Q&A with Jason Lacy, candidate for Steamboat Springs City Council, 2-year at-large seat
Brief bio: Jason Lacy is married to his wife of 14 years, Dervla, and he is the proud father of three boys between the ages of 8 and 2. He was raised in a small town in western Kentucky where he attended Murray State University and received his degree in accounting with summa cum laude honors. After working as a CPA for a few years, Jason attended law school at the University of Louisville where he graduated magna cum laude. Following several visits to Steamboat Springs to ski over the years, Lacy and his wife felt the “curse of the Yampa Valley” and moved here permanently in 2007. All three of his children were born in Steamboat Springs. Lacy has served on the Steamboat Springs City Council for the past four years, including two years as president pro-tem, and he is currently finishing a two-year stint as president. He is a founding partner of Steamboat Lawyers Group where he focuses his legal practice on wills, trusts and probate, various real estate matters and representation in business and corporate matters. Community service has been an important part of Lacy’s life since moving to Steamboat Springs over a decade ago as he has taken on leadership roles in numerous nonprofit and civic organizations, including the city of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, Routt County United Way, Yampa Valley Autism Program, STARS, Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board, Seminars at Steamboat and First Impressions of Routt County. In his spare time, which is rare, Lacy enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking and spending time with his family.
Q. Why are you running for Steamboat Springs City Council?
A. I am running for city council because I am passionate about public service, and I would like to help finish some of the work that we have started over the past four years. During this term on City Council, I am proud to say that we have been able to accomplish some big things including the combined law enforcement facility, downtown improvements and the West Steamboat annexation. Over the next two years, I hope to expand fire/EMS services, finalize planning and installation of a new lift at Howelsen Hill and continue to expand the city’s focus on comprehensive sustainability efforts on all fronts, including environmental and fiscal issues. I learned growing up in a small community that serving others is a core value that I will always prioritize, and I would be honored to serve for two more years with my fellow council members.
Q. What are the three greatest challenges facing the city of Steamboat Springs?
A. The three greatest challenges are all interrelated, and they are: 1) finding ways to meet increased demands on core city services while maintaining quality of those services, 2) maintaining the community character of Steamboat Springs and 3) finding a way to pay for these issues. Overall demand for services across all departments continues to increase due to growth — from tourists and residents — including parks and recreation, transit, roads/traffic, police and fire/EMS. While sales tax receipts have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, the growth in sales tax will likely not keep up with demand for additional services. Increased community growth makes it difficult to maintain that “community character” and tight-knit community feel that Steamboat has always had. Not surprisingly, all of these concerns create a struggle with balancing how to pay for these issues and thereby maintain the high quality of life that we enjoy.
Q. Would you consider pursuing a property tax to fund general city services?
A. I would consider it only when I have strong indications from the community that it is ready for this change and if sales tax relief is provided to lower-income households. City staff has provided long-term forecast models indicating the difficulty in maintaining current service levels based on sales tax alone within the next three to five years. We are one of the few Colorado cities that does not receive property tax funding. This worked well for decades as visitors paid a higher share of sales tax. Now, the locals actually account for 60% to 65% of sales tax collections. Notably, the lack of diversification of city revenues is hindering longer-term investment in several areas including important capital projects and enhanced service levels. But, per the 2017 community survey, locals do not appear ready to add a general fund property tax, and if we ever get to such point, I would push to provide sales tax relief for lower-income households.
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. I would only consider this if the deal is structured appropriately. First, the potential financial benefit for the city should be enough to offset the foregone revenues of a lift tax. The city should also maintain ownership of Howelsen Hill and city employees should retain their jobs. I would also keep Ski Free Sundays in place as these key community events allow everyone to celebrate our heritage. Finally, I would make sure that the deal is structured to provide for a continued good working relationship with the Winter Sports Club. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has strong expertise in facilities management, food/beverage and marketing that could provide some good year-round opportunities. I am open to exploring any viable community partnership, however it must be in the best interest of citizens of Steamboat Springs. Finding ways to better invest in Howelsen Hill is imperative to its long-term future success.
Q. What climate action/environmental protection strategies do you believe the city should adopt or support?
A. I believe that we should build on the momentum of the current council’s success whereby we updated the energy code, implemented the plastic bag ban, added more hybrid buses and continued our water conservation efforts. The city and county are currently finalizing a greenhouse gas emission study, and this should be the impetus to work on a comprehensive climate action plan with other community partners. We also need to start implementing key sections of the Waste Diversion Strategic Plan, which was recently adopted by both the city and Routt County. A renewed focus on our historic preservation program will help with reuse of building materials and ensure better protection of our historical assets. I will also continue to push for updated waterbody setback standards to help provide more protection to our important water resources. Lastly, we should allow for more alternate-mode transportation by supporting increased bike lanes and Yampa River Core Trail extension.
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 city has been working on numerous transit-related projects during my council term. We started conversations with Routt County, the Town of Hayden and other partners on various concepts including regional transit authority and ride-sharing programs. I support expanded bus service to Craig and Hayden as part of the draft 2020 city budget. I support road improvements in West Steamboat as we see increased traffic due to community growth, including West Steamboat Neighborhoods annexation and the proposed new school. We will continue to collect fees from developers and seek CDOT/other federal grants to assist in these projects as new dollars are necessary to allow for this necessary infrastructure expansion. Additionally, funding the Core Trail extension west so that these neighborhoods can better connect to the trail system is critical. Finally, we should continue our current transit routes and add more as areas of Steamboat Springs are developed.
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. The Steamboat Springs Chamber provides important services for marketing Steamboat and at a much lower price tag than other peer communities, which typically fund marketing efforts at between three to seven times the amount we invest. The Chamber team makes efficient use of the dollars through numerous marketing channels, and in my view, provides good value. I understand that tourism brings some issues that impact quality of life such as more traffic, less available parking and more demands for other services. However, it is important to realize that many of the amenities and businesses that we enjoy year-round can only exist with the additional support from visitor dollars. Importantly, the city is currently working with the Chamber on alternative funding for marketing that would reduce or remove this from the general fund, and special event funding is now geared toward “off-peak” times outside of July and August to help alleviate the strain of busier weeks.
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. The biggest issues the community will face are all interrelated, and I think they can be summarized as: 1) balancing growth and quality of life and 2) finding ways to meet cost of living challenges. It’s no secret that Steamboat Springs is an amazing place to live and that means more people will continue to move here and visit. We need to keep a focus on programs and policies that keep our authentic community intact and thriving. Most pressing are the cost of living issues, which will continue to challenge our ability to maintain a diverse mix of people across different demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly in regard to affordable housing, childcare and health care costs. The cost for these items is high everywhere, but in Steamboat Springs we are at the upper end of the state and national scale. As more people move here and demand rises for these items, pricing pressure will inevitably follow.
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