Robert Galorath, a server in Steamboat, says more hotels would move tourists out of residences that should be used as long-term housing for the workforce.
Robert Galorath says he entered into the race for an At-Large seat on Steamboat Springs City Council because he felt like no one else was stepping up to run. It’s now the most crowded race on the ballot, with four candidates.
“Initially, I didn’t see a lot of people running and there’s a lot of issue facing the community that no one wants to tackle,” Galorath said. “I don’t have all the answers, but hopefully I can work with people who have all the answers and come up with the best solutions to meet the widest group of people.”
Galorath works as a server in town and said he feels that his experience would be valuable to have on council. He said Steamboat is becoming a place with the very wealthy and people of low income, and that the middle class is being squeezed out.
Galorath said the biggest issue facing Steamboat is housing, which has direct impacts to the community’s workforce. This is impacting small businesses the most, but larger businesses like Steamboat Resort are dealing with employment issues because of housing as well, Galorath said.
But when it comes to solving housing issues, Galorath does not believe the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch development is the answer. Council approved annexation of the Brown Ranch last week, without sending it to a public vote. Galorath says he feels it should go to a public vote. If it were to pass, he would then support the project.
“If the voters want Brown Ranch then I would more fully support Brown Ranch,” Galorath said.
Rather than needing to build more housing, Galorath notes that Steamboat already has a lot of housing, it is just often sitting vacant or being used to house tourists. If the city were to encourage more development of hotels, Galorath said he feels the market for short-term rentals could soften and more of these units would open up to be rented long-term.
“You can’t force people to do things, but if they got the tourists out of the houses and the condos and the multi-dwelling units and into hotels where they belong, the free market would allow people to move into these properties,” Galorath said.
Steamboat Council has discussed the idea of paying STR owners to rent their units long term but has yet to put together a formal proposal for how such a program would work. In other ski towns, similar programs have often been characterized as expensive, but effective.
In addition to building hotels, Galorath said Steamboat Resort should be doing more to build housing for the local workforce.
“They’re spending a couple $100 million with the new Gondola, skating rink, food house,” Galorath said, mentioning elements of the resort's Full Steam Ahead developments. “They need to build some dedicated Steamboat employee housing.”
Galorath said Steamboat should also be looking up and down valley to help with its housing issue and building a regional passenger train would make living in places like Oak Creek, Hayden or Craig even more viable. Referencing his experience with the train in Chicago, Galorath said the train would be safer in the winter than driving and would also probably be more reliable.
When it comes to transportation, Galorath said he would like to see the buses in Steamboat run later. This would support the tourists looking to stay downtown and have a safe ride home and the countless employees who work late shifts, he said. Council could pay for this additional service by charging a minimal fee for the bus, Galorath said.
“I don’t mind paying a quarter for the bus,” Galorath said. “If they could expand the hours and maybe the range a little bit, that would be great. Otherwise, service is pretty good, people should use it more.”
Galorath said he feels that the city should be putting more attention on developing geothermal infrastructure, especially in places where it could be used for snowmelts. Galorath said geothermal was “less invasive” and “not as ugly” when compared to wind or solar energy.
When it comes to taxes and the oft-discussed idea of instituting a property tax in Steamboat Springs, Galorath said he does feel it is odd there isn’t one already, but also was hesitant to say he would want to explore adding one.
“The more you tax, the more you spend, the bigger government gets,” Galorath said. “They really need to focus on how they spend the money before they start collecting new money.”