An uproar at Town Hall | VailDaily.com
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An uproar at Town Hall

Kaye Ferry

“Shut up Jim!” That was a remark from behind the table at the Nov. 1 Vail Town Council meeting. After the audible gasp from the back of the room, the disbelieving had their own comments. “Is that what he said?” “Did you hear what he just said?” ‘I can’t believe what I just heard!” “Someone should do something about that guy. He’s out of control!”Never mind that a citizen was at the podium after having been recognized by the mayor. Never mind that that very same citizen represents a very large and powerful constituency. And never mind that this was a televised Town Council meeting.Unless I’m thoroughly confused, the elected officials serve at the pleasure of the community. And unless I’m ever further confused, elected officials have an obligation to treat citizens with respect. I’d like to see the day when a citizen could tell a council person to shut up in a public meeting. And the mayor, who should have been in control, said and did nothing.Of course, knowing the players, I probably don’t have to identify the councilman who made that totally outrageous remark. But I will. Mr. Moffet. The guy who continues to push the envelope on appropriate behavior by an elected official. Just as an aside, he owes Jim Lamont and his constituency a public apology.It was also the second time that he’s insulted a Colorado Department of Transportation official at a public meeting. We’ve been trying to solicit CDOT’s help on the highway noise issue. It hardly seems productive to say, “You obviously work for someone with no environmental ethics who doesn’t give a damn!” He made that statement with the cameras rolling to the CDOT rep, who made it perfectly clear that he took great exception to that remark and was offended by it. As well he should have been. He’s owed an apology, too.As you read this, you know the town election results, but I didn’t when I wrote this because I’m committed to a Monday deadline. All I can hope is that this most disruptive of all council members is among the missing. He’s an embarrassment to himself, but that’s his problem. That he embarrasses the community is our problem. No wonder that on nights he’s absent, the meetings move along more noticeably civil and quick. But I do know what happened at the other elections. As I am totally convinced that a five-person board at the county is a step in the right direction, I’m glad that we’re at least seriously going to study this option. And I totally agree with Commissioners Runyon and Menconi. We shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. In talking to people, the greatest fear they express is that too many things will change under home rule. For example, I don’t really know the advantages and disadvantages of keeping many of these jobs as elected positions versus appointed. It seems, however, that people are happy voting for jobs like sheriff because people in general are comfortable with the status quo. They are also skeptical that politics will further rule the day if the commissioners can make too many appointments. There’s an easy way to alleviate those concerns. Keep it simple. The fewer changes that we make in the way we are currently doing business, the more palatable it will be to the public. But it’s definitely worth a look.And then there were statewide referendums C and D. As I mentioned before the election, I wasn’t in favor of either. But I have to admit, I was thoroughly surprised by the outcome. I never would have guessed that there would be a split on the decision. These two items were so closely marketed that the assumption in general was that they’d either win or lose together.I think it shows great insight and sensitivity on the part of the electorate that they were willing and able to weed through the hype and understand what each of these measures really meant. If any combination had to get the nod, this is the best choice.I don’t know about you guys, but I for one am glad it’s over. As I write this, I don’t know the results, but I do know that these debates over the issues and the candidates have been exhausting. Unfortunately, I think there have been some pretty clear lines drawn in the community.Each election season, we seem to evolve more and more away from smalltown politics towards something akin to the games played in bigger arenas. Two years ago, a councilman put $17,000 on the table and won. In years past, $1,700 was unheard of because $170 was the norm.This year, citizens groups donated two and three times that amount to promote their favorite topics and people. Everybody got into the act with debates and interviews. And it seemed to go on foreeeeeeeever.Yet as tiring and manipulative as the whole process is, there is no better system. The scary thing is that already the questions are being asked about who will run two years from now in what is commonly being referred to as the “takeover” year. The year when it’s assumed that the “old guard ” will in fact be too old to guard anymore. But thankfully, we have a little time before that debate begins. For now, it’s a little wait-and-see game. Wait till they find their chairs and see what happens next. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado


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