At-large council candidate says leadership experience will help solve Steamboat’s problems
Steve Muntean says Steamboat is paradise, but it needs to tackle challenges to stay that way
Candidate Steve Muntean strongly believes that a position on Steamboat Springs City Council is a nonpartisan role and it needs to stay that way.
In his mind, the question should always come back to “What is in the best interest of Steamboat?”
“What serves this community, what’s in our best interest?” Muntean asked rhetorically. “I have the passion. I have a ton of background experience to address the challenges we face using a common-sense solution … I believe the future of Steamboat is bright.”
Muntean has been a partner in a leadership development company for more than 35 years and works with organizations (including at times local government) to create a vision for the future and identify initiatives and strategies to achieve that vision. He said this experience in increasing team effectiveness would be an asset on Council.
Muntean and his wife first came to Ski Town, USA to visit about 30 years ago before buying a townhome locally just over a decade ago. For them, they fell in love with Steamboat because it was an authentic Western town.
“It’s paradise as far as I’m concerned,” Muntean said.
Yet, he admits there are challenges. One of those key challenges for Muntean is demographics — specifically a declining number of residents locally that are between 25 and 45 years old. That decline comes with a corresponding increase in older residents above 65.
Muntean says he couldn’t afford to move to Steamboat Springs now, with building costs over $1,000 per square foot and rental units going for more than $3,000 a month for 1,000 square feet of space.
“I’ve talked to a number of the younger folks in town who say they can’t ever envision owning a home here,” Muntean said. “We do have an affordable housing challenge and we must address that and Brown Ranch is a big part of that solution.”
One of the biggest problems with Brown Ranch currently, Muntean said isn’t necessarily the plan but the community’s understanding of it. As it now appears a public annexation vote may not happen until summer 2024, Muntean said council needs to put together a sound plan that is easy to understand and then take steps to properly educate the community on that plan.
“Get them to weigh in, address their concerns and get rid of this state of confusion and have total clarity and transparency,” Muntean said. “I think we have created a lot of confusion since this process started.”
Muntean expressed frustration about the so-called capital gap and the lack of understanding around what it actually is. City staff estimate that gap is around $50 million worth of capital project costs allocated to the city that doesn’t currently have identified funding, but Muntean says exactly what that money pays for is unclear to the community. (He added that the $1.35 million per acre to build community parks seems like a “substantial amount of money,” and should be further explored.)
But when it comes to how the city raises money, Muntean says he feels that sales tax has been a successful way for the city to raise money for a long time and that residents don’t have much appetite for something different like a property tax. Instead, Muntean said the city needs to put its focus on shoring up the current sales tax system.
“If there’s a shortage of workers, then people aren’t going to buy the same amount of goods and services that they would otherwise,” Muntean said. “Those things hurt the city’s revenue from a sales tax standpoint, so we need to look at ways of shoring up this worker shortage, which will impact positively our sales tax collections.”
When it comes to the Climate Action Plan, Muntean said is supportive of the overall plan and feels the biggest emphasis should be placed in the transportation and energy sectors. He said geothermal heating is a technology that should be explored where appropriate. As for snowmelt, there are areas where it is needed for safety, but it can be excessive when considering the emissions.
When talking transportation, Muntean said he is very supportive of the idea of passenger rail, but that is a solution in the intermediate term. In the meantime, he wants more robust transit between Craig, Hayden, Steamboat and Oak Creek similar to the system in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“The average person who comes here from Craig and works five days a week spends somewhere between $400 and $500 a month on gasoline,” Muntean said, adding that better transit could ease these costs for them, reduce emissions and lessen road congestion. “If you could come up with a really good bus system that they could utilize, think about the amount of money they could save there.”
Top Photo Caption: Steve Muntean is one of four candidates running for the at-large seat on Steamboat Springs City Council. (Steve Muntean/Courtesy)