Editorials

Vail Daily column: The lure (and peril) of big data

July 26, 2016 — 

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the recently “reauthorized” federal law that is now driving decisions about education policy in the states, contains a provision requiring states to add at least one new indicator of school quality or success outside of the more established measures like academic tests, English-language proficiency, and graduation rates. In response, states across the country are grappling with what these new measures might be and what is the appropriate way to use them in a school rating system.

The Every Student Succeeds Act took the place of the prior (and much maligned) No Child Left Behind. However, at the insistence of the Obama administration, education reform groups, and civil rights advocacy groups, the provisions around school ratings and accompanying consequences (collectively called accountability systems) still features heavily in the new law.

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Vail Daily editorial: It's time to act

July 26, 2016 — 

The Eagle County commissioners recently reviewed yet another housing study — there have been several over the decades. From the 1970s on, those studies all painted grim pictures of locals’ ability to rent or buy homes. The latest study has the most dire news yet.

If you missed it, the latest study claimed the county — including the Basalt and El Jebel areas — has an immediate need for about 4,500 units. Not quite a decade ago, a similar study by the Urban Land Institute put the shortage at 2,500 units in the just the Eagle River portion of the county.

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Vail Daily column: Convention attention creates hypertension

July 25, 2016 — 

“You plagiarized first!”

“No, you did!”

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Vail Daily column: Time to build new parking?

July 25, 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 town of Vail has maintained for many years that it needs 1,000 additional parking spaces. Current daily frontage road parking figures, however, indicate that 400 to 600 additional spaces could remove the need for most, if not all, frontage road parking (with the exception of the needs that would be generated by any supersized events). For even more years, structured parking has been a can that town leaders have been all too willing to kick down the road.

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Vail Daily column: Trump brags he's Reagan's reincarnation — really?

July 23, 2016 — 

Donald Trump “clearly needs to change in order to win” (the presidency), declared Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., KY.). “My hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land,” Sen. McConnell recently told a New York TV station.

Trump sounds, however, as if his political feet are glued to a prior conviction from which he doesn’t want to pivot. Trump insists he’s the new Ronald Reagan, bragging he inherited this political mantle from our 40th president.

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Vail Daily column: Programs benefit families

July 20, 2016 — 

As many of you know, the Red Ribbon Project, a local nonprofit, has been serving Eagle County for 20 years. I have had the honor of serving on the board of this amazing organization for two years and couldn’t be more proud.

The Red Ribbon Project serves Eagle County youth by providing classes throughout the school year in tough topics such as teenage pregnancy, HIV/sexually transmitted infections prevention. What many residents don’t realize, however, is that Red Ribbon Project also has classes that focus on important topics that can often be overlooked at home including building healthy relationships, human sexuality and social emotional development. Additionally, Red Ribbon Project offers free anonymous HIV testing several times a year in the county — more than 150 people take advantage of this opportunity each year.

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Vail Daily column: Great start for kids

July 19, 2016 — 

Last Wednesday’s comprehensive front-page article was about our “child care crisis” as reported in a detailed study commissioned by Eagle County and the school system. Our county is short of money and places for caring for and educating our young children. In the study, the term “child care” is often used synonymously with “early childhood education,” but in reality they are very different.

If little Sue goes to child care, she will be safely looked after for eight or nine hours per day, but unless her childcare is enriched, that is all she will get. Little Judy, who goes to a high-quality early childhood education school, will also learn, from the day she shows up and until she goes to kindergarten, how to listen to and look through books — probably in two languages — how to control her anger when her block pile is knocked down, how to order objects by size and color, the shapes and sounds of letters, and hundreds of other necessary academic and social skills.

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Vail Daily editorial: A good move

July 19, 2016 — 

The value of a trademarked name can be hard to define. In some cases, there can be as much value in a well-established name as in the product itself. Then there’s the sticky wicket Vail Resorts found itself in last week.

The Park Record, a sister paper to the Vail Daily, last week reported a good bit of local anger over an attempt to trademark the name “Park City.” That federal trademark application was actually submitted by Powdr, the previous owner of the Park City Mountain Resort ski area, but the effort was continued by Vail Resorts, which now owns the resort.

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Vail Daily column: Decisions backed by our values

July 19, 2016 — 

Those who get to work closely with me know that I’m an absolute geek when it comes to studying how complex organizations tick and how they can be improved. This work involves researching different organizations and taking note of their approaches to changing conditions and pressures.

While studying education organizations, such as other school districts, is part of this ongoing learning, I also keep close tabs on lessons from businesses as well. I’m a regular reader of the Harvard Business Review and also try and keep up with the latest business management books. Though some may disagree, I’ve found there are significant lessons that school leaders can learn from business.

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Vail Daily column: Game of Zones (Parking)

July 18, 2016 — 

From overflow of the Frontage Road to threats of charging during summer to promises of charging during winter, Happy Valley parking woes continue.

Similar to our on-again, off-again affordable housing issue, how much is enough, where can expansion go, who will use it, who is actually responsible for it, who will pay for it?

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Vail Daily column: Thinking clearly with compelling conviction

July 16, 2016 — 

This year is my red-letter year as a newspaper commentator and dramatist. The Vail Daily has published my weekly commentary for a quarter century, with the first commentary running on July 20, 1991. Titled “American religion: Merely a warm tingle,” I warned of dangers when healthy faith’s mental edge gets dulled. Sheer emotionalism often supplants it, as in “I’ve found Jesus, so don’t challenge my faith with new insight.”

During our nation’s bicentennial 40 years ago, I first portrayed Thomas Jefferson in 18th century garb. He displayed grievous faults as a slave-master. Still, Jefferson deserves our admiration because of what he declared during the nasty, mud-slinging presidential campaign in 1800. In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801, Jefferson tried to lower the boiling point of political animosities and religious character assassinations. He cooled heated exchanges by asserting: “ … every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” Statesmen of differing political persuasions practice the art of agreeing to disagree agreeably.

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Vail Daily column: Parking problems worsen

July 15, 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.

This past winter Vail had 29 days of overflow Frontage Road parking, setting another record. This has pushed permissible Frontage Road parking to the maximum as the current agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which expires in 2017, allows 30 days of Frontage Road parking during the winter. That limit was raised only a few years ago; before then only 15 days per winter season were allowed.

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Vail Daily column: Look to forest for housing

July 14, 2016 — 

As a candidate for state representative from Colorado House District 26, which consists of Eagle and Routt counties, I have a partial solution to help provide affordable housing for hundreds and hundreds of ski area employees. Let’s put pressure on our federal officials to designate free forest land on Vail, Beaver Creek and Steamboat ski mountains for ski area employee housing. Remember, the U.S. Forest Service works for us. And, we granted the ski area operators a virtual, 50-year monopoly to manage our land for our recreation purposes.

Vail Councilman Greg Moffet, a moderate Republican, called the idea “genius.”

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Vail Daily column: Fighting opioid abuse epidemic

July 13, 2016 — 

Widespread opioid abuse is having a tragic impact on communities in Colorado and across the nation. If I were to poll the entire 3rd Congressional District, I’m sure that most people could say that they have either been personally affected or know someone who has been affected by the growing abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin in our state.

Ensuring the health and safety of the members of our communities is a shared responsibility. This is why I recently hosted two roundtable discussions on the opioid abuse epidemic with community, health care and law enforcement leaders in Alamosa and Pueblo.

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Vail Daily column: Week of tragedy reveals our ideological blind spots

July 13, 2016 — 

It seems almost ghoulish to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud that blanketed the nation last week. But I think there was one. The killings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, quickly followed by the killings of police in Dallas, knocked the lazy certainty out of almost everybody.

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America.

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Vail Daily editorial: Let's get started

July 12, 2016 — 

If there’s one thing local governments are good at, it’s topic-flogging — talking endlessly about and around an issue until, eventually, something gets done. Or not.

Numerous elected officials from up and down the valley seem on the brink of actually doing something about our evergreen housing crunch. The towns of Vail and Avon are talking to each other about working together, and Eagle County is likely to ask voters this fall for a 0.3 percent sales tax to create a housing fund.

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Vail Daily column: Better measures of success

July 12, 2016 — 

Schools are often rated and judgments are made on the basis of academic test scores. While these scores can be informative and useful, the limitations of these measures are well known and some have wondered if their greatest use is in verifying where money is — and is not — in terms of student demographics.

In spite of these limitations, Eagle County Schools does keep close tabs on our academic performance data. We have developed a measurement dashboard of sorts which we call our System Academic Indicators.

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Vail Daily column: It's a matter of perspective (and timing)

July 11, 2016 — 

1960s: “America as we know it will soon cease to exist!”

I remember my grandfather saying this due to the Red Scare (damn commies).

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Vail Daily column: 'Cui bono?'

July 11, 2016 — 

Regardless of one’s position on the subject of climate change, the Latin term cui bono (who benefits) is perhaps the most relevant phrase one can use when discussing the subject. Anyone who’s ever engaged in debate on the topic understands these are usually no-win situations because regardless of one’s position someone else will see it differently and offer his or her own set of facts.

So it is with the science is settled argument; perhaps the most absurd statement ever made on the subject. Science is never settled and it’s patently ridiculous to support the notion that any science is impervious to challenge.

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Vail Daily column: National parks preserve America's soul

July 9, 2016 — 

During this centenary celebration of the National Park Service, established in 1916, our nation shows gratitude to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for treasuring and protecting the parks in the 1930s.

He visited them as a traveler rather than a tourist. Former head of the Library of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, in his book “Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past,” tracks the difference between a traveler such as FDR who respected national parks and a tourist who passes through to see pretty scenery.

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Vail Daily column: Knocking on Vail's doors

July 8, 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.

Summer has arrived. Flowers are in bloom. Tourists and second-home owners are flooding back to Vail. And a few issues loom large — some brought on by the recent Kaaboo proposal and other perennial problems of years past.

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Celebrating 10 years of changing kids' lives

July 7, 2016 — 

Roundup River Ranch is celebrating the 10th anniversary of our founding, which officially occurred on July 2, 2006, and, as this year continues, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to recognize, thank and appreciate our greater Eagle County community. It’s our community that makes camp possible and ensures camp is always free to our campers and their families — and we cannot thank you enough for what you’ve helped us achieve to date.

This is a remarkable time for Roundup River Ranch, a time filled with reflection, celebration and dreaming big about what the future holds. So, in honor of our 10th anniversary, I’d like to share 10 special ways that we’re offering you our sincerest thanks and celebrating your support:

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Vail Daily column: Free pass for Hillary

July 7, 2016 — 

FBI Director James Comey has given Hillary Clinton something better than a get out of jail free card. He’s protected her from indictment by recommending to the Department of Justice that she not be prosecuted for her and her staff’s “extremely careless” handling of emails on private servers that included documents classified as “top secret,” “secret” and “confidential.”

Once again the Clintons have escaped the long arm of the law, which in their case is much shorter than the arm extended to other government officials who have been caught committing far fewer infractions.

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Vail Daily column: We're not stuck with Tipton

July 6, 2016 — 

Despite our deep divisions, there is something most Americans can agree on; according to Real Clear Politics, approximately three-quarters of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

This November we have the opportunity to clean house. I suggest we start with Rep. Scott Tipton. It is easy to forget that he represents us since we never see the guy. He lives in Cortez — more than 300 miles away, no wonder. He serves a comically gerrymandered district that, in addition to the western part of Eagle County, includes most of the Western Slope and reaches into the state to grab Pueblo for good measure.

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Vail Daily column: Tread lightly on our local trails

July 6, 2016 — 

As the snow-line recedes and our expectations for summer hiking begin to occupy our thoughts it is important to remember how damaging early season hiking can be to the trails we enjoy. Braided trails are not only unsightly but they add to trail erosion and vegetation loss. The hiking trails that help guide us into the wilderness are fragile areas that need to be used mindfully, cared for and maintained.

Although trail degradation happens throughout the year, springtime hiking can cause the most damage. Saturated soil from snow melt and spring rains drastically increases our impact. Remaining snow on the trail, mud, newly fallen trees and swollen streamlets generally cause us to go around these obstacles the result being the beginning of a braid from the original trail. Some of this may be inevitable and unavoidable but as I see the changes in our local trails over the years and the tremendous increase in use, especially early season, I think we need to be much more aware of the damage caused and the visual impact of braided trails.

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Vail Daily column: The survey results revealed!

July 5, 2016 — 

A few weeks ago I asked readers to help with a purely unscientific survey to answer one simple little question: “Why do you support Donald Trump?” or “Why do you support Hillary Clinton?”

There was only one rule: Mentioning the opponent as a reason for supporting your candidate would not be a valid answer, and thus not count in the survey.

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Vail Daily column: Vague education policies

July 5, 2016 — 

As we close in on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump being the presumptive nominees for their respective parties, some education policy wonks — of which I include myself — and journalists have noted the absence of much discussion around where education fits into Clinton and Trump’s policy agendas.

The answer is difficult to define, as neither Clinton nor Trump has given us a lot to work with. Clinton quickly aligned herself with the National Education Association, the country’s largest teacher’s union, and earned its endorsement fairly early in the primary contest.

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Vail Daily editorial: 240 and counting

July 5, 2016 — 

Back in 1776, news was slowly spreading from Philadelphia that the Continental Congress had voted for independence from the British Empire.

The move for independence had built throughout several years, and beyond its first couple of paragraphs, the Declaration of Independence laid out a series of particular complaints against King George III and his government, from taxation with no representation to barring immigration into the colonies.

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Vail Daily column: Killing to die, or dying to kill

July 4, 2016 — 

I wonder what the last night is like when someone knows they will be dying the next day, on purpose.

Do they knowingly watch a final sunset for one last reminder of how beautiful nature can be?

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Vail Daily column: The problem is to know what the problem is

July 3, 2016 — 

In Orlando, according to CNN, “An American-born man who’d pledged allegiance to ISIS gunned down 49 people early Sunday, June 12, at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11, authorities said.”

As has become the norm in America today, while 49 people lay dead and dozens others wounded, some critically, instead of coming together as a nation, the political left and right have taken sides and are at odds over how to prevent such terror attacks in the future.

And as one might expect during the political season, the left and the right come at the issue from very different perspectives. For the right, the Orlando matter was primarily one of Islamic extremism. For the left, it’s all about gun control. So which is it?

Einstein is quoted as having said if he had one hour to save the world he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. Perhaps Mr. Einstein was overly optimistic about solving the problem in five minutes, but the quote illustrates his thinking regarding the most effective way to tackle a problem.

The problem is to know what the problem is, which means the first step in problem solving is to clearly define the problem. However, human nature being what it is, what usually happens is that as soon as we have a problem to work on, we’re so eager to find solutions that we neglect taking the necessary time defining it.

But on those occasions when we take the necessary time to accurately define the problem first, the solutions are always more abundant, of higher quality and achieved much, much more readily.

POWER OF WORDING

In a survey years ago Toyota asked its employees to brainstorm “ways to increase their productivity.” The responses they got back were vague and unfocused. However, when Toyota rephrased the question as “ways to make their jobs easier,” the company could barely keep up with the amount of suggestions.

Words carry strong, implicit meaning. And the words we use play a significant role in how we perceive a problem. In the aforementioned example, “increase productivity” could be interpreted as a sacrifice one is making for the company while “make your job easier” feels like something Toyota employees would do for their own benefit, while at the same time benefit the company. In the end, the problem is still the same, but the points of view associated with each of them are vastly different — as will be the solutions.

DIFFICULTY IN DEFINING PROBLEMS

Interestingly, research has shown that paying more attention to how we define problems is more difficult than actually solving them. So again, human nature being what it is, the less difficult approach is the one we too frequently choose.

Exacerbating the situation, political issues, no matter how simple or clear they may appear to be, come with a long list of assumptions, agendas and preconceived notions. These are usually biased, inaccurate or in many cases, simply politically correct, rendering the problem statement inadequate or even misguided.

One solution might be to turn the problem on its head, i.e., if you want to win, first ascertain what it is that makes us lose. If we’re struggling finding ways to keep Americans safe, then perhaps we should find ways to place them in more peril, and then reverse our answers.

Multi-sided problem

On the surface stricter gun control measures may appear to be a viable solution to what occurred in Orlando, but when we look at the city of Chicago, with the strictest gun control laws in the country, we see a city with the highest gun-murder rate in the nation. Conversely, keeping Muslims out of the country wouldn’t have done much good in preventing the Orlando massacre because the perpetrator was born in New York.

This is a bifurcated problem — how do we keep thugs and miscreants from possessing firearms while not infringing upon the rights millions of law abiding gun owners and at the same time protect our country from even more Islamic extremism?

This matter begs for leadership, common sense and the elimination of political agendas — after all, how can we realistically expect to solve this problem when we’re still arguing over what the problem is?

Quote of the day: “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail” — Abraham Maslow.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.

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