A chance to set priorities
Friday will be, if not the most important day of this new town council, certainly right up there. It’s the day that this council translates what they are into what they want to be and how they plan to get there. At least in theory. It’s the annual retreat.
Typically, you would think of a retreat as taking place in a remote place, away from the glaring eye of the public. In the case of government agencies, however, the assemblage must be noticed and public.
In the case of the TOV, it is noticed and the public is invited but as far away as they will get is the meeting room at the golf course. If the pattern of past years is replayed, those in attendance for the day, Feb. 13, will consist of the town council, town manager, a variety of department heads, the director of the homeowners association and myself. Occasionally someone from the community at large and the press stops by.
This year, the new twist is with the facilitator. In most recent years, an outside consultant was used.
On Friday, our new town manager will lead the discussion. While no one has asked me, I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. The difference, pure and simple, is that a consultant has no vested interest in the result. With Stan Zemler directing the event, there will be someone with knowledge of the environment outlining the function for the day while hopefully keeping the conversation on track so the desired results are achieved. And of course, he’s the one who will be charged with implementation of any decisions that are made, so it is definitely in his best interest to see that any decision is clear, concise and realistic both in scope and deadline.
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All in all, the day should define this council’s agenda for the next two years. Their goals will be debated and recorded. There should also be a plan of attack or method for achieving those goals. And the tricky part is setting a timetable.
Projects always seem to take eons more time than is anticipated, partly because councils in recent memory have micro-managed everything. At some point they have to acknowledge that there is a competent staff that’s paid a great deal of money to perform very specific functions. If their expertise is not something that the Town Council can rely on, then they may as well fire them all. But to second guess every minute opinion that is rendered is not only a foolish waste of time and money, but also an insult to trained professionals.
This is also their chance to address the less than favorable results of the last town survey. We all remember the issues that glared from the pages: lack of fiscal responsibility, no vision, no leadership. They received accolades for core services such as snow removal, safety, road maintenance and bus service. And they actually responded to one complaint. “Free After 3” has been reinstated!
But parking led the list last year, receiving more comments than any other topic. And the community was very clear. It’s a problem caused by Vail Resorts and they should be required to solve it. Not only was the consensus on responsibility very clear to the respondents, they also made no bones about the fact that as taxpayers, they have no interest in paying for the solution.
Having said that, however, at least for the short run this year, Vail Resorts is the only one who has done anything toward solving the problem. At least they have provided the town with 200-plus spaces on their west day lot.
So this is yet another area where this council has they opportunity to shine – if they step up to it. And that’s a big if.
The notion that another deck on the Lionshead structure will solve the problem is naive at best. The maximum number of new spots that will be generated is in the neighborhood of 400, and 125 of those will be allocated to the convention center. Take a look at the cars on the Frontage Road last weekend and you do the math.
On a personal note, I’d like to add two basic items. After much to-do, a new sound system was installed. But it was money ill spent if not used properly. For a brief moment, it seemed as though a solution had been achieved.
Gradually, however, we’re back to where we started. Some council members sit back in their chairs, out of range of the microphones, while others have actually taken to pushing the units up and away. So as a reminder, these are public meetings and the public has a right to hear.
Another issue that has been mentioned over and over relates to citizen participation, those few minutes at the beginning of every evening Town Council session when anyone can address the council on a subject that is not on the night’s agenda. For years the complaint has been that responses do not follow the inquiry. Anyone who takes the time to come into those chambers and stand before the microphone deserves a reply, if not a resolution to their problem.
If even a portion of these issues are addressed, it will go light years toward building bridges with the voters.
Cars on the Frontage Road: Friday, 459; Saturday, 829.
Do your part: call them and write them.
To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com.
To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry.
Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.