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Our View: Grimmer, Bartnik, Woodworth Foral, Sunday for Eagle Town Council

Eagle voters can’t lose. There is nothing but good choices among the nine candidates running for four Town Council seats on this year’s ballot.

Don’t take it from us. Take it from the candidates themselves, who all said as much at a recent forum that had a collegial feel where everyone seemed to agree that the town has a good thing going and that anyone running in this year’s race would serve voters well.

That said, we urge voters to check the box for incumbent Geoffrey Grimmer in his race against Weston Gleiss for a four-year team. We also recommend Janet Bartnik, the other incumbent in the field, for a two-year term, as well as Jamie Woodworth Foral and Nick Sunday for two-year terms.

Grimmer and Bartnik were appointed to the Town Council to fill the seats of beloved locals Adam Palmer and Andy Jessen, and have carried on the vision set forth by the former council members when it comes to sustainability, smart growth and ensuring the town’s long-term viability.

That vision includes a bold initiative of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Grimmer and Bartnik have been instrumental in those sustainability efforts, which include the establishment of the Adam Palmer Fund, which will provide grants and loans to support a variety of sustainability initiatives in Eagle.

Grimmer, who has been at the forefront of the town’s sustainability push, said at the candidate forum that many carbon emission reduction efforts currently being explored have a high potential for return on investment and can save the town — and its residents — money over time. He wants the Town Council to “create a vision that pulls people,” as opposed to pushing them, and that making common-sense changes to be a more sustainable town is an effort that should unify residents.

Bartnik, who is the executive director of Mountain Recreation, has plenty of experience when it comes to shepherding public money responsibly and working collaboratively with other entities. She is focused on shoring up the town’s financial future and wants to drive solutions to some of the issues facing communities across the valley, most notably a shortage of affordable housing that has made it hard for businesses to find employees, as well as a lack of child care services.

As for the other two open seats, we liked Jamie Woodworth Foral’s take on the town needing to be proactive, not reactive, to the challenges it faces with population growth, housing and future development. She also said that the town’s staff runs the town, not the other way around, and that it’s the Town Council’s job to grow and support that staff. She said she’d like the town to hire an assistant town manager to help assist what everyone agreed is a great town manager in Brandy Reitter.

While all of the candidates said that it’s essential to maintain the small-town character and feel that has kept residents in Eagle and drawn in new ones, Sunday articulated it best when he said he wants to “keep Eagle weird.” That means improving the things that locals already love about the town while not forgetting what makes Eagle unique, whether it’s the free concerts in the town park in the summer where you might run into someone with a pig on a leash, to keeping the town’s off-beat holiday light display that has an inadvertent phallic resemblance.

And, as the operator of a company that distributes video games and jukeboxes across the Western Slope, he said he’s free of any conflicts of interest when it comes to development pressures that could erode that small-town character.

We also liked plenty of the ideas from other candidates on the ballot. Shawn Bruckman, the director of sustainability and compost operations manager at Vail Honeywagon, said two of the biggest issues facing Eagle as it grows are “parking and water” and that some recently approved developments have not aligned with Eagle’s land-use code when it comes to providing adequate parking and maintaining the flow of traffic.

Judson Haims, a longtime local, said it’s essential for the town to grow its sales tax base, but he said decisions on how the town grows would be driven by listening to the community and allowing business owners and other residents to guide the council.

Weston Gleiss suggested Eagle could welcome more light manufacturing business like the one it already has in QuietKat e-bikes to create more local jobs. He also said the town could capitalize better on its access to public land and open spaces to support new business.

Weston Arbogast, an engineer with an interest in water use and sustainability, said the town should support more diverse housing options, including more deed-restricted properties, to keep locals from leaving and entice new residents.

Sarah Parrish, a real estate agent and longtime local, also said the town needs to diversify its housing options and also supports multimodal transportation for commuters and giving already-approved residential developments the support they need to move forward quickly.

It’s hard not to like any of these ideas, and any one of these candidates would serve residents well on the council.

In our opinion, the best choices are Geoffrey Grimmer, Janet Bartnik, Jamie Woodworth Foral and Nick Sunday.

Our View: Eagle County Commissioners don’t need a third term

The Eagle County commissioners have asked, again, for an extension in the amount of time they can hold office, putting Issue 1A on the fall ballot.

Colorado’s Constitution prohibits elective office holders from serving more than eight consecutive years. Voters can extend or remove those limits.

In Eagle County, the commissioners are the only elected officials limited to just a pair of four-year terms, despite several attempts at change.

In the wake of the 1994 passage of the state’s term-limit amendment, county officials asked voters almost immediately for relief, following the forced retirement of a popular county sheriff and other office-holders.

The original ballot question asked to remove term limits from all office holders. Voters said no. A few years later, the question was split, with the commissioners on one question and other elected officials on the other. Voters approved lifting limits for the sheriff, clerk and recorder, treasurer and other offices, but left them in place for the commissioners.

The commissioners asked again in the early 2000s, and were again rejected.

The current question asks voters — in a slightly sneaky way — to add another four-year term to the current two-term limit. That would allow commissioners to serve up to 12 years — if voters agree, of course.

The term-limit question is a tricky one. One one hand, why should arbitrary limits subvert the will of the voters? If the county clerk, or sheriff, or surveyor want to serve multiple terms, and voters agree, why should the state impose a limit?

On the other hand, the more political an elective job is, short-circuiting the power of incumbency allows a regular infusion of fresh talent into the process.

The commissioners are the most political office holders in the county, and catch the most input on whatever decisions they make.

Congress is the best example of incumbency creating voter malaise. Representatives and senators can, and do, serve for decades, often amassing great power and sizable fortunes in the process.

The situation is different for county commissioners, of course. And there’s a logical argument for 1A, particularly when it comes to serving in state and regional organizations. A few of those organizations, including the Colorado River District, make policy. Others are primarily lobbying groups. But all depend in large part on seniority.

Given that relatively few of Colorado’s counties are locked into the two-term limit, that puts Eagle County’s representatives at a disadvantage.

With that in mind, though, Eagle County voters have already answered this question several times. Not enough has changed in the past couple of decades to change that answer. While experience in any job can be valuable, there’s also something to be said for new people and new ideas.

We encourage voters to check no on their ballots — again.

Our View: Yes to Vail sales tax to fund housing

Vail has been short of workforce housing since the first gondola clattered uphill in 1962. But today’s housing crunch may be as bad, or worse, than it’s ever been.

While Vail in the last few years has put millions from its existing housing funds and ample reserves into housing initiatives, that isn’t a sustainable course of action. Today’s housing crunch may finally have convinced town voters it’s time to create a stable housing fund.

Unlike Avon, which is asking voters to tax short-term rentals — a tax someone else pays — Vail is asking voters to increase the town’s sales tax rate for the first time since 1974. The proposed increase — .5% — won’t apply to groceries, so locals will bear little of the burden. Most people won’t notice either, since .5% adds $5 to a $1,000 purchase. That’s a big day at the hardware store or ski shop.

If passed, the sales tax revenue — estimated at $4.3 million in its first year — will be dedicated to housing projects and initiatives.

That revenue can be used for town-only initiatives, and the proposal’s 30-year sunset provision is roughly in line with the standard repayment time for revenue bonds.

But local governments are best served when private-sector partners get involved, so funds can also be used for those projects.

The ballot question — 2A on your ballot — specifies that revenues from the new tax go to housing, but the money can be used both inside and outside of Vail.

Given the $70 million estimated cost of redeveloping the west side of the Timber Ridge property, money from the proposed sales tax will almost certainly need to be augmented with other money. Still, this new revenue stream is a good start.

Opponents of the proposal have argued that Vail’s money won’t be spent entirely on housing for people who work in town, or will be available to those who don’t work in town.

The town has set up a tiered system for the 23 units at Edwards’ 6 West apartments for which the town purchased deed restrictions. Those restrictions mean units go first to town employees, then people who work in Vail, then people who work in Eagle County for an annual average of 30 hours per week.

In a valley that relies on a commuting workforce, it will be difficult to ensure that funds from the sales tax will benefit only those who work in Vail. We believe the town will make a sincere effort to ensure that housing fund money will first benefit Vail’s workforce. We also believe that this is the time to boost the town’s housing funds, and we encourage a “yes” vote on the question.

Our View: Yes to Avon rental tax

Adequate workforce housing has always been a problem in Eagle County, but the current situation may be as bad as it’s ever been.

With that in mind, local governments are putting serious resources into addressing the problem. But what’s needed is a stable revenue source.

Both Vail and Avon this fall are asking voters to approve new revenue streams to help fund housing initiatives.

Avon’s proposal is a new, 2% tax on short-term rentals. According to the ballot language, that levy would raise $1.5 million in its first year. There’s no expiration date included in the request.

For most of us, $1.5 million is a lot of money. In the big scheme of things, though, $1.5 million won’t buy much in the way of housing projects, even with years of collections. But $1.5 million per year is a good amount to back revenue bonds or participate in partnerships.

Those partnerships can involve either private developers or other local governments, although working with the private sector seems to provide more bang for the buck.

The Avon tax proposal is a type generally favored by voters: one that someone else pays. In addition, it’s popular to blame short-term rentals for the valley’s current housing shortage.

Short-term rentals certainly contribute to the lack of housing. A former Vail Daily staffer had to move four times in five years because landlords decided to convert their long-term rentals to short-term use.

On the other hand, many owners short-term their property, so they can use those units themselves from time to time. That’s been the case since the ski industry’s earliest days. The difference, of course, is reach. Little classified ads in big-city newspapers have become internet listings with photos and global reach.

It can be somewhat difficult to track just who’s renting out their units. Still, tracking and registration systems exist — at the cost of a bit more town staff time.

Short-term rentals aren’t the only cause of our current housing crunch — there isn’t much inventory, and many owners are also moving to the valley full-time. Many units in the short-term pool have never been used as long-term rentals. But the increase in short-term rentals has affected the valley’s rental stock. It seems fair to have guests of those units pay a bit more to help house those who take care of everyone who visits the valley.

Our View: Coggin, Rediker, Davis, Seibert for Vail Town Council

Vail is fortunate to have 10 bright, passionate candidates running for four seats on the Town Council in this election.

There’s not a bad choice to be made in the bunch. That said, we believe the best four candidates this year are incumbent Travis Coggin, former Council member Kim Newbury Rediker, Barry Davis and Pete Seibert.

Coggin brings both relative youth and experience to the board. Better yet, he understands both business and the unique challenges of trying to own a home in Vail. He also spent much of his youth in town, so understands what it’s like to be a kid in Vail.

Coggin believes in the processes of local government, arguments and all, but can address issues as they come, not as they linger.

Davis brings many of the qualities Vail needs on its Town Council. His business experience ranges from bartender to entrepreneur. That business experience is, we believe, essential for Vail. Departing Council member Jenn Bruno, the co-owner of a Vail Village retail store, and Mayor Dave Chapin, a minority partner in a Vail restaurant, brought an in-the-action perspective to the council that isn’t always present.

Davis also has young children in the local school. He’s one of only two candidates this year with young children at home. He lives in the Chamonix Townhomes neighborhood. If Vail’s serious about keeping people in town and attracting more families, Davis’ voice will be important.

Seibert also lives in the Chamonix neighborhood. Again, that’s a good perspective for board members who want to truly understand at least part of the town’s attempts at creating workforce housing.

As someone who literally grew up with Vail, Seibert has a clear view of what made Vail great and what it will take to keep the town on the right path.

Newbury Rediker has by far the most broad community service experience of all the candidates. She’s served two terms on the council, is currently a member of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors and has served with many other community groups. She’s first-hand familiar with the town’s deed-restricted housing program and has worked for several local businesses. She’s currently the assistant general manager of The Antlers Lodge.

You’ll notice that we’ve left incumbent Brian Stockmar off this short list. Normally, an incumbent who’s served diligently and honestly — as Stockmar has — would have a relatively easy path for endorsement for another term. That we aren’t endorsing him speaks more to the quality of the other four candidates we’ve endorsed.

For the others who didn’t earn an endorsement, we hope all will continue their interest in serving their community, whether serving on the town’s different advisory boards to participating in community life in other ways.

Any of this year’s candidates could credibly serve on the Vail Town Council. But the insight, experience and temperament of Davis, Coggin, Seibert and Newbury Rediker make them the best choices in an important election year for the town. We believe they’ll also work best with the three council members not up for election this year.

Our View: Yes on 6A to help Mountain Rec build for the future

Mountain Recreation is asking for a lot from voters in the district with Ballot Issue 6A, but that’s because voters asked for a lot themselves.

For the past four years, Mountain Rec staff has been surveying the public on what it wants, and the end result of all that engagement is an ambitious proposal called All Access Rec.

If approved, the measure would allow the district to make facility and equipment improvements to its three popular facilities in Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum, as well as adding more community spaces, additional programs for all ages, and an all-access pass to allow community members to utilize all three facilities. There will also be year-round access through updated and new community spaces, behavioral health programs, local nonprofit services, and social activities, as well as improvements to trailhead, swimming, and recreational facilities to provide more access for active outdoor recreation, summer camps, and youth and adult recreation programs.

It’s a bold vision for the future of recreation and community spaces in the western end of the valley. But that vision comes with a substantial asking price in the present. The district is asking voters to approve a property-tax increase that will support about $60 million in construction and improvements. The mill levy increase more than doubles the district’s current mill levy, and is estimated to cost $32 per year per $100,000 in home value, or about $217 per year for the average home in the district.

Some voters might wonder why the district can’t do these upgrades a la carte, possibly starting with the oldest of the three facilities, the well-loved Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. That facility is now 18 years old and was built when Eagle numbered around 3,000 residents. The town, according to the most recent census data, now has more than 7,000 residents.

In a wide, narrow valley, the district’s geography makes that kind of piecemeal building all but impossible. The cost required for any single major upgrade at the Gypsum Recreation Center, Eagle Pool and Ice Rink or the Edwards Field House is significant enough that it would require bonding — which would mean going to the public for funds for each individual project.

And while upgrading one at a time would allow the district to space things out, the voters in any one of the district’s hubs would be unlikely to vote and pay for a major upgrade in another. By taking that kind of approach, it’s likely the district would never get anything meaningful done.

That’s why the Mountain Recreation board has taken its district-wide approach. While the price tag is higher, this measure will set the district up for years, instead of constantly going back to voters for more money.

More importantly, the district has been responsible with the public’s money. Its last bond measure came more than 20 years ago, and those bonds were paid off 10 years early.

The district also heard loud and clear from two targeted surveys and in-person feedback at more than 30 events across the valley over the spring and summer that the bulk of voters were largely enthusiastic about the proposed upgrades. But what was also clear: the original $80 million price tag was too steep.

After some cost trimming, the district came back with the $60 million ask. It expects to raise the additional capital from private donations, with $6 million already lined up.

That’s not underselling the request to voters. It’s substantial. But, given the district’s trustworthiness handling the public’s money, and the acknowledgment that these asks aren’t going to get any cheaper as the western end of the valley continues to grow and construction costs continue to skyrocket, this proposal deserves your support.

It’s a necessary pain point to set up a bright future to create community centers that are multicultural and multi-generational.

A yes vote is an investment in the overall health of this valley, both physically and mentally, and that investment is one we’re inclined to say voters won’t regret.

Vote yes on Ballot Issue 6A.

Our View: Recall the Avon recall

If you’re trying to make sense of the two recalls on the ballot in Avon, don’t. This recall effort has been nonsensical from the start, and in an odd-year election where voters face important decisions up and down the ballot, a no vote on both is a no-brainer.

To be clear, Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Council member Tamra Underwood haven’t broken any laws, nor has either violated an oath of office or acted unethically. If you try to follow the logic of the Avon Recall Committee, this effort is a referendum on both Smith Hymes and Underwood for their council votes to relocate the Hahnewald Barn and for not eliminating the town’s real estate transfer tax.

If Smith Hymes or Underwood or the other two council members who voted for the barn relocation had actually gone ahead with that undertaking after voters resoundingly rejected the idea in a survey that mimicked an official town vote, then, sure, the recall committee might have an argument. But as Avon voters well know, Smith Hymes and Underwood respected the will of their constituents and the barn was demolished. End of story.

As for the real estate transfer tax, as Smith Hymes points out in her own response to the recall on the ballot, it has been supported by Town Councils since its inception 40 years ago, and was unanimously reaffirmed as recently as March 2019.

Why Smith Hymes and Underwood are being singled out for something that’s been a mainstay in Avon for four decades makes absolutely no sense.

But, again, this recall makes no sense whatsoever. Its only objective is to hijack the democratic process and bully elected officials.

Avon voters should stand up and reject this kind of skullduggery in their local politics. Voters need to send a message, and a loud one, to the residents behind this effort, some of them previous losers in council elections, who are wasting valuable taxpayer funds and resources.

That message? Recalls should be used only as a last resort to remove lawmakers who have run afoul of the law or are derelict in their duties. If you don’t like the policies of elected officials, then use your time and money to run against those candidates in the next election.

That’s how a democracy works.

And that democracy is only weakened when a loud, vocal minority tries to subvert the will of the majority by clearing the low bar of forcing an unnecessary recall vote.

The town has already spent close to six figures on this recall effort — money that could have been used in so many other meaningful ways. This giant waste of town resources and taxpayer dollars has gone on long enough, and we urge Avon voters to put an end to this nonsense with their votes.

Vote no on the two Avon recalls.

Our View: Let schools open peacefully, without distractions

Our kids are watching us. They’re taking their cues from us, the grownups, as another local school year begins with emotions running high.

The Friday announcement that Eagle County will issue a public health order Monday requiring masks in local schools, where large populations of students aren’t eligible for vaccines, has pushed our community to the edges. The frustration and anger are palpable.

It’s why there will be a notable law enforcement presence on hand Monday as local schools open. And with everyone watching, here’s the question that we’ve got to answer as a community: What kind of example will we set for our children?

That should be top of mind for each and every grownup in this valley as educators, who’ve prepared for weeks for this moment, and students, who are always excited for the first day of school, get back in the classroom to get back to learning.

We’re calling on every single Eagle County resident to let our kids and our educators go back to school peacefully — without disruption or additional emotional stress.

Let’s let our teachers teach; let’s let our students learn; and let’s be adults and let our disagreements happen out of view of the important work that’s happening inside those classrooms.

Can we at least agree on one thing: Every single parent in this valley and every student, teacher, principal, bus driver, cafeteria worker and school janitor wishes this pandemic would just be over and done with. Whether you disagree with the county’s public health order or support it, we all want to get back to life as normal.

We’re past pandemic fatigue, especially after a summer in which we were able to get out and enjoy life in this beautiful valley free of restrictions.

But let’s also be clear: The delta variant — and the summer surge that is filling up hospital beds across the country and has claimed the lives of three county residents in the last three weeks — has redrawn the lines in this fight against COVID-19.

There’s no underselling that fact. Our current community incidence rate is more than seven times higher than it was at this time last year when schools opened.

The big difference is that, in these last 12 months, safe, effective vaccines became available, and we responded by going out and doing the work of getting vaccinated to move past public health orders designed to slow the spread and protect our most vulnerable populations.

Our students have done that work, too. The county’s rate for at least one dose of vaccine for anyone 12 and older is now at 85.7%. As of Aug. 12, the rates for youth 12 to 15 years old is 70.1% and even higher for young adults 16 to 17 years old (84.4%) and 18 to 19 years old (83.7%).

But there are no vaccines yet for youth under 12, and with so much still unknown about this latest variant of the virus — outside of it being twice as contagious, and with local incident rates where they currently are — public health officials made the agonizing decision in coordination with school officials to start the year with masks in most schools.

There’s no conspiracy here. This was no coordinated, sudden reversal that was in the works all along following a summer of contentious school board meetings. It’s a decision simply based on the data, just like every decision public health officials have made throughout this pandemic. We’re in a bad spot, and we’ve got to pull together as a community to lower our incident rate to avoid significant classroom disruptions.

We’ve done that repeatedly, and we can do it again. And since we’ve got work to do as a community, please ask yourself this: Will stomping and screaming and making a scene about this change anything?

You want to protest? That’s your right, but do it somewhere else other than school grounds. You want to express your anger with blistering emails or phone calls to county and school district officials? That’s your choice.

But it’s not going to lower that troubling caseload, nor will it endear you to your fellow neighbors at a time when we’re all dealing with unprecedented circumstances.

We’d rather you channel that energy into something positive — something that sets an example for our children when it comes to community values and how we co-exist in this valley.

We’re counting on you to set an example, Eagle County. Don’t let it be the wrong one.

Our View: Sorry for the inconvenience

So you got stuck in the construction on U.S. Highway 6. And your trip to Glenwood got postponed because the canyon was closed again. And, oh yeah, you had to wait a while to get a table at your favorite local restaurant and the food was slow coming out.

Here’s some friendly advice: Get over it.

Yeah, waiting in traffic stinks. Yes, these interstate closures are a nightmare. And, sure, nobody likes waiting too long for a burger and a cold drink.

But before you decide to honk your horn in the traffic queue, or chew out an overworked waiter at a restaurant that’s likely understaffed, take a look around. You might just reconsider.

For one, if you haven’t noticed, the worker shortage in this valley has reached a crisis level. Local restaurants ravaged by shutdowns and capacity restrictions brought on by the pandemic are now having the opposite problem: not being able to find enough workers to staff restaurants that can run at full capacity.

It’s a double gut punch that’s likely to get much worse when local teenagers head back to class in a few weeks. Everywhere around this valley, local businesses are trying to make do — and make up for what they lost during the pandemic — while running short-handed.

Some have closed certain days. Some have dropped shifts. Others are closing sections of the restaurant. And, in case you haven’t noticed, everybody working in these places is busting their humps.

So, no, your chicken parm isn’t slow coming out because the service is bad — it’s likely because your waiter is in the weeds with too many tables and the kitchen is down a few line cooks and there’s a line out the door. Nobody’s slacking off.

These businesses certainly need the business, and what they also need right now is a little grace. Patience is in too short of supply.

That’s especially true when it comes to the road crews standing out in the hot sun every day. Don’t take it from us. Take it from a recent social media post that made the rounds.

An EagleVail resident recently shared her encounter one morning with one of the road workers on Highway 6. The worker apologized for holding her up on her bike, which she said wasn’t a big deal, and then the worker relayed a story about how he had been spit on by some angry passersby.

Seriously? You’re so upset about waiting in traffic for a couple of minutes that you had to share your phlegm with the guy holding the stop sign?

That’s just not OK. Our valley’s workers certainly deserve better for simply doing their jobs. Instead of spitting, you might roll down the window and thank that road worker for standing in the sun for eight hours and keeping you safe.

Also, the new blacktop running through EagleVail and on parts of Vail Pass is pretty sweet. It’s a huge improvement over the potholes and ruts.

And the road diet that’s currently underway in EagleVail is going to connect one of the last missing sections of the long-imagined effort to create a continuous hard surface trail from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon. The recreation path for bikers and pedestrians will make a dangerous stretch of highway much safer and make life easier for local businesses and local residents.

Trust us, it’s worth the wait.

As for the canyon closures and recent mudslides, well, that’s a topic for another column. Let’s just say we’re all to blame for the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing in the West in recent summers. Don’t blame Mother Nature for a burn scar that’s bleeding mud every time it rains. And don’t blame Colorado Department of Transportation officials for shutting down the interstate out of caution to protect lives.

It’s not the end of the world that you can’t make that Target run.

Our View: Here’s to a job well done

After 14 months of mask orders and capacity restrictions, today is a day to celebrate, Eagle County.

We’ve worked exceptionally hard as a community to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed and to keep our schools and businesses open. And now, after months of vaccination clinics to get us to a point where at least 62% of the local population has gotten at least one dose, we’re finally ready to emerge from the last of the public health orders brought on by COVID-19.

Give yourself some props. We didn’t get here as a community without buy-in and grit and the majority of us working together for the greater good.

We’re ready to see those smiles today as masks come off. We’re excited for our local businesses, which have been battered by these restrictions, to be able to run at full strength. We can’t wait to gather and celebrate, whether it’s at a high school graduation, a live concert or just out and about around the valley as spring turns into summer.

Does this mean the pandemic is over? Sorry to disappoint, but no. That’s not the point of this editorial, and here’s why: About 600 Americans a day are still dying from the virus. That’s down from a peak of over 3,000 deaths per day for most of January, the lowest in 14 months, but it’s still a very grim reality.

Here in Eagle County, there were 19 new COVID-19 cases and one hospitalization reported last week. If nothing else, those numbers prove that we’re not free of COVID-19 and there’s still plenty of work to do.

That said, we have reached this important milestone, after months of work, and now it’s time for us to move on from these public health orders that have been in place to protect our community, especially our most vulnerable.

At the Vail Daily, we’re also moving on from some staples that readers have relied on these past 14 months. We’re pulling the daily COVID-19 tracker on the front page of the paper and on the home page of our website.

That doesn’t mean, as a news operation, that we’re going to stop tracking the virus in Eagle County, or reporting on it, but as our case counts have dropped here and our vaccination numbers have rapidly increased, the usefulness of these trackers has diminished — and each occupies valuable real estate that can be used to spotlight other reporting.

You can still continue to track cases and Eagle County’s COVID trajectory by going to eaglecountycovid.org.

We know this is a lot to process at once, and we urge empathy and compassion — two hallmarks of this community — as we all come to terms with this new reality. There’s so much excitement, but there is also real fear and anxiety from some who are struggling with the thought of reentering society after so many months of isolation.

For the vaccinated, we urge you to go ahead and live your life, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated. Be smart, but feel safe in knowing that your risk for getting the virus is minimal, as are the risks of getting seriously ill if you do happen to catch it.

If you’re among the unvaccinated, we urge you to consider the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that shows that these vaccines are safe — and that they are the only way that we’ll ever be able to fully liberate ourselves from this global pandemic.

If you still have questions about the vaccines, we urge you to go to eaglecountycovid.org to learn more and get information on clinic dates, times and locations. All clinics accept walk-in patients, but reservations are still accepted.

Lastly, there are still mask requirements in place at local schools, as well as federal regulations that still require masks when using public transportation, which includes ECO Transit and the Eagle County Regional Airport.

After how far we’ve come, we urge every community member to respect these mandates and to be respectful of those who are just doing their jobs enforcing them.

Be safe out there, and please be kind as we settle back into life as we once knew it here in this beautiful place we get to call home.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller and Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd.