Editorials

Vail Daily column: A path forward for tests

January 27, 2015 — 

Last week, I wrote about some of the significant changes in the education policy landscape at the state and federal level which may result in some reduction in the number of mandated and standardized accountability tests that Colorado students are required to take.

In this column, I’ll discuss the theoretical framework (or big ideas) that led us into the testing system we currently have and I will suggest a path forward for policy makers in Colorado to consider.

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Vail Daily editorial: We’re ready

January 27, 2015 — 

It’s just about party time. The world is coming for a visit — the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships — and folks in the valley have spent years cleaning, primping and generally putting our best face forward for thousands of visitors.

Vail, which will host many, if not most of the Championships’ non-racing events, has done its usual spectacular job of making its entrances warm and welcoming this season in all-American red, white and blue.

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Vail Daily column: Does curiosity shape your life’s story?

January 24, 2015 — 

World War II code-breaker Alan Turing’s curiosity made his tomorrows more vital than his yesterdays. This mathematical genius’ story unfolds in the movie “The Imitation Game.”

In it, Turing runs laps around his laboratory peer group. His intellect proves threatening to some British military superiors. The film depicts Turing taking breaks from his top-secret think-tank. He loves to run all-out. As he sprints, Turing invents mind games about how to break the German’s secret code. Its puzzle aroused his curiosity to solve it.

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Vail Daily column: The Slush Cup

January 23, 2015 — 

After personally narrating my fourth annual feature-length ski film in Seattle in October 1953, my sponsor, Scott Osborne, suggested that I come up and film the Slush Cup on Mount Baker during the Fourth of July weekend the following summer. I was still very upset from having just lost my young wife to cancer of the spine. I told Scott I would be there if I could find a sitter for my son for the few days of the trip.

I certainly was not prepared for what the Northwest had to offer in photo opportunities with the first-of-its-kind in the world, Slush Cup. This was no build-a-pond with a bulldozer and a sheet of plastic and then fill it with water, but rather a genuine glacial pond full of 34-degree melted snow and floating icebergs that by the end of the day would also see many barely floating but really freezing skiers full of anti-freeze.

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Vail Daily column: Did Avon hear the voters?

January 22, 2015 — 

Avon’s voters just said no. Decisively. Unequivocally.

They didn’t say “no” to an arcane question of financing that might have made the Skier Building cheaper to buy.

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Vail Daily column: This might be your moment

January 22, 2015 — 

The year was 334 B.C., and 120 ships carrying around 75,000 men sped across the Hellespont (now known as the Dardanelles) into Persia. At the head of the army was a 22-year-old king who would forever change the cultural landscape of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and western Asia.

As the ships drifted into the sands of Persia, and the army readied itself on land, Alexander made a legendary strategic decision that has been mimicked and debated by millennia of warriors, leaders and modern executives.

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Vail Daily column: The road ahead for Vail

January 21, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.

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Vail Daily Hits and Misses

January 21, 2015 — 

Got a quick Hit or Miss about issues, decisions or goings-on in the valley? Send yours to editor@vaildaily.com to be included.

HIT: To Lindsey Vonn breaking the career mark for most World Cup wins last weekend. All she does is build on the legacy from here.

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Vail Daily column: Major shifts in testing

January 20, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a two-part piece on student testing.

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Vail Daily editorial: Let voters decide

January 20, 2015 — 

We expected more partisan discord in the Colorado Legislature this session, and it was quick to appear.

The Colorado House of Representatives is still controlled by Democrats, while the 2014 general election gave Republicans a bare majority in the Colorado Senate. The first issue to come up was, predictably, spending, specifically, the prospect of refunding money to state taxpayers for the 2015 tax year.

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Vail Daily column: Je suis befuddled

January 16, 2015 — 

I’ve thought about writing on this topic for some time now, but I was reticent to do so until a very dear friend sent me a copy of a letter he had written to the editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Tom and I frequently discuss politics and world events, and when he visits the valley, he’s even been known to voice his opinions right here on the pages of the Daily.

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Vail Daily column: Martin Luther King’s unpopular anti-war protest

January 16, 2015 — 

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King broke ranks with his closest civil rights advisors and the American public. Speaking in Manhattan from the Riverside Church’s pulpit on the explosive theme, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” King protested the war.

Many Americans were up-in-arms over King’s protest. They branded him a communist sympathizer whose message of peace was impractical and unpatriotic. King didn’t apologize for his unpopular anti-war stance. “I anticipated some of this (reaction against his anti-war protest),” King unflappably replied, “and it doesn’t bother me at all.”

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Vail Daily column: Will Avon politicians listen to the voters?

January 16, 2015 — 

With Tuesday’s vote looming, the “facts” in the Skier Building drama are now changing faster than we can keep up with them. Residents of Avon have been hearing about this issue since November, and no one seems to be any more enlightened than they were two months ago — myself included.

After reading two excellent pieces in Thursday’s paper (by Laurie Adler and Jack Hunn), I remembered a conversation I had with a council member just after the new year and felt compelled to share my own greatest concern: Does our vote even matter to begin with?

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Vail Daily column: I can see clearly now

January 16, 2015 — 

As you know from my previous column, I urge residents of Avon to vote “no” on the Skier Building referendum. My hope, and those of other concerned citizens, is that a “no” vote will lead the Town Council to abandon its plan to acquire the Skier Building. My previous column focused on the value of the Skier Building. It seems appropriate to now review a renovation of the existing Town Hall, drawing upon information contained in the executive session report to the Town Council from September, which is available online:

• Renovation of existing Town Hall: Quoting directly from the executive session report: “Cost estimates range from $2 million to $2.25 million for a complete renovation of the three floors (of the existing Town Hall) ... including a new HVAC system. ... The cost to renovate Town Hall versus finishing the Skier Building are comparable on a square foot basis.”

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Vail Daily column: Know the facts about the Skier Building

January 15, 2015 — 

Should Avon taxpayers approve the use of certificates of participation (Ordinance 14-17) to purchase the Skier Building?

Facts:

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Vail Daily column: Lots of concerns about Skier Building

January 15, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts.

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Vail Daily column: Why Avon should just say no

January 15, 2015 — 

Some of Avon’s leaders plainly are in a stampede to buy the Skier Building.

In their fever, they have:

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Vail Daily column: Why waste taxpayer money on purchase?

January 14, 2015 — 

It doesn’t matter how the Skier Building is financed — it is not a smart investment for Avon taxpayers. The town of Avon is using taxpayer money — without citizens’ approval — to buy a new costly Town Hall that is unnecessary and a waste of our money. There are too many unanswered questions and not enough transparent answers to justify this.

• Why did the town sign a purchase agreement for the Skier Building for $3.2 million with no parking when the town’s own appraiser valued it at $2 million with no parking?

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Vail Daily column: Vote ‘no’ on Skier Building

January 14, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.

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Our View: Town hall hardly a field of dreams

January 13, 2015 — 

Avon officials and others express enthrallment with the notion that town halls bring life to downtowns. After all, residents do come to Town Hall on occasion. Some do business they still don’t feel comfortable completing online or prefer human contact with municipal officials. Sometimes more than a handful will attend council and planning commission meetings.

Not like a grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant, movie theater or rec center, of course. Or a popular retail store, like, say, Sports Authority. Or even a library.

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Vail Daily column: Partners in kids’ education

January 13, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: This column was co-authored by John McMurty, director of development at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Vail Daily column: No more time for tolerance

January 13, 2015 — 

“We have avenged the prophet!” shouted the delusional mass murderers in Paris last week.

Yeah, well, now reality has avenged the rest of us from your cold corpses.

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Vail Daily column: Sound wall would benefit residents

January 11, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: The following is Part 2 of a two-part report from the Vail Homeowners Association. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.

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Vail Daily column: Bounce back when on the ropes

January 11, 2015 — 

Former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali became a dangerous fighter when his plight in the ring turned dire. He feigned losing the bout by backpedaling from his onrushing opponent and leaning on the ropes. Ali’s forearms covered his midsection. Gloves pushed together protected his face.

Then his opponent unleashed a flurry of punches. Few connected to Ali’s gut or head, where they could register serious damage. Ali countered with an occasional jab, conserving his strength. He called his defense “peek-a-boo,” because he eyed the opponent between gloves bunched around his face.

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Vail Daily column: Clock is ticking on underpass project

January 9, 2015 — 

Editor’s note: The following is Part 1 of a two-part report from the Vail Homeowners Association. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. Visit www.vailhomeowners.com for he electronic version with links to supporting documents.

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Vail Daily column: A life reclaimed

January 9, 2015 — 

In the mid-1950s, there was a Sun Valley ski patrolman featured in my annual ski film. I had movies of him rocketing straight down the Christmas Bowl Ridge towing a toboggan. After the audience got used to his high speed, I casually mentioned that he only had one leg.

I was very surprised the next morning when the telephone rang in my Utah hotel room and it was a man named Ed Siegel who wanted to take me to lunch. I have a reputation for never passing up a free meal and at lunch at explained two things: One, he had lost his leg just below the knee when had broken his leg skiing and, two, as a chronic alcoholic, it led to him not taking care of his broken leg and as a result it had to be amputated below the knee.

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Vail Daily column: Avon’s ‘facts’ keep shifting

January 8, 2015 — 

The town of Avon’s “Fact Sheet” about the Skier Building referendum this month has changed. Facts asserted before were not in fact, facts.

You have to wonder. If town leaders have this much trouble with a “fact sheet,” how thorough have they been with, in lawyer’s parlance, the true facts of their bid to buy the Skier Building?

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Vail Daily column: Values matter in Avon

January 7, 2015 — 

When I was growing up, my parents always taught me that values matter. Two of those values were telling the whole truth and being honest with one’s self and others. I believe that these values are lacking in the town of Avon’s potential acquisition of The Skier Building. My points are as follows:

• The Skier Building does not have adequate parking to meet current zoning requirements. The town’s appraisal stated that the value of The Skier Building without the requisite parking was $2 million. Eric Heil, the town’s attorney, wrote in a Sept. 18 memo to the town that “it should be noted that the town is the only potential buyer of The Skier Building, which can meet parking requirements off site, at this time.” This statement acknowledges that the building lacks value without parking; that is, no third-party investor would be able to purchase the building for commercial use if he or she did not also purchase parking rights from the seller’s associated project. Yet the town wants to pay $3.2 million, which its own appraiser stated was the value of the building with parking. Might voters and attendees of the town meetings on The Skier Building have had a different view if they were privy to the town lawyer’s memos on the parking issue? Is it correct that an arm’s length, third-party investor should have to live with a parking requirement, but the town can simply waive this requirement for itself?

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Vail Daily column: Great board makes for great schools

January 6, 2015 — 

More than 200 years ago, the first school boards were established in Massachusetts as the importance and complexity of governing school organizations grew. Today, an overwhelming majority of school systems in the United States (as well as ours here in Eagle County) are governed by locally elected boards of education.

Key principles of democracy are built into how school boards are structured and operate. Typically (although there are lots of exceptions), boards are made up of individuals chosen to represent different geographic districts (sometimes called precincts or wards in some states). While board members are elected to represent their geographic area, the board only has power when a majority of its members vote together. This design is intentional as it creates a system where board members are attentive to the needs of the area they represent but have to collaborate and work together for the good of the whole community.

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Vail Daily editorial: ‘Psst Avon, we’ve got a bridge to sell you’

January 6, 2015 — 

Let’s tackle an arcane topic. Let’s talk property appraisals.

The town of Avon and the owners of the Skier Building, which the town intends to purchase, each had appraisals done on the building.

The town’s appraiser did a pretty thorough job, looking at the building in all three means of determining its value on the market.

Here in summary is how it works, according to the website Mortgage 101:

1. The cost approach. “Estimate what it would cost to replace or reproduce the improvements as of the date of the appraisal, less the physical deterioration, the functional obsolescence and the economic obsolescence. The remainder is added to the land value.”

2. The comparison approach. Compare “benchmark properties of similar size quality and location that have been recently sold” to the subject property.

3. The income approach, for commercial properties. “This approach provides an objective estimate of what a prudent investor would pay based upon the net income the property produces.”

4. “Then, after thorough analysis of all general and specific data gathered from the market, a final estimate or opinion of value is correlated.”

The building’s owners, not surprisingly, used only the one method most advantageous to their position as sellers, the “replacement cost.” They loaded in such extras as a $75,000 statue, architectural fees and their profit in a sale. Really, it was little more than a statement of worth to them rather than a true appraisal. The document was a “limited appraisal report.” Think “cheese food” or “cherry flavoring.”

Why would they do this? Well, to drive up the perception of value as much as possible as a negotiation tactic. Of course.

Never mind that the building has sat empty for 11 years because it never could sell, and no one other than the town is looking to buy it now.

The mayor hails the owner’s appraisal as independent, implying that it must also have been objective and comprehensive for the town to take it so seriously.

Let’s be kind here. That’s not what professionals in the business of appraisals or evaluating appraisals say.

Even lay people can recognize this for what it really is — part of the dance to get the best price possible if the buyers fall for it.

They did. They’ll overspend for the property by at least a million dollars and pay what the lone objective appraisal found to be worth $3.2 million if the building’s underground parking were included. It’s not.

Appraisals aside, how much is a building without parking worth on the market, really?

The town alone can break its own rules and use town property next door to the Skier Building for parking, then wave a wand and declare that they have enough in the area required for the building. They wouldn’t do that for another buyer of the property.

They’ll also break their own rules requiring the ground floor to be all retail. A government-owned building can set aside only 10 percent for such private use.

So the building would not really be used for what the town has long intended, would it?

On the selling price alone, Avon’s voters should just say no in the mail-in referendum, which ends Jan. 20.

And the new council needs to remove its blinders so that the town can properly think this through, while truly engaging the public. It’s not too late, but they’ll need to let go of a certain amount of ego and buyer’s fever before that becomes remorse for everyone.

Stewardship, after all, takes in a bit more than blithe comments about not needing to raise taxes. The council has a genuine obligation to be smart with the public’s dollars it does spend.

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