Q. & A. with Patrick Slowey, Steamboat Springs City Council, District 1 candidate
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council, District 1
Occupation: Public educator and retired Army officer
Prior political experience: None
Hometown: Colorado Springs
Years in Steamboat: 3
Family: Wife, Kristin, and two young boys
Civic involvement: Vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
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 would insist on openness and transparency while performing our duties as council members — with the understanding that there are times when certain issues (particularly personnel matters) need to be discussed/decided on in a closed session. I would make a point of conducting “town hall” meetings with District 1 constituents every quarter, in order to keep in touch and get a pulse on the issues that concern my neighbors. Finally, I would encourage the city manager to explore the use of an online customer feedback system that could measure customer satisfaction with city services/employees, identify concerns/issues with city operations and help identify outstanding city departments and employees for recognition in the performance of the duties.
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. I do not believe the current mass transit system is sustainable. Every day I see empty Yellow Line buses go to and from the CMC campus, and it makes me wonder if there is a better way to serve the transportation needs of our community. I would task the next city manager to develop three distinct and viable courses of action (COAs) based on evaluation criteria provided by the council. Some of these possible COAs could include bus fares, revenue collected from parking meters and/or reallocation of tax revenue or any combination of the aforementioned solutions. Council would evaluate and select a COA and direct the city manager to implement it. The bottom line is if we are going to take short cuts and provide a mediocre transportation service to our citizens/visitors, then we shouldn’t do it all.
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 a limited role in promoting/providing affordable housing in the community. It can develop incentives to builders/providers of affordable housing as well as partnering with various organizations to assist with finding affordable housing. The real onus for promoting/providing affordable housing is a market-driven function. As unpopular as it may be, if employers want to attract and retain good employees, they must pay them a living wage — enough to live and enjoy our community and all that it has to offer. The current albatross (the Iron Horse) around our neck is a perfect example of the city going too far in attempting to resolve what essentially is a market problem. For the record, I am willing to pay more for my meal at a restaurant or for various goods and services, with the understanding that the person behind the counter is making a decent wage that provides for their basic needs.
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. Absolutely, it is a recommendation that I and many others had proposed from the start. All public officials (city, county, etc.) have a fiduciary responsibility to spend our taxpayer dollars wisely. Combining/sharing facilities and services when it is appropriate and results in the savings of tax dollars is a no brainer. The haphazard, uncoordinated approach the previous city manager took regarding the site selection for a new police station is one reason I decided to run for office. This whole process could have been managed better had council given the city manager specific criteria for a new station, allowed the city manager/staff to develop possible courses of action (COA) and then select the COA that best suited the needs of the 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. Without having seen the whole report, it is difficult for me to judge just how much of the report should have been released. As a former inspector general, personnel matters should be treated with the upmost degree of confidentiality. However, reports can be written to protect the identity of confidential sources and to protect the privacy rights of all individuals involved. One of my concerns with the recent investigation was failure to explain to the community the nature of the investigation (personnel matter) and therefore the limitations on how much of the report could be released. The failure to manage the message has led to a perception in the community that the city manager was hiding something. Because of the nature of the allegations, which may have included the city manager, I would have preferred the investigation been initiated and managed by the council for their action.
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 provide oversight of the city manager, who in turn needs to ensure that all and any report of wrong doing in any department is promptly documented and investigated. Additionally, the city manager should insist and enforce that all departments and their employees are held to the same high standard of ethical conduct while conducting the city’s business — no department is special or above the law in the execution of its duties. The council needs to hold the city manager fully responsible for the conduct or misconduct of city department heads and their employees.
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 would have to look into the numbers regarding this proposal. I am always reluctant to support another levy on property taxes; however, I would not rule this option out. The impact on property owners is going to have to be weighed with the benefits of the proposal. Additionally, I would want to have a clear and defined plan on how and why the funds “freed up” by this proposal would be used in the general fund. We shouldn’t be raising taxes and/or creating new tax districts so as to pump more money into the general fund unless we have specific goals/objectives that our constituents want us to pursue with these additional tax monies.
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 talked with a former member of city council before seeking this office. She first questioned my sanity; we then entered into a discussion on what she believes is the biggest problem facing the current council. Her perception, which I concur with, is that the current council/city manager are not “staying in their lanes.” The council needs to develop a clear strategic vision, with clearly defined goals and objectives. The city manager should then be left alone to translate those goals into operational plans that are approved by council, with periodic progress reports on major projects. Everyone involved (council and city manager) should understand their roles and responsibilities and abide by them to make the system work. Lastly, we discussed the huge time commitment involved in serving on council.
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. Having served as a “city manager” in the U.S. Army, I would look for an applicant’s ability to translate the strategic goals and objectives of the council into executable operational plans and programs. I would want a city manager who can effectively communicate with the council and the public, helping to repair the perceived lack transparency in the management of the city. I would also place a high premium on an applicant who has a proven track record as a leader (not just a manager). Under their leadership, I would expect an overall improvement in municipal operations and in the morale of city employees. We have a lot of great city employees who go above and beyond their specified duties every day to serve their fellow citizens. I would hope the new city manager has the skill sets to publically recognize and reward those employees who excel.
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. There are some challenges the city faces that if they were addressed could help stimulate tax receipts (i.e. more visitors, spending more money). In our recent forum at the Chief Theater, the issue of parking seemed to dominate the discussion. It is high time that the parking issue needs to be addressed, instead of just having another study and kicking the can down the road. Other projects, large and small, need to be examined, so that we can make Steamboat the first destination of choice among our potential visitors. Finally, we need to take a hard look at events such as Triple Crown, to ensure that when we enter into agreements with various organizations we are taking into full account the potential cost benefits to all of the interested parties, including our citizens.
I entered into the race for council, because I was concerned that no one had “signed up” to represent my district. My entire adult life has been dedicated to public service. As a career Army officer and educator, I have lived by the leadership principal of setting the example. Based on this principal, I decided to run for council. In civics class, we teach our students to be pro-active, to participate in government and to serve their communities. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn’t step up and serve? I don’t have all the answers, I have no political ambitions or skills, and I am relatively new to the Yampa Valley but not to my native Colorado. What I bring to the table is more than 30 years of experience identifying problems and developing and executing solutions for those problems in extremely difficult environments and situations. I successfully served as the “city manager” of Fort Dix, New Jersey, and as the deputy city manager of Fort Hood, Texas. My experience in municipal operations coupled with drive to “do the right thing” and “do things right” has prepared me to represent my friends and neighbors in District 1.
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