Steamboat Springs City Council candidates weigh in on several city issues at forum

Scott Franz
Steamboat Springs City Council candidates speak during an election forum Wednesday night hosted by Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.
Scott Franz

— The 11 candidates running for Steamboat Springs City Council took center stage at the Chief Theater on Wednesday to explain why they should be the ones tasked with hiring a new city manager, helping restore confidence in the police department, guiding affordable housing policies and fixing downtown parking problems.

An audience of more than 60 turned out to learn more about where the candidates stand on city issues, ranging from a potential lift ticket tax to downtown parking.

The sight of the largest council candidate field in recent history under the spotlight speaking to a large audience highlighted the level of interest in this year’s council election.

“We have an amazing slate of candidates,” moderator Tracy Barnett said after opening statements and introductions were made. “We’ll see how it all folds out.”

Many of the candidates expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the current council and said it was time for fresh ideas.

“I think we’re at a crossroads here,” candidate Michael Shaler said. “The disfunction of the last couple years needs to be fixed, and I want to be part of that.”

Rich Levy said the current council has kicked the can on affordable housing policy, adding it’s time for a new council to make decisions.

The candidates also explained what skills they would bring to the job.

Patrick Slowey, a teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, said his 29-year career as an army officer has prepared him well to sit at the dais and solve problems.

Robin Crossan said she helped restore the public’s trust in the school board when she was first elected to that body eight years ago and she could do the same on the council.

Candidate Michael Buccino said, as an interior designer, he has the skills to solve other people’s problems.

Jason Lacy said his many years as chairman of the planning commission, combined with his financial background, would be a boon to the council.

Tim Kirkpatrick, former owner of Steamboat Flyfisher, said he would be the guy to help build consensus.

Kathi Meyer touted her record of conducting the public’s business in public and her 15 years on the planning commission.

Chuck McConnell, a retired chemical engineer who has experience managing small businesses, vowed to bring leadership and experience — which he said he feels has been lacking in recent years — to the council.

And Erin Walker, a development director at Strings Music Festival and one of the youngest candidates on the stage, said it was time to bring fresh perspectives to the council.

At the forum, hosted by Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, the candidates found common ground on several issues.

Most acknowledged access to workforce housing is currently the biggest challenge for local employers.

The candidates expressed support for the current council’s plan to invest millions of dollars in downtown infrastructure in the coming years.

And they all expressed concern about a downtown parking problem.

But asked to weigh in on a possible lift ticket tax to fund the local transit system and parking improvements, the candidates began differentiating themselves from one another.

Candidate Heather Sloop, a community affairs and regulatory manager at Southwestern Energy, expressed support for such a tax.

She said it would be shortsighted not to partner with the mountain to fix a downtown parking problem.

About half the other candidates were leery of the tax or opposed to the idea.

Buccino said the city could find other methods of solving the parking and transit funding problems.

Lacy, Buccino’s opponent, said the city should keep all options on the table and that he would consider such a tax if there were a clear plan outlining how the funds would be spent.

The candidates are scheduled to appear at a number of other forums in the coming weeks, including the First Impressions forum at 11:30 a.m. September 23 in the Commissioners Hearing Room.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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