Vail Daily column: Are you ready to take the lead?

June 24, 2016 — 

As a participant in the Vail Valley Partnership’s Next Vail Valley program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of the Vail Valley’s most recognized and established business leaders. What did we talk about? You guessed it, leadership. Well, leadership and their secret to success (the secret sauce that any over-achieving professional wants to know), as well as their commitment to, vision for, and involvement in shaping the Vail Valley.

Each meeting has been a unique experience. Each of the local leaders had their own personal style and approach to answering questions and providing leadership, friendship and mentoring.

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Vail Daily column: Time for Trump to put up or shut up

June 23, 2016 — 

Donald Trump should put his money where his mouth is.

The real estate mogul says he’s worth “in excess” of $10 billion. I think he’s lying, as does pretty much every expert and financial journalist who has looked into the question. Forbes has put his net worth at $4.5 billion. Bloomberg says it’s below $3 billion. Billionaire Mark Cuban has cast doubt on whether Trump is even a billionaire at all.

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Old problem, new solutions?

June 21, 2016 — 

Housing may be the Vail Valley’s oldest problem. That problem right now may be as bad, or worse, than it’s ever been.

If you aren’t buying a second home, you know exactly how hard it is right now to buy or rent a place. Rentals are particularly tricky, especially since the easy-money allure of internet vacation rentals has taken a number of units out of the long-term rental pool.

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Vail Daily column: Spin doctors ruling the airwaves

June 20, 2016 — 

Why do so many groups waste our time attempting to put positive spins on such negative situations?

I mean, seriously, what is the actual point?

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Vail Daily column: Paying their fair share

June 20, 2016 — 

A good slogan is a clever way of getting into someone’s head — and potentially staying there. A good, catchy slogan can make or break a business advertising campaign or a presidential political campaign, e.g., “Just do it!” — Nike; “Have it your way” — Burger King; “Hope and Change” — Barack Obama, 2008; “Paying their fair share.” – the bogus liberal media.

“Just do it” gives one the sense of taking charge. “Have it your way” makes the consumer the center of attention. “Hope and Change” offered a sense of optimism. “Paying their fair share” is a statement with no redeeming value and that does little more than promote class warfare.

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Vail Daily column: Millennials give churches a cold shoulder

June 19, 2016 — 

Millennials born between 1990 and 1996 agree with Winston Churchill, who was cool toward organized Christianity. Asked why he wasn’t an Anglican Church member, Churchill responded that his relationship to the church reflected a Gothic cathedral’s flying buttresses. Support comes from outside.

A 2015 Pew Research Center report on sharp declines in religious affiliation found only 56 percent of Millennials identify with Christian organizations. That’s a mammoth loss of potential church members compared to previous generations. This trend of avoiding church-going “is big, it’s broad, and it’s everywhere,” observes Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religious research. In contrast, 70 percent of Generation X, 78 percent of Baby Boomers, and 85 percent of Americans born between 1928 and 1945 had positive views of organized religion.

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Vail Daily column: Cobell's casualties

June 17, 2016 — 

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts. The first part appeared in Friday’s Vail Daily.

“We knew about the problem, of course, but it was so enormous,” John Echohawk, soft-spoken Boulder attorney and founder of the Native American Rights Fund recalled. “No one ever got serious about pursuing it.”

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Vail Daily column: Tough path ahead

June 17, 2016 — 

Last week, a policy fight related to how struggling students should be counted and used in rating schools broke out at the state level, pitting education professionals on one side against education reform and civil rights groups on the other. The heart of the argument was technical and wonky in nature, but provides some insight and a preview of fights ahead as Colorado (and other states) decides how it will navigate a new federal landscape which allows much more state-level flexibility.

In this particular case, the issue involved the state accountability system – which is used to keep track of how students are doing and then acknowledge or punish schools and districts according to the results. The old federal law, No Child Left Behind, required fairly detailed reporting on different student sub-groups, such as race, disability and language status.

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Vail Daily column: Hillary Clinton: The most qualified?

June 17, 2016 — 

“Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” — Frank Sinatra, as Maj. Bennett Marco.

“His brain has not only been washed, as they say. ... It has been dry-cleaned.” — Khigh Dhiegh, as Dr. Yen Lo.

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Vail Daily column: Fighting for gun control

June 15, 2016 — 

In the 163 days since Jan. 1, there have been 176 mass shootings in the United States. For the record, I believe that hunters and adults should have the ability to own some types of guns. What I am not blind to is that the National Rifle Association wants people to think that the 2nd Amendment was written to protect their rights.

The amendment is only 27 words: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” While the NRA emphasizes only the last 14 words, the U.S. Supreme Court and appeals courts have focused on “well-regulated militia” and “security of a free state” to rule that Second Amendment rights are reserved to states and their militias — nowadays, the National Guard.

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Good problem to have

June 14, 2016 — 

The news last week that promoters were pulling the plug on a proposed three-day festival in Vail in August of 2017 was sudden, but, in retrospect, not much of a surprise.

After it was first mentioned in a public meeting in late April, the proposed Kaaboo festival quickly raised the attention of Vail residents. And despite a relatively quick trip to a recommendation from the Vail Commission on Special Events, it soon became obvious that the town wouldn’t issue a special use permit for Ford Park in June, as first requested. After a bit more discussion — and many emails to town council members and other officials — it quickly became apparent that there was no way the Vail Town Council would vote on the permit, even by the board’s second meeting in July, as promoters had requested.

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Vail Daily column: The sneezing days of summer

June 13, 2016 — 

“I’ve never seen it this hot this early in the summer before!”

Yes, you have.

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Vail Daily column: So now you know

June 12, 2016 — 

If a chicken is hatched from an egg, then where does the egg come from? Presumably the egg comes from a chicken, but that begs the question of where did the egg come from in the first place?

Attempting to ascertain the first cause of a circular cause and consequence problem regarding the natural world is an exercise in futility, unless of course the individual’s belief system involves the Garden of Eden and all the living things a divine being put there.

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Vail Daily column: Evangelicals charge Trump's Christianity is corrupt

June 12, 2016 — 

Hurling verbal fire-bombs at Donald Trump, evangelical leader Russell Moore scorched the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for corrupting Christianity.

Moore, head of the Southern Baptists Conventions’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, believes Trump practices a vindictive faith. It lacks gracious Christian virtue. Trump substitutes arrogance for Christ’s humility. His muscular faith sounds merciless against Islamic and Mexican refugees, in addition to his women-hating barbs.

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Vail Daily column: Positive prevention

June 10, 2016 — 

In the early ’90s the world gasped when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. At that time, this diagnosis meant a death sentence. It was an unfathomable and heart-wrenching diagnosis. AIDS organizations were sprouting up nationwide to help deal with the impending epidemic but it wasn’t until 1996 that Eagle County stepped in. Prior, there wasn’t any conversation, prevention, education or community support.

In April 1996 a small group of locals, led by two East Coast recent-college graduates, met at the Avon Public Library to discuss forming an HIV and AIDS support group. By August, the Red Ribbon Project was born, with the mission to provide awareness, education and support around HIV and AIDS. I’ve been honored to be part of this organization since its inception.

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Vail Daily column: Use it or lose it?

June 10, 2016 — 

The “use it or lose it” feature of Colorado water law is often blamed for discouraging farmers and ranchers from taking efficiency and conservation measures that could benefit the environment or ease the supply and demand imbalance on the Colorado River. However, a report released in February by the Colorado Water Institute argues that misinterpretations of the law are a bigger disincentive than the law itself.

The report was developed as a result of in-depth discussions by a panel of stakeholders and experts that included Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolfe, who directs the office that administers water rights. Wolfe presented the report at a forum on the future of irrigated agriculture in Delta on May 3, and Colorado River District Counsel Peter Fleming presented the report at the Mesa County State of the River meeting in Grand Junction on May 13.

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Vail Daily column: Trump fights back

June 9, 2016 — 

If there is one explanation for Donald Trump’s success it is this: Unlike most Republicans, he fights back. He may not have the late Muhammad Ali’s finesse, but he sees himself as more than capable of dealing a knockout punch to Hillary Clinton in November. That ought to be the goal of any GOP presidential nominee.

During an interview in his Trump Tower office Monday, I asked about his temperament, a subject often raised by critics. Hillary Clinton recently said he shouldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes and that he is so thin-skinned he might start a war.

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Vail Daily column: Learning never stops

June 7, 2016 — 

“A culture of learning” — that’s one of the organizational values espoused by Eagle County Schools and it means that we believe learning never stops and that we must intentionally create a culture that’s about personal and academic growth for everyone in the community, especially our students.

A culture of learning doesn’t take the summer off either, and neither does this community and its kids. Sure, there is time for road (and float) trips and backyard barbecues, but an abundance of learning opportunities exists for our community in the summer months.

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Vail Daily editorial: Here's a good idea

June 7, 2016 — 

High-profile politicians from both parties in Colorado last week launched a petition drive in hopes of asking voters to make the state’s constitution harder to amend. That’s a worthwhile effort.

Colorado’s constitution now is easy to amend. That’s why we end up with big items and small enshrined not in state statute but in the hard-to-repeal corners of the state’s founding document.

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Vail Daily column: Trying to understand real reasons

June 6, 2016 — 

Are you one of those who is convinced Donald Trump is a thin-skinned whiny little kitten in an empty suit, or are you one of the type who believes he is the savior of our country?

How about Hillary Clinton?

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Vail Daily column: Why we live in the valley

June 6, 2016 — 

This morning I was tasked with going up on Beaver Creek Mountain to unlock Spruce Saddle for the day. On the way, I was greeted by a herd of 12 deer, a half dozen elk and a view looking down on the Gore Range below a beautiful, cloudless, bluebird day.

That got me to thinking of why I have spent the last 35 years of my life here. Many times it has not been easy living in this valley. The cost of living is high, sitting in traffic on Interstate 70 during a winter snowstorm can be frustrating, and surviving the annual onslaught of tourists can be endless source of frustration, amusement and amazement. But those days are the balancing factors for the mornings like this. After spending well over half my life here, I still had to stop and take some pictures of this glorious morning.

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Vail Daily column: Keeping agreements

June 5, 2016 — 

After stepping down as CEO of a mid-sized Denver company nearly 20 years ago, I assumed the mostly titular position of chairman. However, there was one aspect of that position I thoroughly enjoyed — administering our college intern program.

The other day I was cleaning out old paper files that accumulated over the years. I decided to create PDF documents and to transfer the material to my computer. It was quite a retrospective to look back 10, 20 and 30 years and view my business career from a very different perspective. In many ways, it was like traveling back in a time machine.

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Vail Daily column: Why millennials skip church

June 4, 2016 — 

Blame late-arriving babies as the primary reason their Millennial parents, born between 1981 and 1989, don’t fill church pews. The decline in church attendance directly relates to couples who push child-bearing to the biological limit.

Millennials have children much later than when parents and grandparents started families. Back then, dating couples married shortly after high school graduations. Or, lucky students attended college, which also served as a match-making marriage mill. Couples who completed college then got jobs.

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Vail Daily column: Snoop Dogg is right

June 3, 2016 — 

My musical tastes do not include rap and hip-hop, but when Snoop Dogg comments on the “Roots” remake, saying he is tired of movies about slavery and would prefer a series “about the success that black folks are having,” he is singing my song.

The original “Roots” drew a phenomenal 130 million viewers when it aired on ABC in 1977. The remake, now playing on The History Channel, will probably draw far fewer viewers, just because it is on cable and most are familiar with the storyline. The filmmakers apparently are targeting a younger generation.

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Vail Daily column: We can't afford Hillary

June 2, 2016 — 

An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Douglas E. Schoen, once a political adviser and pollster for President Bill Clinton, explained at length how Hillary Clinton might not end up as the Democratic nominee for president. What he didn’t say, and should have, was that she should not be elected president under any circumstances. We simply cannot afford for her to be the one taking the oath of office next January. Let me explain.

You are probably expecting me to bang on here about how flawed a candidate Clinton is based on her history of extremely poor decision making and numerous scandals, and then go on about how her negatives are as high as Donald Trump’s. I don’t need to go there because there are numerous op-eds out there doing just that, serving as prime red meat for her many detractors, who would seemingly even vote for Trump rather than see her in the White House. Then there is the ongoing FBI investigation. You can get all the background on that from what has been written by the State Department inspector general, a President Barack Obama appointee. It has been reported on at length in the media and there are any number of pundits out there discussing the subject.

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Vail Daily column: Working to combat the Zika virus

June 2, 2016 — 

Recently, the Zika virus has been elevated to a pandemic by the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control has called the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The virus, which often causes no symptoms or mild symptoms in most adults, can lead to serious conditions including paralysis caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome. Of more concern to many families is the link to birth defects in newborns. Pregnant women who contract Zika may have children born with microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected that can lead to developmental disorders.

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Vail Daily column: Festival too big for Vail?

June 2, 2016 — 

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt 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. Also, regarding parking: KAABOO organizers are promising out-of-town parking with shuttle bus service to the festival site. The Vail Town Council won’t vote on the proposal until at least July 19.

There will be major costs to produce an event of the KAABOO magnitude. If the past is prologue, as in the recent FIS Ski Championships, then one could easily imagine production costs in the millions. Are the promoters and the Vail Valley Foundation going to cover those costs? To get immediate approval, they claim they are, but are they willing to agree to abandon their plans if costs exceed their ability? Or, later on, will they ask the town of Vail to contribute? And will a town of Vail contribution to such an event require foregoing other expenditures and/or capital improvements?

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Vail Daily column: 20 years of aiding locals

June 2, 2016 — 

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund will be 20 years old this September. In those 20 years, we have given grants in excess of $8 million and have aided more than 1,800 families in our community. We have helped your friends and neighbors, your loved ones, people you likely know and care about.

The hardships, however, never end and the needs are often more than we can fully address. While we can help, too often, we cannot fix the suffering that has knocked so desperately at our door.

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Vail Daily column: Home ownership is within reach for many

June 1, 2016 — 

We all realize it will take many years for government sponsored workforce housing projects to provide an adequate number of home ownership opportunities for individuals, couples and families in Eagle County who are anxious to move on from being chronic renters. For that reason, I constantly monitor the availability of the local Multiple Listing Service listings at the lower end of the county’s real estate price range on behalf of first time homebuyers.

Let’s define “starter home” as having these characteristics: the residence offers at least two bedrooms and 800 square feet of living space; it is priced between $275,000 and $425,000; and monthly homeowner association fees are $350 or less.

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Vail Daily column: Patience best path for now

May 31, 2016 — 

Recently, the Obama administration, in a joint letter from the departments of Justice and Education, issued guidance to public schools on the rights of transgender students, particularly around which restrooms or changing facilities those students should use.

The guidance indicates that a student’s treatment aligns with his or her gender identity “when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records.”

More directly, the guidance unambiguously means that schools should treat students according to the gender they currently identify with, be that male or female — at least according to the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal civil rights law.

However, this isn’t the end of the story. The guidance offers little in terms of how the process of declaring gender identity would work. Is it the student who does this, or is it the parent or guardian? Is there some verification or formal declaration required, or can a student simply make an announce one day? At this point, it’s not clear.

Further, 11 Republican governor-controlled states (at last count) have filed a lawsuit to block the directive, arguing it is a federal overreach not supported by law and turning schools into “laboratories for a massive social experiment.”

The core legal argument in opposition is that the Obama administration does not have the authority, under law, to enforce this directive. The core social argument is that these states do not wish to have this directive about transgender students become the effective law of the land.

The guidance puts local schools in a bind. Should the guidance be upheld, there would be serious consequences that come with ignoring federal law. These include being under the microscope of what seems like neverending federal investigations, having federal education dollars (which fund important services to some of our neediest students) shut off, or being the target of a civil rights lawsuit.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate possibility, at least in my professional opinion, that the guidance will be struck down by the court.

What does all this mean for us here in Eagle County? To be abundantly clear, our purpose is to prepare students for their futures academically and developmentally. These are also public schools, and we have a strong moral commitment to ensuring that they are safe places for any student to grow and learn.

Far from a novel situation, this issue did not appear out of thin air because of this guidance. Our schools have always had transgender students and students of diverse sexual orientations and we’ve worked — and will continue to work — to make school a safe and welcoming place for these students to learn.

While we intend to protect and value all students, this does not mean that Eagle County Schools (or its superintendent) will take sides on this issue. Positioning the district to be in the middle of what will be a long and arduous legal process to sort out the differences between a Democratic president and 11 Republican governors is a fool’s errand and not in keeping with the aforementioned purpose of our organization.

So, will we adhere to the Obama directive or not? While this will be unsatisfying to partisans on both sides, it’s too soon to tell. I believe patience and a longer strategic view on this conflict are virtues at this point.

With state and school district-specific legal guidance still undeveloped and a federal lawsuit that may upend the whole thing, it would be imprudent to either forcefully reject or blindly follow the guidance until the view of the legal landscape clears a bit.

Fortunately, timing is on our side — at least for now. Schools have dismissed for the summer so we’ll have a precious few more weeks to sort this out and try to make sense of it. We will want to position the district in a way that keeps our primary focus on learning, protects and is respectful of all students and keeps us out of a distracting (and possibly lengthy) legal quagmire.

Looking further ahead, beyond the legal, social and partisan conflicts at hand — I actually believe this issue will be solved in the future by architectural design choices in schools. Throughout the next few decades, as new schools are built or existing ones remodeled, I envision restrooms and changing facilities being redesigned to afford all students greater privacy, which is not a bad thing.

In the meantime, this article may be frustrating to those who wished our schools to enter this conflict by choosing one side or the other. For now, we’re going to remain chiefly focused on the work of teaching and learning.

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at jason.glass@eagleschools.net.

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