Tuesday, July 11, 2000
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs City Council rejected the idea Tuesday night of placing the future of the city's involvement in funding tourism marketing to a vote in the Nov. 7 general election. The vote was 4-2.
A majority of City Council members felt the public needs the benefit of more information before it can make an informed vote on the issue.
With City Council President Kevin Bennett absent to take care of family matters, Arianthtettner, Paul Strong, Kathy Connell and Bud Romberg all voted against putting some form of the question on this fall's ballot. Jim Engelken and Ken Brenner cast the dissenting votes. The vote came during a work session, not a public hearing.
Romberg, who made the motion against voting on the question this fall, said he has no problem with voters having their say about city dollars going to marketing, as long as he's reassured the voters have the knowledge they need to make an informed decision.
"If you ask for a response, I think you have an obligation to honor that response," he said. "To give a reasonable response, the voters have to be reasonably educated. I have no concerns (with a public vote) once the community becomes fully aware of all of the ramifications."
Romberg said he would like to wait until the results of an economic study commissioned by the city are known. That study by CSU professors Dr. Harvey Cutler of the Department of Economics, and Dr. Stephen Davies of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, will take an in-depth look at Steamboat's overall economy. The professors are charged with recommending a mix of revenue sources. Romberg said that's the kind of information the public needs before it can make an informed decision on the city's marketing involvement.
Brenner said, in his mind, it's not a question of whether or not there will be marketing, but who will pay for it. He noted that the experiment in 1984 to see if tourism could be revived by diverting the city vendor's fee to marketing, and matching it with some general fund dollars, proved to be very successful.
"I'm wondering if it isn't time for an experiment to see what less marketing would do," Brenner said. "I'm not opposed to entertaining the (ballot) question. I'm worried about whether we're prepared to follow through."
Brenner theorized that over time, the city and chamber's efforts at economic diversification could lead to reappropriation of marketing funds. He thinks a ballot question could stimulate public debate and and identify just where Steamboat's silent majority stands on the marketing issue.
Romberg said it's debatable whether local residents really pay for summer marketing through their tax dollars.
"If you expend $1 of taxpayers' money and get $3 back in terms of sales-tax income, then the question of who is paying for the marketing depends on how you look at it, Romberg said. "I would say the tourists are paying for marketing and the citizens of Steamboat Springs are reaping the benefit."
Engelken countered that Romberg's argument overemphasized mathematics at the expense of the impacts of tourism that cannot be measured with numbers.
"The problem with that," Engelken said, "is that there are too many intangibles intangibles effects on our quality of life. It's a philosophical debate versus a mathematical debate."
Engelken said there is no doubt in his mind how his constituents would vote, and he doesn't feel the need for the results of another study to go forward with a vote.
City Council President Pro Tem Connell said the debate over tourism marketing has to be more than philosophical:
"I have the equal number of constituents saying 'When are people going to wake up? We're not talking about more tourism, we're talking about keeping what we have.'"
Connell said she believes the decision belongs with City Council.
"We've got to do our own work," Connell said. "That's why we are elected. That's why we have a representative government. We need to do our homework and represent our constituents."
Strong said he believes that government taking proactive steps to protect the economic welfare of the community is both proper and commonplace all over the country.
Stettner concluded there was a lack of consensus on City Council and the time was not right to put the question to voters.
"It's premature to put this type of question on this fall's ballot," she said.
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail email@example.com