Successful leadership requires a lot of things, but one of the most important traits of a good leader is the ability to compromise. The budgets of many government entities in Eagle County have been reduced during the Great Recession. Teaching positions have been cut. Fire stations have seen reduced staffing and closures. The Sheriff's Office has had to make cut backs, and as has the county roads and bridges department. These programs are all essential government services.
Yet our tax money, about $4 million per year, keeps flowing into the county's open space program, which is being run by an over $100,000-per-year administrator. Can we continue to fund a luxury for additional open space in a county where more than 80 percent of the lands will never be developed, as they are owned by the federal government?
During the election in the fall of 2011, the Eagle River Fire District and the Eagle County School District asked voters to approve tax increases, and both of these measures failed. Had everyone been willing to compromise a little bit, possibly these taxes could have passed.
Let's look at a scenario that I tried to put together last year prior to the election before the ballots were printed.
During the summer of 2011, I spoke to the Eagle River Fire District and the chairperson of the Eagle County School District, both entities which I felt provided essential services to our community. I asked them to join me in going to the Eagle County commissioners to propose putting the question of repealing the open space tax on the ballot. My thought was that if the voters of Eagle County were presented with an overall revenue-neutral proposal to fund critical services, the tax increases would pass and the open space tax would go away.
They thought it was a good idea, but they couldn't commit to helping me. I then went in front of the Eagle County commissioners and asked them to put the question of the open space tax on the ballot. Commissioners Stavney, Runyon and Fisher all said no. No one was willing to compromise, and essential services are being cut again.
How could I, a registered Republican be supporting tax increases? My first commitment is being part of my community and I'm not defined by a political label.
For those who cannot compromise, they are part of the extreme of both parties who have created political gridlock in this country.
Washington, D.C., is facing a fiscal cliff due to Congress's inability to compromise. All of the government entities in Eagle County need to work together to provide the most efficient services that they can to the taxpayers of Eagle County with limited resources.
Candidates and elected officials who take extreme, uncompromising positions are not leaders, they are idealists, which is fine if you want to host talk radio but not if you want to govern.
As you receive your ballots in the mail, think very carefully about the candidates who are running for county commissioner. Are they completely rigid in their views, or will they bring leadership to the community?