VAIL — With just a couple of weeks left until the Nov. 5 Vail Town Council election, the seven candidates in this year’s race were asked what they believe is the top issue facing the town in the next few years. Here are their answers to the question:
What do you see as the single most important issue facing the next Vail Town Council?
Meeting the expectations of the citizens, guests and second-home owners of Vail should be the main issue for the Town Council. There are many issues in Vail and every one is important — singling one out is unfair to the varied views of the constituency.
Maintaining the character of Vail and retaining our guests’ loyalty while providing them with the world-class experience they expect when they visit Vail should always be at the top of the issue list. At the same time, reaching new guests also has to be a top goal.
Creating economic vitality, which is essential to maintain sales tax growth, should also be a top issue. Responsible redevelopment where necessary is vital to the economic base and also in creating a balanced and well-rounded community. Parking, employee housing and Gore Creek are issues that will always be relevant.
Listening to the constituency can prevent many things from becoming issues. Everyone in Vail has something that is the top issue for them. What I see as an important issue can only be gathered by what the people of Vail are telling our council and town leaders.
The Town Council has worked through some tough issues over the last two years. They were faced with difficult decisions. As a result, segments of our community feel alienated and disenfranchised. I believe the new Town Council needs to rebuild the trust with our community. Our residents, second-home owners and business leaders need to feel more connected to the decisions being made.
Many of the questions I am being asked as a candidate will be affected by how our residents believe decisions are reached. Special events, redevelopment of commercial areas, the golf course clubhouse, shuttle services, marijuana shops, etc., all present issues that affect our coexisting communities. There needs to be balance and compromise from all. The Town Council needs to get in front of issues and avoid the controversies that have been happening.
Future decisions on all of these important decisions will be questioned if we do not first work on bringing back our community’s trust. Warranted or not, the Town Council must first and foremost let the people know that they are listening and aware of their concerns. While every decision has its supporters and detractors, without compromise and balance, the Town Council’s future decisions will be questioned.
I see the biggest issue facing the Town Council is restoring our faith in elected officials. We need to be more neighborly. A small town like Vail needs elected officials that can listen and find balance on issues. We can do a few simple things to restore some of that faith. I have seen the Town Council agendas always state “staff recommends ... ” on the entire agenda. I value the staff input, I just don’t want to see it before the public has had a chance to speak. The staff shouldn’t be dictating the agenda or the outcome. The next simple change is public time at the microphone. The town has allowed public input on any subject at the beginning of the meeting. God forbid you want to talk about something on the agenda. Then you get to sit for one to two hours before you can speak. I see no reason why the public can’t speak early and go home to their families. In addition, when your 80-year-old neighbor comes to speak about the flower garden, you shouldn’t cut her off mid-sentence and require her to speak to the motion. She didn’t come to speak to the motion currently on the floor. She came to speak to you.
The need to maintain the town’s financial security through disciplined financial and operational policy should be the default answer as a given. That said, it’s the same issue I’ve been pounding away on since my first election; the need to maintain and grow our “community.”
A big part of Vail’s attraction has always been the very real community that exists here. It’s a great place to live/work/shop/party in the street/raise a family. It’s a place with a soul. It was founded as a town (unlike some other places in the valley) and attracted us because of that. What gets me through 12-hour council meetings (followed by four-hour Eagle County Planning Commission meetings the next day) is the desire to make an impact on keeping our town a community as well as a great resort.
The single most important issue facing the next Vail Town Council is repairing the mistrust and divisions within the community that have occurred over the poor communication and mishandling of the Ford Park master planning process, the Vail golf course clubhouse remodel, and the 18th green relocation. There is plenty of room for blame and finger-pointing, but the common issue between these three projects was the conference center fund. Because the Vail voters overwhelming approved spending the conference center funds on the clubhouse, athletic fields and amphitheater, the planning for these projects was fast tracked instead of going through the time-consuming scrutiny normally afforded to projects. The assumption of implied approval and the pressures of wanting to get the projects completed before the world lands on Vail’s doorsteps during the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships both contributed.
The community deserved better and has shown its displeasure through activism and legal channels. The criticism leveled at the town of Vail and its elected officials has not gone unnoticed. Community outreach to gather input at the earliest stages of contemplation is now the norm. Improving communication and repairing the distrust will take time. The town of Vail will need to walk the talk.
Sounia Nejad Chaney
The single most important issue facing the next Vail Town Council is to prove that it is truly in tune with the community that it is representing. The council needs to gain back the trust of the people that have elected them and the extended community as a whole.
The council needs to communicate more effectively with the people that it affects with its decisions prior to the development of a crisis through constant and open exchange of information via frequent public gatherings and virtual town meetings.
The council needs to better listen so that legal actions such as the one associated with the Vail Golf Club renovation will not become commonplace. The council needs to usher in a new era by using technology and gathered data on the fly to effectively “touch” Vail patrons. The Town Council needs to cement a positive vibe and understand that the idea of a warm and welcoming community resonates from the top down.
In a few days, the voters have the opportunity to select a candidate such as myself to provide the needed mediation, a fresh perspective and the diversity to bring everyone together.