current Parks and Rec Commission and their deliberations on whether to create a parks and rec district. I know the previous council appointed competent people to the commission and I look forward to working with them on their recommendations. Personally, I am excited about their idea of a foundation to fund future recreational amenities. A separate parks and rec district has tax implications and is one of the solutions to the problem. I think we need to look closely at the funding mechanism and compare other solutions as well. It’s a good discussion, and one I will eagerly research and discuss with the citizens of Steamboat.
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 have spoken to eight current or past council members. I asked each of them, “What do you wish you knew before you took the job?” The responses were understandably varied from person to person. As a small business owner, I have had to adapt to overcome many changing conditions and develop the ability to adapt to any circumstances that arise. The three take-aways: understand the budget sooner rather than later; be prepared for intergovernmental meetings throughout the community; and the time requirements. Talking to current and prior city council members I realize that everyone brings something unique to the position. I feel that I have the skill set and business leadership experience to bring a fresh perspective to governing our city.
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. A new city manager has to be a good communicator, must have the ability to help others set goals and objectives, and most importantly, be able to develop an accountability system that encourages and empowers the staff. Ultimately, we are going to be asking this person to manage the city, but this person must also be able to work for city council. The city manager must clearly set a vision with each director and empower them and their staff to be the best they can be.
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. We have a world class destination city. Steamboat Springs has a ski resort, the Yampa River, unique shopping, art, etc. The city has something to offer everyone and people find us, come here and spend money. Managed correctly, our current level of sales tax revenue can sustain us, grow us and develop our city into the future. I recently discussed the impact that location-neutral businesses have in our economy. They are here because of our quality lifestyle they seek. These businesses bring in and hire locally, hundreds of individuals that live here and spend money here and increase our tax base. Our business chamber has the task of increasing our visitors during the summer months and off season as well as winter months. We could do more supporting their efforts as well as focus on the infrastructure like better broadband and phone service.
I am eager to represent my district and citizens on the next city council. As a family, we discussed the commitment city government would require. We asked questions like, “What does it look like to be committed in this position?”, “How does that effect my family and business?” After long deliberation, we feel now is a great time to give back to my community. I have lived here for over 19 years and have thought about running at least two other times. With the events over the past year, I know now is the time for me to be part of the future of my city. I have created a balance in my life that allows me to dedicate my time to the citizens of Steamboat Springs. My leadership skills and experience will help the citizens of Steamboat Springs regain confidence in the town’s officials. We will need a solid team to agree on Steamboat’s goals, and I will lead that effort.
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