Vail Daily Endorsement: Avon needs new blood on council
November 1, 2012
Three seats are available this fall on the Avon Town Council. That’s good. The only thing better would be if four of the seven seats were up for election, because this is a group that desperately needs new blood and fresh thinking.
The past year or so has revealed this group to be the most dysfunctional elected board in the county. By far.
We understand the mind-numbing complexity of the months-long wrestling match to settle the town’s lawsuits with the developers of the Village at Avon. We also understand that property owner Magnus Lindholm is a less-than-ideal business partner in the best of times.
But we’re appalled by the way the council has handled the settlement talks and hearings. It seems simplicity itself to say, “We asked you for (X); you brought us (Y). This meeting’s over.” Instead, the public has endured countless hours of wheel-spinning discussion as council members episodically insist they will only vote for the strict terms hammered out in a court-mediated settlement term sheet, but before they finish that sentence they get into the excruciating details of development plans loaded with extra requests from the developer. The result is a circus without a ringmaster, unless you count the developer’s lead lawyer.
We’re also no fans of the way the council has been handling some of its business outside the public view. Not only does this council head for executive session at the wink of an eye, but we’re thinking here about the way four council members decided to oust former Town Manager Larry Brooks.
Any council is entitled to hire and fire its top people as it sees fit, no argument there. But in Brooks’ case, four council members pretty much decided Brooks’ fate outside the public process before the formalized discussion and decision of the full council, which not surprisingly played out 4-3. (One talked with the others off-stage but said he didn’t decide until the full council met.) It’s hard to discern how that’s acting in the public interest, especially viewing the confusion in the council chambers since then that has prevailed during the Village at Avon approval process.
No matter what happens Nov. 6, Avon’s council will have two new members, since councilwomen Kristi Ferarro and Amy Phillips are ineligible to run again due to town term-limit laws. Incumbent Councilman Buz Reynolds is seeking a second term.
The rest of the field – all of whom are well aware of the big jobs they’re asking to do – consists of Avon Planning and Zoning Commission member John Minervini, along with Matt Gennett, Jake Wolf and Jennie Fancher.
Of this group of candidates, we’re recommending Minervini, Gennett and Wolf.
As a planning commission member, Minervini may best know the details of the proposed settlement with the Village at Avon developers. He’s seen big parts – but not all – of the settlement documents, particularly the changes to the development’s land-use approvals.
As a former corporate executive, we’re confident Minervini can quickly pick up the details of what needs to be done about the Village, whether or not the current council finalizes the settlement. He has a good mind for both small details and the big picture, and we’re confident he’ll be a voice for dealing sensibly with issues beyond the Village at Avon.
Gennett is a planner by profession, and has worked previously in the town’s planning department. We think Gennett, too, can quickly navigate the turbulent waters of the Village at Avon deal. We’ve also been impressed with his thinking about how to better use Avon’s “downtown,” such as it is, for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.
Wolf, the music teacher at Avon Elementary, is the wild card in this group. We believe he would bring a different viewpoint to the board. At the very least, Wolf proposing ideas for events and promotions could perhaps spur some new thinking about revitalizing the town. At worst, the rest of the council would be compelled to explain why those ideas wouldn’t work.
We also like Wolf’s enthusiasm, raw though it may be, for giving young people and minorities a greater say in town government.
This slate leaves out Reynolds and Fancher.
In Reynolds’ case, we tend to believe the old saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.”
While Reynolds cites his experience with the town and with the Village at Avon, we’ll note that he was mayor when the Village was first approved in 1998. That’s not a bright point on anyone’s resume.
In Fancher’s case, we simply believe she was outshone by the three candidates we’re recommending.
Whatever happens with the current council regarding the Village at Avon settlement, and whomever Avon voters select this fall, the next town council is going to face some tough work in the years ahead. We believe Minervini, Gennett and Wolf are the best people to face those challenges.
The council’s paralyzing internal issues may require another election cycle or two to rectify, unless of course Avon’s citizens are satisfied with the rather stupefying waste of time and loss of dollars to support pretty much no one but lawyers.
Vail Daily Editorial Board