Blase about ballots

Matt Zalaznick

Eagle County’s smaller towns have some pretty big issues facing them – outside of tiny Red Cliff, however, it seems a majority of the voters don’t care enough to fill out a ballot.

Red Cliff, with less than 400 people, had nine candidates – all of whom have had to boil their drinking water along with the electorate on and off over the past several years. Along with complaining about it, they registered their unhappiness by voting. Half of the town’s residents turned out on Election Day.

They didn’t necessarily boot out all the incumbents – two were re-elected, including the former mayor – but they at least spoke up for themselves and turned out in a far larger percentage than any of their downvalley neighbors in Minturn, Eagle and Gypsum.

A proposed RV park had emotions boiling in Minturn. Those who did vote were clearly against it, ousting the mayor, Earle Bidez, and a councilman who had publicly supported the idea. But less than four of every 10 voters weighed in.

The beleaguered trailer park proposal is just the tip of the iceberg lurking in the town’s financial future. What the town’s leaders do in the next couple of years to raise government revenue will determine whether the town’s pipes keep freezing and leaking and whether it solves its other water problems.

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There’s not much room left to build in Vail, Avon or Beaver Creek. That means Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum could see a development explosion that would make the Wal-Mart Supercenter look quaint. Edwards has no town council, of course, and we’ll see the turnout there for this fall’s commissioner’s elections, in which both seats that represent Edwards are being contested.

Eagle and Gypsum – and even Dotsero – are already the target of big box stores and new housing proposals.

Voters there say they like the smalltown feel of Eagle and Gypsum, but they didn’t defend their pastoral charm on Election Day. Twenty percent of the voters showed up for Eagle’s town board elections Tuesday. In Gypsum fewer than one in 10 voters had a say in the town’s future.

The lame excuse for pathetically low turnout was “folks must think things are going pretty well.” Well, if they keep away from the ballot box and town politics they may realize – as many residents who weren’t paying attention in Avon did when The Home Depot “suddenly appeared” after years of council hearings – that they missed their chance.

Maybe they’ll be reminded that had an opportunity to preserve smalltown charm when they drive by a Target and outlet mall on Cooley Mesa Road. M.Z.

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