Editorials

Vail Daily column: School tax proposals

August 24, 2016 — 

Residents in Eagle County were recently sent a letter, dated July 27, from Eagle County Schools concerning placing two property tax increases on the November ballot election. The introduction stated needs for additional money to support operations directly related to student learning and success and a bond for facility upgrades, all with a growing student population. In trying to “get my arms around” a plethora of information in the letter, I found it necessary to both expand and net out information, coming up with “just the facts” measurements and perspectives beyond what was in the letter.

The cost perspective

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Vail Daily column: A pivotal moment

August 23, 2016 — 

This evening in Eagle at the board room on the Third Street campus, the Eagle County Schools’ Board of Education will vote on whether or not to place two proposals on the ballot for the November election.

Our journey to this pivotal moment is winding and complex and touches on challenges at the global, national, state and local levels.

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Vail Daily column: Clearly a black and white issue

August 22, 2016 — 

“What’s worse, lying about a robbery or not putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem?”

It depends.

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Vail Daily column: Progress made on big issues

August 22, 2016 — 

The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. 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.

There is good reason to believe that Vail is now moving in the right direction. Recent action to address the parking and affordable housing issues, together with community discussion of Vail’s “sustainability”, are exciting developments, but concerns still loom for Vail’s future. In recent years, Vail has steadily slipped in consumer ratings, notwithstanding major mass marketing efforts and a growing list of special events. While tourism has increased so has congestion; there is a growing concern about “safety” issues both in the town and on the mountain, and businesses are stressed by a shortage of available workers as affordable housing has failed to keep pace. A number of Vail’s key competitors have moved ahead as Vail has trended downward to a middle-of-the-pack position.

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Vail Daily column: Does Jesus promise prosperity?

August 22, 2016 — 

Prosperity gospel preachers connect faith in Jesus to financial success. Jesus becomes their go-to-guy to monetarily leap ahead.

Donald Trump courts prosperity gospel’s hucksters. At his rallies, The Donald invites them to speak. He’s gotten the endorsement of television evangelist Paula White, whose large number of devotees believes the way of Jesus leads to luxury cars, pricey homes, lavish-paying jobs and a glitzy array of creature comforts.

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Vail Daily column: This year's ballot a long one

August 18, 2016 — 

Get your reading glasses ready and pour yourself a big cup of coffee when you receive this year’s ballot, as it will be among the longest we’ve ever prepared. In addition to the front page full of candidate races and judge retention questions, there will be state amendments and propositions, questions from various towns, as well as items from the school district, the library district and possibly the county.

State topics will include a health care single-payer system, repeal of servitude as punishment for persons convicted of crimes, the state minimum wage and small property tax exemptions. It may also include questions on oil and gas regulations, constitutional amendments, primary election changes, cigarette and tobacco taxes and medical aid in dying. The secretary of state is telling us to plan for a two-page ballot.

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Vail Daily column: Educate, discuss, repeat

August 17, 2016 — 

The Red Ribbon Project is celebrating its 20th year of doing good work on behalf of youth and adults in Eagle County. Beginning in 1996 with a mission of bringing awareness to the issue of HIV and AIDS, its mission has evolved and broadened. The Red Ribbon Project promotes healthier lives by empowering the community to reduce teen pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

We are proud to be part of this great educational project. Together, we have over 70 years of experience working with kids. As parents, teachers, a counselor, a principal, a coach and volunteers, we have always empowered students with accurate information and encouraged them to make good decisions. Since retiring from Eagle County Schools in 2009 and 2012 respectively, our work with the Red Ribbon Project affords us the opportunity to continue to do this kind of work.

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A plan worth considering

August 16, 2016 — 

It’s still early, but at first blush, the idea to transform the site of the old Roost Lodge in Vail into building with both hotel rooms and apartments looks like a good idea.

As detailed in a story on Saturday, the Chicago-based Harp Group has for several years owned the roughly two acres of land the Roost occupied. A company plan to build a Marriott Residence Inn was ready to start work in 2014, but it was shelved when a financial partner decided the project was simply too expensive.

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Vail Daily column: Taking it 'off the wall'

August 16, 2016 — 

A mission statement should serve as a filter for decisions, a tool to prioritize goals and, in many cases, communicate to stakeholder groups what aspects of the culture are most important.

What would happen if you took your organization’s mission statement off the wall?

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Vail Daily column: Bringing the revolution

August 16, 2016 — 

A quiet revolution is underway in our community schools.

From the outside, the change seems imperceptible. This coming school year, the buildings look the same, kids and parents will come and go in the mornings and evenings and teachers are already busy in their preparations for learning.

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Vail Daily column: The insidious notion of 'two Americas'"

August 14, 2016 — 

No doubt the country has some legitimate economic issues that must be addressed, but the notion of “two Americas” isn’t one of them, at least not in the way certain politicians frame the matter. What many find interesting is that according to research released by the Center for Responsive Politics the median net worth of the members of Congress was just above $1 million in 2013, or 18 times the wealth of the typical American household. And while the median net worth of Americans is down 43 percent since 2007, the median net worth of members of Congress is up nearly 30 percent.

According to Forbes, Trump is a billionaire and the Clintons who were “broke” when they left the White House have somehow managed to build a tiny little nest egg in the neighborhood of $110 million (not including the hundreds millions in the Clinton Foundation they have access to.) Even pundits, such as Chris Matthews, are worth millions.

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Vail Daily column: Winning at all costs ... costs plenty

August 13, 2016 — 

Ever tried squeezing abrasive verbal toothpaste back into its tube? We desire to take back retorts that sounded silly, caustic or snooty.

Green Bay Packer head coach Vince Lombardi went to his grave frustrated that he couldn’t correct what he meant by “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

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Vail Daily column: How to fund new parking?

August 12, 2016 — 

The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. 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.

Parking issues. With apparent consensus that Vail needs additional structured parking capability, the second most pressing issue in the recent town survey, the focus has now moved on to how to finance additional parking. The Town Council is currently considering doubling the town’s lift ticket tax. The current tax generates approximately $4.7 million. Doubling that revenue could raise $50 million during the next 10 years which would enable major parking improvements. For example, adding a fifth deck to the Lionshead Parking Structure, one of several projects under consideration, would provide 400 additional parking spaces. The nearly 40-year-old building is in need of structural strengthening which was the advice from the Vail Public Works Department in an evaluation of the potential expansion of the Lionshead parking structure given to the former Town Council. At that time, nearly two years ago, the project was estimated to cost $35 million.

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Vail Daily column: I don't oppose all tax hikes

August 11, 2016 — 

As a candidate for state representative from Colorado House District 26, I was disappointed to listen to my friend Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes, who is registered unaffiliated, Vail Daily Editor Ed Stoner, a registered Democrat, and Eagle County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass, also a registered Democrat, do a radio show promoting the two proposed Eagle County Schools property tax increase proposals to raise about $150 million, which is probably the largest tax increase in Eagle County history.

Unfortunately, the radio show lacked any balance from the conservative viewpoint. This seems to be a theme this political season, as local Republican candidates for office are pushing back against any debates or forums that do not allow for the local Republican Party to choose a local conservative moderator of its choice, and the local Democratic Party to choose a local liberal moderator of its choice. Local liberals seem to want a single moderator only, of their choice, or like the recent town of Eagle trustee debates, two moderators who were both liberals.

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Vail Daily column: 20 years of helping neighbors

August 10, 2016 — 

Once a month, for the past 20 years, the Vail Valley Charitable Fund meets to evaluate medical misfortune. If this sounds a bit grim, then you’re right. We see lots of sad circumstances that befall lots of good people. It’s humbling work and never easy. Sometimes, our meetings are emotionally contentious as we search for solutions, not always having the right answer or enough hope for the Vail Valley residents we serve.

For those not familiar with our mission, the Vail Valley Charitable Fund provides financial assistance to locals who suffer a medical crisis. During the past 20 years, we’ve helped more than 1,800 families with grants that typically range from $1,000 to $5,000. This money is offered as an encouraging “hand-up” to the injured neighbor down the street, the hospitalized grocery clerk, the kid with cancer, fathers too ill to keep a job and mothers that die. By alleviating the financial burden that often accompanies a serious illness, we provide a moment of repose and a time to heal.

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Vail Daily column: Welcome our new teachers

August 9, 2016 — 

Seventy-one. That is the number of new teachers Eagle County Schools is hiring this year due to the combination of staff attrition from last year (retirements, resignations, terminations) and new student growth (we expect about 100 new students, district-wide, for this upcoming school year).

Out of the 71, 12 came from Eagle Valley High School alone — owing mostly to the large growth in student enrollment we’ve seen there over the past couple of years.

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Vail Daily column: I should have known better

August 8, 2016 — 

He was too old to go on a hike, and I should have known better.

Sometimes we look at a family member and only see what we wish, remembering how someone once was, as opposed to how he or she really is today.

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Vail Daily column: Can we agree?

August 8, 2016 — 

Amid the mud slinging and distortions taking place between the two political campaigns, I decided to look for a topic that should be of interest to both political parties —the Social Security Trust Fund. But first, some background.

Trust funds are established so people or organizations can direct assets toward a specified purpose, e.g., a church may raise money for a particular purpose and then establish a trust fund to ensure that the money is used for that purpose and that purpose only, all while adhering to strict and legally binding guidelines.

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Vail Daily column: Ark re-builder makes blunder

August 7, 2016 — 

A replica of Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Kentucky, has sprung leaks. Visitors to the recently opened tourist center called Ark Encounter see a gigantic boat erected to biblical specifications. But this huge ark is built on an erroneous reading of Noah’s story in the Bible. Intellectual flaws of mammoth proportions wreck its credibility.

Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham, who built Ark Encounter near his Creation Museum, believes there once existed an actual Noah who built a lifeboat according to God’s explicit instructions.

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Vail Daily column: Signs of success

August 5, 2016 — 

At first glance, life in the Vail Valley may seem as idyllic as any storybook. In many ways, it is. The valley offers amazing views, engaged people and thriving businesses.

Just like anywhere else in the United States, however, Eagle County faces real challenges in the areas of education. While America has improved our performance throughout time, the hill we have to climb to keep up with the rest of the world continues to be steep, and the broad range of student needs requires educators to develop new skills and design new approaches.

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Vail Daily column: Parking demand rising

August 5, 2016 — 

The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. 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.

One thing that is clear is that the demand for public parking is increasing, in both the winter and summer, causing more overflows onto the frontage roads. Already this summer, as of July 4, there have been innumerable days of frontage road parking, and one of those days saw one of the highest numbers of cars on frontage road in Vail’s entire history.

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Vail Daily column: Mitigating future forest fires

August 4, 2016 — 

In Colorado and throughout the West, we have seen increases in devastating wildfires that are damaging property and habitats and resulting in the tragic loss of life. Most recently the Hayden Pass fire burning near Coaldale scorched more than 16,000 acres, the Beaver Creek Fire continues to burn growing past 30,000 acres, and the Cold Springs Fire in Boulder County destroyed eight homes.

As temperatures continue to rise and dry conditions persist, it is likely that we will continue to face catastrophic wildfires. Fortunately, unlike other natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, there are proven mitigation efforts that can lessen the severity of wildfires.

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Vail Daily column: Deepening the work

August 4, 2016 — 

Almost from their inception, public schools have been asked to solve more and more of society’s problems. Over the decades, schools have taken on a number of challenges such as preparation for civic responsibility, literacy, workforce training, military preparedness, racial integration, artistic appreciation, physical and mental health and character education.

While good arguments on each of these (and a variety of other areas) can certainly be made, one can easily see how dizzying it might be to try and focus on all of these at the same time. Indeed, education policy is a textbook example of what can happen when one reform-du-jour is piled on top of another, creating a messy mix of well-intended, but often distracting and unfunded mandates. The outcome is a near-constant churn of priorities and efforts local schools are forced into trying to manage.

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Vail Daily column: A real solution for the health care crisis

August 3, 2016 — 

Discussion of the High Country’s ballooning health insurance costs can often be found in the pages of this and other publications, but one need not pick up a newspaper to see and feel the crippling effects they are having on our community. While the Vail Valley is by all accounts economically thriving, many locals are barely able to keep their heads above water. We all accept that living in such a unique and amazing community can require sacrifices, but the current cost of health care in Eagle County, Colorado and the United States at large is simply unsustainable. Locals are forced to choose between essential services for their families and being able to enjoy this incredible place. Small businesses which could expand must decide whether they can afford insurance for more employees. Even large companies will face an increasing labor shortage if more people decide that the valley is unaffordable. I don’t think it an exaggeration to describe this situation as a crisis — one which will require big thinking and bold action to solve. Fortunately, such a solution exists, and we as Coloradans have the power to make it reality. I’m talking about ColoradoCare.

ColoradoCare, Amendment 69 on this November’s ballot, would establish a statewide health insurance cooperative, providing comprehensive health care benefits for all Coloradans. Instead of faceless corporations deciding the fate of millions, imagine a health insurance cooperative designed by Coloradans, owned by us, its patients, and controlled by trustees we elect. Instead of outrageously expensive coverage, which covers even less than expected, imagine comprehensive health care benefits with no deductibles and no copays for primary or preventative care. Instead of a system in which an estimated 27 percent of national health care expenditures are unnecessary, imagine a program which saves Coloradans $4.5 billion per year. While no health care system in the world is perfect, ColoradoCare would dramatically improve affordability and access to care for its patients.

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Vail Daily column: The Trump bad rap on evangelicals

August 3, 2016 — 

The website of the National Association of Evangelicals has the following definition: “The term ‘evangelical’ comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning ‘the good news’ or the ‘gospel.’ Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the ‘good news’ of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.” Like millions of Americans, my personal faith experience, with its imperfections and failings, makes me an evangelical. I’m also a pro-lifer who thinks state-law limitations can fill in some gaps in Roe v. Wade and who goes to a church where we pray each week for our national leaders.

It was with dismay that I watched the Republican convention where various evangelical political luminaries and others sincerely invoked the Almighty in support of candidate Trump. We heard from an actor, Antonio Sabato Jr., whose “faith in Jesus Christ compelled him to speak.” The Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge told us she is a “Christian pro-life gun-carrying woman.” LPGA golfer Natalie Gulbis declared that “God’s timing is perfect.” Dr. Ben Carson told us that Hillary Clinton admires Saul Alinsky and that an Alinsky book credits Lucifer as an inspiration. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. offered his “sincerest prayer” that Trump be elected. For his part, the candidate “thanked the evangelical and religious community” for supporting him, demurring that maybe “he didn’t deserve it.” Sadly, that’s one thing he’s right about.

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Vail Daily column: Why the 'lock her up'-ers are un-American

August 2, 2016 — 

Make American great again?

America is already great. The first and finest democracy the world has ever known, America, is great, in substantial part, due to the rule of law.

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Vail Daily editorial: Benefit of the doubt for Gypsum

August 2, 2016 — 

The power of property condemnation is perhaps the heaviest implement in any government’s toolbox. Citizens should pay close attention whenever those words appear on any board’s agenda.

That said, the town of Gypsum deserves the benefit of the doubt for now regarding the acquisition — or possible condemnation — of a 69-acre parcel along the Eagle River. That parcel is owned by Clearwater Ventures, the corporate owner of the Eagle Valley Clean Energy power plant in town. That plant uses beetle-killed timber to generate electricity, thanks to millions in federal loan guarantees.

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Vail Daily column: Will saying 'Merry Christmas' make our nation great again?

August 1, 2016 — 

Donald Trump whips up a verbal recipe that at least 78 percent of evangelical Christians devour, according to a recent Pew Research poll. One of his first presidential ingredients will reintroduce “Merry Christmas” into street conversation.

Last June, that’s what he promised 500 evangelical leaders in Manhattan and they bit on Trump’s recipe. These evangelicals savored his pledge of again having department store employees greet shoppers with an unapologetic “Merry Christmas!” That was their custom in the 1950s, the last decade America showed “greatness,” says Trump.

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Vail Daily column: From Russia with love

August 1, 2016 — 

I look forward to receiving emails after my commentaries appear in the Daily. Whether people agree or disagree with my comments, it’s always interesting and frequently enlightening to read other perspectives. Most people are thoughtful and respectful, but as one might expect, there are always a few who just want to pick a fight. In fact last week one gentleman even went so far as to make a not-so-subtle reference to my heritage — oh well, it takes all kinds.

Two people including a friend emailed a link to an American Thinker article regarding Trump’s standing in his class at Wharton, while several others focused on Trump’s sometimes very boorish behavior.

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Vail Daily column: Get rid of frontage parking?

July 30, 2016 — 

The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. 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.

The Vail Town Council has finally recognized that serious public safety issues are being caused by Frontage Road parking. The council voted recently to install flashing pedestrian crossing caution signs and designated crosswalks at a few points along the frontage road. Putting aside the aesthetics of such signs, an issue raised by some, the question remains, will these steps be effective or cause more traffic congestion?

The biggest drawback to crosswalks is that if there are too many, they could obstruct traffic on the community’s main thoroughfare and result in backups and rear end collisions as motorists brake for crossing pedestrians, especially along the frontage roads which were never designed nor intended to accommodate on-street parking or large numbers of pedestrians randomly crossing from one side of the road to the other. Experience teaches that when crosswalks are the most direct route, pedestrians will use them, otherwise, they will not. How pedestrians have been getting to and from their cars when parked on the Frontage Road illustrates the ineffectiveness of crosswalks in these circumstances. And it’s highly questionable whether more crosswalks would solve the problem.

Even worse could be the effect of signalized pedestrian crosswalks at roundabouts. Roundabouts are intended to maintain the continuous flow of traffic. Halting that traffic for pedestrian crossovers will snarl traffic. This is especially so when the roundabouts reach carrying capacity, which seems to be happening with greater frequency at the main Vail roundabout. Building those kinds of crosswalks would be a costly undertaking, and there is no reason to believe they would be any more effective in reducing or eliminating the public safety hazards that on-street parking causes.

Some have proposed reducing speed limits on overflow parking days or providing safety personnel to help assist guests cross the road. Putting aside the intergovernmental issues involved in creating the infrastructure to support variable speed limits, especially if it were to involve flashing signs as some have suggested, that too would be a costly undertaking as would assembling safety patrols. Even then, covering the entire length of South Frontage Road would be a huge challenge.

The only effective way to eliminate the danger of haphazard pedestrian crossings is by eliminating parking on the frontage roads. According to the recent town survey, that step would be favored by many since frontage road parking is the least favored form of parking. But to do so requires more public parking facilities.

The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.

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