| VailDaily.com

Our View: Plenty of reasons to be thankful


It has been a hard year. If there’s one thing we can all agree on in 2020, it’s definitely that.

But in the midst of all the difficult news, from coronavirus cases surging, the economy lagging and our stress levels rising, there is still plenty for which to be thankful as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

For one, look around. We all hit the cosmic lottery to live in such a stunningly beautiful place with so much open space to roam. That’s why so many city dwellers have recently relocated to Eagle County full-time or why so many second-home owners have extended their stays.

It’s incredibly easy to socially distance in this picturesque valley we get to call home. Be thankful that you can walk right out your front door and get right into nature in just seconds.

Speaking of getting outside, be thankful that both of our local mountains have opened successfully and that resort employees and those working in all three resort villages are working hard to ensure a safe experience across the board.

We’ve been out on the mountains for Opening Day at Vail and Beaver Creek and we found employees repeatedly, politely reminding guests to keep their masks on — all the way over their noses — and keeping skiers and riders spaced out.

That effort is what is going to help us keep these resorts open for a ski season that we all need in the worst way.

Be thankful that we’ve managed to keep schools open and kids in classrooms up until now. We’re grateful for the teachers, support staff, administrators, bus drivers, food workers, cleaning staffs and volunteers who have been out there every day making our schools as safe as possible and ensuring the best learning experience for our kids.

We’re also grateful for all workers on the front lines who’ve kept this valley open — restaurant workers, retail and grocery workers, hair cutters and mechanics, plumbers and baristas, valets and cleaners and too many more to name.

You’re all essential workers, and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed by those of us who are afforded the luxury of doing our jobs from home.

We also could not be more grateful that Eagle County now has a robust system to help people with the mental health challenges that COVID-19 has brought with it. Two years ago, that wasn’t the case. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health couldn’t have emerged at a more important time, and we’re grateful to all the behavioral health specialists and organizations, including first responders and law enforcement officers, who are working to help those struggling to cope through this crisis.

We’re also grateful for our health care workers — doctors, nurses, administrative and support staff. They see this virus up close every day. We’re lucky to have a hospital system and health care network that has deftly navigated this crisis by constantly working to come up with solutions for faster, more robust testing and extra beds and stockpiles of PPE to avoid the ghastly war-time triage that other hospitals have seen.

We’re also grateful for leadership from our elected officials, public health officials and business leaders. It’s downright refreshing, given the state of politics in this country. They’ve been proactive in communicating both good news and bad news and have worked together to navigate this crisis. In the toughest of positions, they have responded with honesty and integrity.

Also, is there a more generous place on the planet? We’re grateful for the community organizations that have come together to tirelessly support those in need. And we’re thankful for this community coming together to support local businesses that have been hit hard.

It’s those local businesses, of which we’re one, that are the backbone of this community.

We live in a remarkable place. For the most part, as a valley, we’ve been able to put aside our differences and come together — while at a distance — to come up with creative solutions to get us through.

Lastly, we’re grateful to you, our readers, who have relied upon us to deliver the news and have pushed us to tell the essential stories that matter to this community in a time of great need. You’ve made us better and, as always, we’re here to serve you.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

 

Sheldon: How did we get here, America?

I got a message tonight from a friend who has been supportive of my writings and political leanings. She suggested, in attempt to seek healing for our nation, that I lose some of my anger, that I return to civility. I think she was right.

Like most of us, on either side of any political aisles (hate that term but can’t think of a better one), I am perplexed, concerned, disappointed and embarrassed with what is happening in our country.

Tonight, I read 70% of Republicans believe our election was a fraud. That is a lot of millions of Americans who place more stock in the musings of one man than they do in their fellow hundreds of millions of American citizens. This morning I read that our president, after losing both legal challenges and recounts, is resorting to plan C: Bringing Republican state legislators to D.C. to strong arm them into believing and acting upon his conspiracy theories and false claims. Claims not only unproven, but now disproven. Today I can add that after being refuted by these lawmakers in Michigan he is attempting the same tactic with Pennsylvania lawmakers.

I have always followed a business maxim I learned years ago: 98% of the people you deal with are good people and only 1-2% are bad. So, I ask, how do approximately 45 million Americans believe one man over pretty much everyone else? How can hundreds of millions of your neighbors, friends, elected officials, plumbers, doctors, scientists, business owners, students, military and intelligence personnel, journalists, pundits, bandits and full wits all be wrong? And only Donald Trump, right?

Recently, a formerly respected mayor claiming that Venezuela’s Hugo Chaves orchestrated our fraudulent election with George Soros. By the way, Hugo has been dead for seven years.

He claimed the entire state of Michigan’s votes should be thrown out because he said someone saw a food truck with ballots in it. No pictures, no proof, just “hey this person said he saw no food in the food truck.”

His cohort told us through tears at the same press conference that democrats developed voting machines with the help of communists that were programmed to count only Democrat votes and switch Republican votes. Yet these machines, made in Denver Colorado, were used in states where Trump won handily. And, again, no proof of this claim.

This election also gave us newly elected representatives in Congress who believe the Clintons drank the blood of children in a pizza parlor basement, only there is no proof. Hell, there is not even a basement in this pizza joint. It would be humorous to read this in Mad Magazine, only this conspiracy theory is also believed by millions of Americans. And these people won election by supporting these claims. And the president has done all he can to not refute these falsehoods.

How did we get here, America? If Trump is merely the symptom, then what is the disease? Where has common sense and rational thinking gone? Under the gaslight would be my guess.

History has seen this before and mankind has suffered. Yet we made the same mistakes. Allowing our free press to be maligned. Asking no substantiation of facts. Holding no one accountable. Having elected legislators fail to stand up and do the right thing.

For eight years now, we have watched a man with no proof or verification spout lies only to tell us tomorrow he will show us the proof. Yet tomorrow has never come with this man.

Where is the proof Obama was not born in the United States? Where is the proof he won the popular election in 2016? Where is the proof his campaign was spied upon by Obama? Where are his promised tax returns? And where oh where is all this proof of election fraud? Trump recently claimed that Georgia’s hand recount was fake. Seriously? Fake?

Please tell me again why you believe a historical conman, cheat, 7-thousand-fold civil litigant/defendant and philanderer about anything? Because you wanted to believe he would drain the swamp? Let me clue you in: there are swamp people everywhere, in every profession and in every corner. But they are the 2%, not the 98%. The swamp in D.C. is no worse than the swamp anywhere else in American life.

I believe his message is what millions of Americans wanted to hear. What they wanted to believe. The fantasy that all politicians are bad. The belief that the American system is rigged against our life blood: common Americans. That all our problems, all our ills, all our woes could be blamed on one political party. And that America could be great again if we would only place all our unrequited love on one man. Like the Wizard from Oz, an awful lot of us fell for a charade. But there really is no boogeyman to blame everything on.

Here is what I think. I think America can be great again if we get back to what made us great. Intelligence, hard work, acceptance, diversity, kindness, self-reliance and democracy. And faith. Faith in each other and faith in those who lead us. We put these officials in office by vote and we can take them out by vote.

The election must stand, and it must stop being questioned with false claims.

We need to believe each other and in each other. And in our democratic process. Your neighbor is not a bad person because they stand on the other side of the abortion issue. Or the tax or health care issue. Or because they vote for people who have liberal or conservative views like they do. Or because they pray at a different church, temple or mosque.

Unfortunately, we have been manipulated too long America. The last four years have been the climax. It is time for this play’s major action to see some resolution. And conclude in reuniting our country. In the end we will reclaim our dignity and respect for each other and our country. Ultimately, America has always been about us.

Steve Sheldon is an Eagle resident.

Our View: Andrade, Erickson, Golembiewski for Avon Town Council

It’s time for a change in Avon. The Town Council needs new voices in the room, and there are certainly qualified newcomers on this year’s ballot who would bring fresh perspectives and help the town turn the page from previous boondoggles that have rankled voters. 

At the top of that list is Russell “RJ” Andrade, who we endorsed two years ago for the same job. Andrade, the general manager at Agave, a popular restaurant in town, exudes passion for the role and, as a longtime local, knows the issues that the town’s business community faces. Those challenges include being able to hire workers and house them as well as finding ways to keep local businesses afloat in the COVID-19 economy.

Andrade said his top priority as a councilmember will be taking care of taxpayer money and making sure that every dollar spent is used on needed capital improvement projects, not passion projects like the Hahnewald Barn move, which voters overwhelmingly rejected after forcing a special vote.

We also think Missy Erickson, another longtime local who has lived in Avon for nearly three decades and runs her own clothing line, would make a great councilmember. Erickson is passionate about helping turn Avon into a regional creative district, like Santa Fe, to attract artists, designers and other entrepreneurs who could, in turn, attract visitors and other private businesses.

Martin Golembiewski, an engineer who currently serves on the town’s planning and zoning commission, is the other candidate we’re recommending to Avon voters. Golembiewski’s credentials make him a trusted voice when he says the town needs to do a better job understanding the full scope of projects and avoiding cost overruns that have created mistrust among taxpayers and the council in the past. 

If there’s a common theme among these three candidates, it’s a dedication to fiscal responsibility and transparency. All three said that the council needs to do a better job of community outreach — certainly a challenge in a pandemic — instead of expecting the community to come to town hall.

Kevin Hyatt and Lindsay Hardy, in our estimation, would also make great councilmembers, if elected. Hardy, like Golembiewski, currently serves on the town’s P&Z committee and, as an architect, has experience in vetting projects and guiding development. She’s also the only person in the race who represents renters who are outside the housing market and looking to get in. Hyatt is a small business owner who’d be a respectable, reasonable voice for the local business community.

As for Amy Phillips, who has previously served three terms on the council, and is seeking a fourth, we feel that it’s time for a new direction. And that’s acknowledging that some of the charges directed at Phillips in the recent recall campaign that failed to garner enough voter signatures are wholly undeserved.

To be clear, Phillips wasn’t on the council when the stage in Nottingham Park was approved and built, and she certainly wasn’t on the council, 40 years ago, when the town approved its real estate transfer tax. To Phillips’ credit, in a recent candidate forum, she candidly stated that more could be done to improve the exemption from the RETT for locals looking to get into market, claiming that raising the exemption from $160,000 to $240,000 was “paltry” and that the number needed to go higher to better approach the purchase price of an average two-bedroom townhome in Avon.

Avon residents certainly saw this recall stunt for what it was. A recall should be used as a last resort to removed elected officials guilty of gross misconduct — not over policy disputes or sour grapes based on how the last council election shook out. 

That said, Phillips did vote for the barn move, which may be a moot point after voters had their say and rebuked the council, but that decision shows a disconnect with constituents. Voters rejected that 4-3 council vote to the tune of nearly 9-1.

And in a bizarre scene at the most recent council meeting, after current councilmember Jennie Fancher, a previous mayor, castigated one of the leaders of the recall effort with a profane insult, Phillips decided that was the opportune time to swoop in and campaign for herself. It was an awkward scene that resembled bad reality TV, not a public meeting in a prosperous town that sits between two of the world’s great ski resorts.

Avon can do better. Vote for Russell “RJ” Andrade, Missy Erickson and Martin Golembiewski for Avon Town Council.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: Yes on 5B to support local schools

Eagle County voters have a track record of supporting local students and educators and Issue 5B is an easy choice on this year’s ballot. For one, it’s not a new tax or a tax increase — just an extension to the mill levy override that voters approved in 2016.

And, in the midst of a pandemic that has created deeper shortfalls in state-level public education funding, the need for that extension has never been more acute.

Passage of 5B ensures our local district won’t go backward after all the progress it has made since the Great Recession of the late 2000s led to deep cuts in the state budget that led to a reduction of teachers, staff, and services in local schools. The district still has yet to get back to pre-recession staffing levels.

Eagle County Schools already went through the painful exercise of cutting its annual operating budget by 10% over the summer. That’s significant belt-tightening when around 85% of the district’s operating costs go to paying salaries and benefits for the 1,000 or so residents it employs as the county’s second-largest employer. The two other biggest line items on the budget are supplies and classroom tools.

The mill levy override isn’t set to expire until Dec. 31, 2023, but given that murky future outlook at the state level, the district is getting out front and asking voters to provide some financial stability for the long-term. There’s also the moving target of student enrollment in a transient community that’s being notably reshaped by those who can’t afford to stay and those who are moving here to escape big metro areas. Eagle County and other mountain resort communities with seasonal workforces have historically struggled with shifting enrollment counts since state funding is done by a per-pupil calculation.

Our educators and school workers are essential, frontline workers in this pandemic. The local district has successfully navigated reopening schools to in-person learning while so many other districts around the state started the school year with remote learning or have struggled to keep classrooms open. Every day educators and staffers are stepping up to give our kids what they desperately need in these chaotic times: A sense of normalcy and a quality education.

There’s nothing that can replace the experience of students being engaged, in a classroom, learning with their peers.

That’s why we’re asking Eagle County voters to step up for those teachers, administrators, bus drivers, lunchroom workers and other school workers by passing 5B on this year’s ballot.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: Kathy Chandler-Henry, Matt Scherr for county seats

In this divisive election season, character can still cross partisan lines.

Want proof?

There are ranches in remote parts of Eagle County where Trump-Pence signs are proudly displayed next to signs for Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. That should tell you a lot about the values of Chandler-Henry, who grew up here, graduated high school here, and said her “greatest honor” has been to serve the county she’s called home for most of her life.

Local voters have four strong choices for the two Eagle County Commissioner seats on the ballot this year, but we’re urging voters to stick with Chandler-Henry and the other incumbent, Matt Scherr. That endorsement has nothing to do with party affiliation and everything to do with the calm, decisive leadership both have displayed as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on our daily lives and rattled the local economy. Their engagement and responsiveness helped turn the tide from the county leading the state in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita in March to being the first to be given an exemption from the governor, in April, from strict stay-at-home orders.

Both also responded to a growing economic crisis by earmarking $1.5 million for a COVID-19 emergency fund and having the county partner with local organizations to provide help. The county’s efforts during the Grizzly Creek Fire to keep residents informed and to assist the federal and state agencies tasked with the response was also impressive. 

This isn’t to say that Thomas Crisofulli and Jennifer Woolley wouldn’t make for great commissioners. In our conversations with both, we found them to be good, honest people who are passionate about giving back to this community and whose professional experiences have prepared them well for this role.

We know that Crisofulli, who operates his own wellness and chiropractic practice, is a strong advocate for working to lower health care costs and expanding behavioral resources in the county. And we like Woolley’s business acumen and her desire to help Eagle County diversify economically. 

If not elected, we hope to see each continue to run for local seats, whether that’s serving on a metro district board or a planning commission or running for the county’s top jobs again.

They’re great candidates. We just don’t see a reason to change course, given the track record of Chandler-Henry and Scherr.

Their engagement with the community, and their knowledge of the issues that matter most to residents — be it affordable housing, land use and development, health care, transportation, climate action, wildlife concerns, and economic diversity — is unmatched. 

Chandler-Henry has been a staunch advocate for our local rivers and streams, serving on the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board and as the chair of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality/Quantity Committee.

And Scherr and she have both worked to streamline and simplify the county’s land-use regulations to ensure a fair and open process that also protects local values.

Scherr is adamant that Eagle County needs to get out of a growth-centric model for land use that has created monetary value for developers and landowners but has also created an affordable housing gap, lack of child care options, and expensive health care. And he also stresses that good environmental practices are good for business.

Both commissioners are well-informed, long-term thinkers who have studied these issues and who are constantly listening to a wide swath of voices to come up with policy that works.   

Eagle County is lucky to have such committed, responsive leadership at such a challenging time. We encourage voters to support Kathy Chandler-Henry and Matt Scherr in this election.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: Vote yes on Colorado Proposition 113

Whether it’s a strategy or a scapegoat, the Electoral College is a popular card for political parties to play at their own convenience. And if it is playable even in the slightest, are we doing good by American voters in keeping it?

Sure, the college’s biggest critics are currently those who lost the last election, but isn’t that always the case? During the 2012 election season, Donald Trump, in support of Mitt Romney, famously tweeted that the Electoral College “was a disaster for democracy.” He also tweeted, then later deleted, some more impassioned opinions on the subject that The Washington Post recorded before they disappeared from his feed.

Of course, President Trump’s attitude about the Electoral College later changed after he beat Hillary Clinton by winning 24% more electoral votes while losing the popular vote by 2%. By the way, which seems like the fairer fight: the 2% difference where every American vote was counted as one, or the 24% difference where every American vote was fragmented and manipulated by a system that has been scrutinized since its inception? One could argue the 2% difference in popular vote shows our country is less divided than what the Electoral College illustrates.

Furthermore, that same 2%, nearly 3 million popular votes, that could have hypothetically swung the 2016 election could have come from California or New York just like they could have come from 12 other states that also saw voter turnout greater than 3 million, eight of which voted red in 2016. Once again, the popular vote difference was only 2%; the claim that California and New York would run our elections under NPV is baseless fear-mongering, especially in a time and country where 249 million Americans were of voting age in 2016, and only 136 million showed up to the polls. 

But voter turnout is also an issue that only the losing team complains about. So, let’s move on from 2016.

History … forefathers … let’s talk about those. History taught us long ago that this system could be played when late 1700s and early 1800s Virginia, the California electoral equivalent of its time, leveraged its slave population to gain the highest number of electoral votes. And even before its implementation, the idea of an Electoral College was hardly popular. The Founding Fathers were split on a popular vote because such a system lacked a frame of reference at the time of the Philadelphia Convention. So, the Electoral College was a compromise bred in uncertainty after months of debate. Centuries later, it’s still a debate, one that goes far deeper than some knee-jerk reaction to 2016.

Fast forward to 2019, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously retweeted and agreed with now-President Trump’s former stance on the Electoral College. This raises a burning question: Will AOC also change her mind on the subject if Biden wins the Electoral College in November?

Let’s stop the nonsense that our politicians have been feeding us, and make every vote count equally. Vote yes on Colorado Proposition 113.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: John Hickenlooper for US Senate

In a recent interview with the Vail Daily’s editorial board, John Hickenlooper said something that should resonate with anyone who’s tired of partisan gridlock in Washington.

“It sounds crazy, but I want to go back and be part of the group of people that actually addresses the dysfunction and the lack of a willingness to listen,” he said. “We’ve got to take the time to listen to the other side and then begin framing discussions so that you can get to an alignment of self-interest and actually begin to solve some of these problems like universal health care, like climate change. There’s been no progress in four years on any of these issues, except in the wrong direction.”

That willingness to listen to find solutions to the big problems facing our state and our country is exactly the reason we’re endorsing Hickenlooper for the United States Senate. After eight years as the mayor of Denver and eight more as our state’s governor, Coloradans know who Hickenlooper is and what he’s all about. He’s still the same quirky guy who started a successful small business in a forgotten part of downtown Denver and who got into politics as an outsider because he truly believed he could bring people together to make their lives better.

He’s the mayor who helped revitalize our capital city and the governor who oversaw an economy emerging from the Great Recession that became the envy of other states around the country. During his eight years in office, the unemployment rate fell from 8.8% to 3.2% and Colorado was ranked as the nation’s No. 1 economy for three straight years, starting in 2017.    

In the midst of a global pandemic, with time running out to prevent the worst effects of global climate change, Hickenlooper is exactly the kind of steady leader that Coloradans need in the Senate to cut through the partisan noise.

He’ll fight to deliver relief for those who are out of work and are struggling to pay the bills and who can’t afford the cost of health care in the midst of a pandemic.

Put simply, Hickenlooper will be the senator that Cory Gardner promised to be — the guy who’ll break from his party and be an independent voice when it’s the right thing to do for his constituents.

That track record has put Hickenlooper at odds with the far-left wing of his own party, at times, but it’s also led to bipartisan compromise on issues such as fracking regulations and lowering health care costs.

While Gardner continually touts that he’s one of the most bipartisan senators in Washington, his record shows he’s voted with President Trump 89% of the time, according to Nate Silver’s nonpartisan FiveThirtyEight website

And when Gardner says he authored legislation “to guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — no matter what happens to Obamacare,” the record shows he’s repeatedly voted to get rid of those protections while supporting President Trump’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. It has also been exposed that his 117-word “Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act” was a sham of a bill simply meant to give him political cover that falls far short of what’s necessary to back up his guarantee, according to a raft of independent fact-checkers.

“That’s the worst lie,” Hickenlooper said. “In Colorado, we’ve got 2.4 million people with pre-existing medical conditions and that number is only going to grow once the COVID-19 numbers come in. That’s going to be a pre-existing condition. Almost certainly. And suddenly these folks aren’t going to have the protections they used to have. And there’s no legitimate replacement anywhere near. It hasn’t been negotiated and thought through in any sense. It’s all just about politics.”

It’s hard to argue that point. And Gardner’s campaign didn’t even try to refute it, turning down repeated requests for an interview with the Vail Daily. That’s not shocking, considering Gardner has earned a reputation for not bothering to hold town halls to hear from his constituents, instead opting for private events with hand-picked guests.

It’s the kind of political gamesmanship that’s made average citizens distrust Washington politicians, and it’s exactly what we don’t need right here, right now, at this critical moment for our nation.

Gardner wants you to believe what’s said about Hickenlooper all those attack ads that are being funded by dark-money groups. His strategy depends on painting Hickenlooper as a corrupt, career politician who took Coloradans for a ride. But the truth is that Hickenlooper has owned his ethics infractions for reporting errors that included his failure to disclose things such as free meals and travel — and he paid his $2,750 fine.

Gardner also wants you believe that he’s a champion of public lands, but the truth is that he  hasn’t gotten behind the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act that passed the House last fall, despite its broad bipartisan support.

The act would preserve roughly 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation and conservation areas in the White River National Forest along the Continental Divide and would also designate the land around Camp Hale near Leadville as a first National Historic Landscape.

Camp Hale, of course, is sacred ground to Eagle County residents, given that some of the 10th Mountain Division troops who trained there came back from World War II to found America’s great ski resorts, including Vail.

The CORE Act has the support of every county it directly impacts. But instead of living up to his bipartisan pledge, Gardner and his campaign instead commissioned a phony ad, titled “Both Parties,” that gives the impression that his environmental work has the support of both Republicans and Democrats.

In fact, both speakers in the ad are Republicans, and the woman who is cited as an environmental advocate founded a group six months ago that has no history of environmental work. 

If you’re tired of the fake ads, the fake bills, the empty promises and zero-sum politics, then the choice is clear: Vote for John Hickenlooper.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: Vote yes on Amendment B and local Gallagher repeal measures

The state’s Gallagher Amendment was a good idea when passed by Colorado voters in 1982. The measure has outlived its usefulness, particularly in rural Colorado.

Space here is limited, but the Gallagher Amendment sets a permanent ratio in the state’s property tax revenues. Commercial property must always pay 55% of property tax revenues, with residential property making up the rest.

The assessment rate — the taxable portion of a parcel’s county-assessed value — for commercial property is locked by the amendment at 29%. Given that the growth of residential property has far outpaced the growth of commercial property, the assessment rate for those parcels has fallen dramatically.

The current residential assessment rate is 7.15%. It’s expected to drop to 5.88% in 2021.

That decline doesn’t much affect property tax collections in heavily populated areas. In rural areas, the assessment rate declines can be devastating.

Here’s one in example:

Voters in the Gypsum Fire Protection District in 2016 passed a mill levy increase. By 2019, all that voter-approved revenue had been lost to falling assessment rates. The district returned to voters that year, and earned approval to essentially freeze assessment rates.

Other special districts in the valley have made the same move, with voter approval.

For the 2020 election, state officials present voters with Amendment B, which will repeal Gallagher and freeze assessment rates at their current levels.

Eagle County, along with the towns of Vail, Avon and Eagle, are asking voters essentially the same question this fall. So is the Avon-based Eagle River Fire Protection District.

All deserve your support.

Property taxes tend not to draw much attention in Colorado. According to WalletHub.com, our state has the nation’s third-lowest residential property tax burden. Sales tax is the lifeblood of municipalities.

But special districts — fire, school, library and ambulance districts — rely almost entirely on property tax collections.

And in Vail, property tax is still an important part of the town’s revenue stream, helping support police, fire and other municipal services. In Vail, the next cut in the assessment rate will take $1.4 million per year from the town’s general fund.

If voters approve the Gallagher repeals, residential property taxes will go up as property values increase. That’s how it works most places.

But local governments can’t raise tax rates without voter approval, thanks to the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, Amendment, passed by voters in 1992.

It’s that amendment that ultimately will keep a lid on taxes and government spending.

No one likes paying taxes. But we also want well-funded, well-performing public services, from schools to libraries to fire protection. All those things cost money, and operating those services gets more expensive every year.

Those basic services deserve adequate funding, and no one but local taxpayers can maintain them at the levels we all desire.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.

Our View: Why voting no on Amendment 76 is bipartisan action

Ballot wording can be a controversial issue. Upon first impression, proposed Amendment 76 seems like a pretty reasonable concept. It’s hardly a radical sentiment to feel that a country’s citizens, that are of legal age, should be the only ones allowed to vote in elections.

An easy gut reaction to reading this ballot question would be to vote yes to ensure that voting in elections isn’t extended to non-citizens or people under 18 years of age. But before you do that, we suggest you do some more reading.

The amendment focuses on Colorado primaries, which currently allow 17- year-olds to participate, so long as they turn 18 before the election. For example, in this election, a 17-year-old Coloradan who is turning 18 before Election Day was able to participate in the primary of their chosen political party, to help secure the candidates they would vote for, in an election of which they will be of legal age.

Amendment 76 would amend Section 1 of Article VII of the Colorado Constitution and change this condition by implementing a policy where someone has to be 18 before participating in a primary. This has nothing to do with citizenship, nor the legal voting age in general elections. It is written to keep 17-year-old voters out of primaries; and for that reason, we are endorsing a no vote on Amendment 76.

When it comes to voting, young people could use all the encouragement we can give them. Measures like Amendment 76 could frustrate and deter young Coloradans who are eager to be involved in elections. Primaries have long served as a vessel for young voters to do exactly that.

Furthermore, Amendment 76 was not crafted in Colorado, but by a Florida-based 501(c)(4) organization that has supported similar measures to amend state constitutions nationwide. Do we really want this out-of-state organization meddling in the Colorado Constitution?

The current system works just fine. Young Republicans vote in their Republican primary, young Democrats vote in their primary, and young Independents choose which party’s primary they want to join. Wanting more eligible people to be politically involved, no matter their party, should be a bipartisan stance, which is why we are saying vote no on Amendment 76.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Vail Daily Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Vail Daily Advertising Director Holli Snyder and Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller.

Our View: Yes on gray wolf reintroduction

Wolves were here first. That’s an inarguable point when it comes to Proposition 114 and the howling from those opposed to bringing back a native species to a state that prizes its wild places.

Counterpoint: Prop 114 is misguided

The Vail Daily’s Scott Miller, who grew up on a farm, is 0ne of two editorial board members opposed to Proposition 114. Read his column on why he thinks it’s a bad idea. 

It’s humans that hunted, trapped, and poisoned wolves to near-extinction throughout the West. In the simplest terms, Proposition 114 rights a wrong and does what wolves will have a hard time doing on their own: returning to a sustainable population in the public and private lands they once roamed. That’s a win for those who care about Colorado’s wild places, since the reintroduction of an apex predator will restore balance to natural landscapes around the state that have suffered from the absence of one.

Colorado’s elk herds are the largest in the world at more than 280,000 animals, and those elk have had nothing to stop them from overgrazing on streamside vegetation. The reintroduction of wolves in neighboring Wyoming and other western states has led to healthier ecosystems — from increased willow and aspen stands and enhanced habitat for beavers and trout populations.

Yes, there will be impacts to ranchers in Western Colorado when wolves kill livestock. But those impacts have had a small economic cost to the livestock industry as a whole in states where wolves have returned, with wolf depredation affecting less than 1% of annual gross income.  

Proposition 114 states clearly that the state will “pay fair compensation” to those who lose livestock. What that compensation will be, and what kind of documentation will be necessary to recoup losses, is yet to be determined, but Colorado certainly has the advantage of looking at how other states have managed their programs and coming up with a fair, generous system. As for a funding source, it’s also time to rethink funding for Colorado Parks and Wildlife — and we think the first place to start is by tapping into the outdoor recreation industry.

As local state Sen. Kerry Donovan, herself a rancher, said: “More and more people are getting outdoors, but less and less people are paying for it.”

What this measure will do, if passed, is task the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (which has opposed wolf reintroduction in the past) to work with the state’s wildlife biologists and public stakeholders to develop a science-based management plan and reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope by Dec. 31, 2023. 

That management plan includes determining where wolves are reintroduced and in what numbers, and set population targets. 

It would also direct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help landowners prevent and resolve conflicts between wolves and livestock and fairly compensate ranchers for losses caused by wolves. And if the population gets out of balance, a wolf hunting season can be reintroduced as it has been in some other states. Wolves can also be moved around if they get too populous in a certain area.   

According to the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence at Colorado State University, multiple studies have found the state could sustain a viable population of gray wolves with its elk and deer populations and more than 24 million acres of public lands. One 1994 study found Colorado could support more than 1,000 wolves. Another in 2006 predicted it could support at least 400 wolves by 2025, after forecasting population growth and increased road development. 

As for big-game hunters who are opposed to Prop 114, wolves are pack hunters that cull the weakest members from the herd, including elk and deer with Chronic Wasting Disease — a growing problem in Colorado’s herds. Research has found no evidence suggesting that gray wolves would “decimate” Colorado’s big-game populations, according to professor Kevin Crooks, the director of the Center for Human-Carnivore Existence. Statewide, big-game populations and hunter harvests have not declined in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming, but impacts of wolves can vary at local levels. 

While we’re sympathetic to the concerns of local ranchers, the greater good outweighs the alternative with this ballot question. Will Colorado, as a whole, be better off with wolves? We side with yes.

Which is why we’re encouraging voters to check yes on Proposition 114.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.