Vail Daily column: Elections have consequences
August 15, 2014
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. 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 http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
As a result of the 2014 election, present or former employees of Vail Resorts now occupy four of the seven seats of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District's board of directors (Rick Sackbauer, Paul Testwuide, Tom Allender and Bill Simmons) and a Vail Resorts service provider (Kim Langmaid) occupies a fifth seat. This dominance of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board may become significant as the district rolls out the next phase of its long-range $95 million master plan, which is slated to cost an additional $42 million, which will presumably have to be paid for by the district's customers and taxpayers. Vail Resorts has a big stake in those plans since the district's Vail treatment plant sits in the middle of Vail Resorts' proposed Ever Vail development. It is no secret that Vail Resorts would like to see the treatment plant relocated, but that would have a large price tag, upwards of $60 million, according to estimates contemplated by officials during the town of Vail's approval process. If the plant is to be relocated, then it should not be at the expense of the district's customers/taxpayers. The Vail Homeowners Association will be closely watching developments there.
The next election for the Vail community is the Vail Town Council election in November of 2015. Four seats will be open as well as a new mayor elected by the council. Because of term limits, at least two members of the council will be new and it is possible that a majority could be new.
In all likelihood, the next Town Council will face final approvals for Vail Resorts' massive Ever Vail project, which is expected to rival the decade-long $1 billion Vail Renaissance project. A key issue yet to be resolved is the construction of a large (several hundred spaces) public parking garage in the project. Vail Resorts intends to retain ownership of that facility. For several decades, the town has maintained a virtual monopoly over ownership of public parking and it wants a say over the operation of Vail Resorts' public parking. For that, Vail Resorts wants the town to finance the cost of building the Ever Vail public parking garage through the rebate of Tax Increment Financing funds.
It is issues like the financing for the Ever Vail parking that will make the next town of Vail elections critical to the long-term future of the community. Yet without mail-in ballots, turnout in the Vail elections has been on the decline since 2001. Prior to the last election, the Town Council decided to no longer maintain a permanent mailing list from election to election for those wanting to automatically be sent an absentee ballot. The Vail Homeowners Association believes that voting should be encouraged, not made more difficult. As the 2012 elections show, adoption of a permanent mail-in ballot system for the town elections could go a long way toward improving voter participation.
As of early 2014, current state law now provides that eligible electors may request to be put on a permanent absentee voter list with their local government and that the list must be maintained by that local government. Local governments include counties, municipalities and special districts. The town of Vail is in the process of setting up a new permanent absentee voter list for their 2015 municipal election. The Vail Homeowners Association encourages all eligible electors who wish to vote by mail for future elections to submit a request to be placed on the permanent absentee voter list with each of their local governments. Access information and forms on the Vail Homeowners Association website.