Q&A with George Krawzoff, candidate for Steamboat Springs City Council 2-year at-large seat
Brief bio: Born in 1950 in New York, raised in Chicago, learned to ski in Alta at age 8. President of his high school ski club. Graduated with a BA in Mathematics from CU Boulder. Graduated MFA, San Francisco Art Institute. Drove Boulder school buses, Snowmass/Aspen buses, became transportation director in Snowmass Village and then transportation director in Steamboat Springs and was also responsible for Steamboat Springs Airport. Consulting clients include Aspen, the Aspen Housing Authority, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Basalt, Snowmass and Steamboat Springs. Served as Pitkin County commissioner and chaired the Planning Commission. Appointed to the CDOT Commission by former Gov. Ritter. Volunteered for LiftUp Routt County, Road Users Advisory Board, Basalt Children’s Recreation Fund and Aspen Ski Swap and served as Snowmass Chapel/Community Center construction co-chairman. George and Patty Rockwood met in college, their son Ben lives in Steamboat and daughter Madeline Landgren lives in Hayden. Daughter Scarlet lives in Huntley, Illinois, with the two of six grandchildren not in the Yampa Valley.
Q. Why are you running for Steamboat Springs City Council?
A. I’m deeply adapted to Steamboat Springs after 23 years and a life in the mountains. I love this city. I have two adult children and four grandchildren here. I want them to grow up and possibly stay here, too, enjoying their lives, living for the joy of being outside along with earning a living here. I believe I can serve my family, friends, neighbors and community by representing them. My experience includes many perspectives on the council and the city. As department head and consultant here and for other city councils, I know budgets, forecasts and other data needed for decisions. As a former planning commissioner, county commissioner and CDOT commissioner, I understand land use issues. Steamboat Springs has my complete commitment to the wellbeing of its citizens. I have few conflicts of interest and my children are grown, allowing me to devote my full attention to this job.
Q. What are the three greatest challenges facing the city of Steamboat Springs?
A. In the near-term, affordable housing, transportation and expanding city services to a growing community are the three primary challenges. In the long-term, changes in climate will become the overwhelming challenge for humanity and Steamboat Springs. The 2011 Water Conservation Plan shows that we have about 14,000 AF (acre feet) available under good conditions. One AF will sustain four people for a year so we can grow to about 56,000 people. We’ve averaged 3.5% per year growth since 1970 and will reach that number by 2055. At 1.8% growth, we reach it by 2090. We may not have as much water in a drying climate. Less precipitation, a longer dry season, fire in the Fish Creek basin or water compact calls as there is less water in the Colorado River would all reduce our water capacity. I’m not aware of methods to significantly increase our water supply.
Q. Would you consider pursuing a property tax to fund general city services?
A. The city has not had a property tax since 1978, so I want the long-term funding plan before approving taxes piecemeal. Let’s look critically at the cost of growth and how we will really address the cost of expanded city services. Additional property taxes will impact the people who have lived here longest. They might have million dollar homes, due to escalating values, but be unable to keep up with property taxes. Rents become less affordable when tax increases are passed along. Merchants also pass along their increases to customers. If concerned about the regressive aspect of sales taxes, particularly on groceries, provide a rebate for those with lower incomes as is already done for seniors.
Q. Do you think the city council should forego a lift tax in exchange for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. taking over operations of Howelsen Hill? Why or why not?
A. Efficiencies of scale and eliminating redundant capabilities might allow Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to operate Howelsen Hill cost effectively while maintaining its historic family focus and affordability for locals. If the city and Ski Corp. agree on the value of this contribution, Ski Corp. should ask for imposition of a lift tax to offset the expense. Other ski area lift rates include “an assessment for local transportation” or other community good. Ski Corp. could have a net zero expense while supporting Howelsen. The city could agree to honor lift tickets from the big mountain on Howelsen. I am concerned that Howelsen does not lose its Nordic Center, something not in Ski Corp.’s expertise. Nordic skiing has a much higher profile here than elsewhere in Colorado, and we should continue that tradition. 1914 to 2019 is a good long run. Like bicycling, people welcome self-powered, environmentally-correct Nordic skiing here in Steamboat Springs.
Q. What climate action/environmental protection strategies do you believe the city should adopt or support?
A. The climate challenge is severe so the city should do everything it can and lead other communities. If a city with the wealth and stature of Steamboat Springs can’t lead, then where shall we look for solutions? I support every small step, hoping they become larger and more numerous. Solar power sources in the mix, composting restaurant waste, encouraging bicycle and pedestrian travel and more with time. Remember that the Steamboat Springs Transit began as part of a nationwide attempt to reduce road dust, a problem in the ski resorts with intense winter sanding operations. Road sweeping operations are part of this effort. Those efforts need to continue. The 450 homes in the annexation are subject to an avigation easement for Steamboat Springs Airport. The airport needs to be respectful of the residents by adopting curfews, discouraging sight-seeing flights over town and otherwise recognizing the urbanizing surroundings.
Q. What kind of transit issues and projects do you think the city should prioritize and possibly fund? (i.e. regional transportation, traffic, multi-modal transportation)
A. The current transit system must be prioritized. Delays through downtown are disastrous for schedules. Infill projects add load. As the Marriot comes on-line, will the city add capacity to downtown ski area lines? Will regional buses add capacity as Hayden and Milner grow? Increasing traffic capacity through the downtown is almost impossible. Widening Lincoln to four lanes all the way to Elk River Road lacks a detailed plan to proceed through state and federal grant processes. We should pursue this plan to see if it is possible and at what cost. Our transportation plans call for connecting 13th Street to either Yampa Avenue or Howelsen Parkway, for limited gains at enormous cost to community character. We need to abandon those plans formally and begin anew. Will we allow Lincoln Avenue/13th Street to choke cross-town traffic as our long term plan? If not, we need to find an alternative plan.
Q. The city of Steamboat has historically funded marketing efforts through the Steamboat Springs Chamber. Do you think the public gets a good value for their investment?
A. No. The city should not be in marketing other than coordinating events and avoiding conflicts. Having two members of City Council as ex-officio members of the Chamber board is inappropriate as they become champions instead of public officials judging chamber proposals. If we also have council members on the Chamber as business owners or seated on committees, the influence becomes all the greater. The city already claims inadequate resources to fund the annual budget without adding property taxes but funds the chamber to over $800,000 annually. The result of that investment will presumably be more demand for city services and an even greater budget shortfall. The city is currently around 15,000 people and has, since 1970, doubled every 20 years on average. If the city grows to 60,000 in 40 years, water shortages will curtail growth. It would seem wiser to plan for a soft landing with that limit in mind.
Q. Routt County and Steamboat Springs continue to see growth, including the West Steamboat annexation recently approved by voters. What do you believe are the biggest issues the community will face as more people move here?
A. Affordable housing and transportation must be addressed. The annexation’s affordable homes may take years while the free market homes will increasingly be purchased by out-of-town buyers. This battle isn’t won. Transportation is breaking down. Our problems may pale compared to Denver Metro but a log jam from 13th Street to Angler’s Drive is unacceptable. Downtown Steamboat Springs has become a noisy, gritty experience. West Steamboat Springs is sprawling like Boulder with worse traffic problems. We are not sure how fast we’re growing. Our airport masterplan picks 1.1%, transportation plans say 1.8%, the water plan says 2%, we’ve averaged 3.5% since 1970 — 50 years — and have hit averages of 7% from 1970 to 1980. We could hit high rates again as people escape the East Coast and Florida, seeking our cool dry climate. Our greatest challenge may be realizing how fast we’ll grow and keeping up with city services.
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