Vail Valley Voices: Back to the future with Vail candidates
Ryan Summerlin October 15, 2011
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for September. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.
The Vail Homeowners Association is hosting an Internet candidates forum in which questions are asked of the candidates and their written responses are documented for the community to review on the
association’s website, www.vail
homeowners.com. The association’s membership and constituency is made up of both Vail residents and nonresidents. Therefore, the outcome of the Town Council election is a central concern, as the council’s decisions affect the interests of all.
New research: The homeowners association, in conjunction with the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, has created an extensive Excel workbook as a comparative tool to evaluate the budgetary revenues and expenses of three competing resort municipalities in the region: Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen.
The purpose of this tool is to track and assess key economic factors
and their effect on community progress. Analysis is ongoing, and updates will be provided as they become available.
The search for exceptional decision makers in challenging times: Eight candidates for the four vacant seats in the Nov. 8 Town Council election have taken the stage. Fewer new faces are stepping forward.
The smaller-than-normal lineup is dominated by incumbents and encore performances from former council members. Times have changed. Voters should make certain that those desiring to serve on the Town Council have a policy agenda adjusted to the new realities caused by the Great Recession.
The challenges ahead are daunting deterrents to public service from even the most well-intentioned citizen. To retain its leading position among mountain resort communities, Vail must attract practical, forward-thinking decision makers. Candidates must demonstrate that they have the skills necessary to make informed local decisions against an increasingly complex backdrop of both national and global conditions. Desirable traits of a good decision maker are not inherited just by occupying a position within town government, elected or otherwise. They are attained through higher education, international travel, successful business experience and respect for cultural differences. Nevertheless, a working knowledge of how Vail Town Hall operates is useful to a candidate to avoid falling in line with the preorchestrated agendas of others.
Increasingly, advanced financial, analytical and communication skills are a prerequisite. The council needs to justify to the broader resident and nonresident community how, where, when and why it is spending town funds. It needs the ability to dissect budgets and to analyze and challenge return-on-investment assessments from financial and other evaluative reports.
The town is experiencing shrinkage in some of its revenue sources. Debates over the town budget have become more
contentious and have greater
As of the end of September, current revenues are lagging 3.1 percent ($1.2 million) behind this time last year, mainly due to a decrease in real estate transfer tax revenues.
Tough evaluations are necessary to determine whether a particular budget proposal is a pet project town administrators “want” or a “need” as defined by community constituents. Turbulent conditions require sustaining and advancing the community’s core private-sector tourism and real estate economic drivers by putting heads in hotel beds, feet on the streets, owners in homes and workers in jobs.
In these troubled times, vacillation breeds uncertainty. Voters should require more of their elected decision makers than tenacious bravado. It is their primary responsibility to study, question, compromise and move on, leading the community’s agenda steadily forward. Extracting and transferring financial tribute from one economic developer to the competitive gain of another, including to the town of Vail (which itself has become a competing economic developer), is fraught with the perception of hypocrisy. Furthermore, it serves only to thwart the private sector’s pursuit of stimulating economic development, which results in slowing job creation.
Using town resources to save Vail’s middle income residents through the technique of local government transfer subsidies is becoming less financially feasible. This ongoing practice must be shifted to incentivizing the private sector by stimulating individual and corporate initiative to create opportunities for better-paying jobs.
The context surrounding a Town Council member’s judgments must be above reproach or personal gain, whether financial or political, for themselves, other institutions or special interests they may represent. To do otherwise is to encourage ongoing factional gridlock.
Importantly, council candidates need to express their views on how they intend to strengthen the benefits of having a strong, financially stable partner in Vail Resorts, particularly when compared with the alternatives.