City Council District 3: Strong in line for presidency

The votes that will have the greatest impact on City Councilman Paul Strong's role in council most likely will come a week after the general election Nov. 4.

Strong is unopposed in his bid for a second, four-year term for the District III seat. About to end his two years as council pro tempore, Strong is in line for the council presidency.

At a candidate's forum in September, City Council President Kathy Connell said she would step down as president when her two-year term ended in November. She named Strong as the council member she would like to succeed her.

"Yes, I'm interested in it," Strong said. "But, I am concerned about the amount of time it takes."

The newly elected council will vote on a president and president pro tempore Nov. 11, the first council meeting after the election.

A 13-year Steamboat resident and certified public accountant, Strong first ran on concerns with the city's budget, saying more should be dedicated to capital improvement projects.

He is vice-chairman of the Area Plan Coordinating Committee and said one of his reasons for seeking a second term is to see the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update through its adoption.

A supporter of the city's propose 3.55-mill property tax, Strong said the tax would diversify the city's reliance on sales tax and include second homeowners in the revenue stream.

The tax, which would raise $1.3 million, also would increase fire and ambulance staffing, create a guaranteed and stable funding source for the fire and ambulance department and provide more funds for capital improvement projects and repairing infrastructure.

Because of the heavier burden a property tax would place on commercial owners rather than residential owners under the Gallagher Amendment, Strong said he would be hesitant to replace sales tax with property tax until changes are made to the state constitution.

Although Strong was on the losing side of a 4-3 vote in the council decision's to contribute $100,000 to a summer airline program, he strongly supports funding for tourism promotion.

Until the economy moves away from being primarily tourist-reliant, Strong said, the city would continue to rely on attracting tourists.

"Marketing Steamboat Springs keeps a large portion of our citizens employed, puts food on their tables and shelter over their heads," he said.

At Tuesday's meeting, Strong would have cast a yes vote if the request were closer to $50,000. Strong said he wanted first to see the chamber reach out to the business community for contributions to support the summer air program before asking for such a large sum.

Compared to other resort communities, Strong said, less is spent to bring tourists to Steamboat. He supports vendor fees, which since 1983 have required businesses give up their collection fees on city sales tax to support marketing through the chamber.

Vendor fees ensure contributions from businesses that are some of the biggest beneficiaries of tourism marketing but are not dues-paying members of the chamber, he said.

Strong is not a staunch supporter of growth caps but believes they should remain in the community plan's toolbox as a last resort for growth management. He said responses in community surveys and other community questionnaires supporting managed growth and the working group's inability to come to consensus indicate why a growth cap should be discussed. He disagreed with the council and the Routt County Commissioners' decision to take mechanisms that would control the rate and timing of growth out of the plan.

"I have said throughout the process, it is a community plan, not the elected and city officials' plan," Strong said.

Before a growth cap goes into effect, Strong said, it would have to go before the voters. He does worry that any attempt to control the rate of growth would drive up the cost of housing.

Strong supports a multijurisdictional housing authority and believes affordable housing is important to the community.

"Without providing housing for workers in our service-based economy, Steamboat Springs will lose that sense of community which makes us different from most other mountain resorts," he said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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