Busy as winter
Before I get into part 2’s discussion of the economy, I’ve had two interesting conversations with Vail Town Council members about the last one. Actually, their comments weren’t about the July 8 meeting per se, but my commentary on their absence.
The first told me that the council had “decided” not to attend as a group – didn’t want to look like they were trying to control the meeting. The only problem is some council members don’t remember that discussion.
The second called to inform me that he would not be attending on July 17 but didn’t want it mentioned in my column. He actually had some valid points, the most salient being that he serves on many committees and doesn’t feel they all (meaning TC members) need to go to everything.
My rebuttal was this was not just another committee but the first town meeting that had been called in 15 years. I also pointed out that their absence was noted with many comments. Some one actually said, “They call a meeting and then decide not to come to work? You gotta be kidding!”
As for this meeting itself, the introduction came from Bill Siegel, our marketing guru from Longwoods International. He brings to Vail an expertise and unbiased perspective based on sound research.
He also has a longstanding relationship with the Colorado Tourism Board, which was very successful before funding was slashed. I firmly believe that if he cannot structure and implement a successful marketing concept for us, we should forget about marketing altogether. He stated that Vail is not associated with summer and that is what they’re trying to change.
His opinion is that Vail should be as busy in the summer as during the winter months. Sure hope he’s right.
The assemblage (48 total) then moved to the arduous task of grouping issues and assigning committees to tackle specific solutions. All of that is well and good but certainly feels like a smaller version of a similar concept known as Vail Tomorrow. VT was a four-year torturous project that was not without some success but certainly not valid when measured against the time and money spent.
Being the inveterate hand raiser that I am, however, I promptly signed up for several committees. But not without reservation. Because at the end of the day, most of these issues have been on the table for as long as I have been here. All that has been necessary is for our elected officials to show some leadership and tackle the problems. Up until now, they haven’t done so.
Quite frankly, most of the people in the room have jobs. They should spend their time doing their job, and the TOV should do its.
If they stopped spending their time researching things that no one is interested in, perhaps they would have time do things that would make a difference. And we wouldn’t have to do their jobs for them. A sign code committee that has been meeting for two years and still hasn’t even made it to a TC hearing really doesn’t inspire much confidence in the ability for anything to be fast tracked.
And also, recall the ludicrous and expensive plan for Ford Park. I’m sure it took a lot of effort to come up with a $5 million plan on how many new bathrooms, street lights, paths and turn lanes it would take to provide a temporary solution for this winter’s parking. The time would have been better spent solving problems that get in the way of sales tax collections, particularly when they come up with plans that no one in their right mind would implement. But who knows, maybe this is the beginning of change. We can always hope.
By the way, remember my opening comments? While I made no commitment, I will honor the request of the Town Council members. Therefore I will not list those who did not attend. However it seems only fair to acknowledge those council members who did. They were Dick Cleveland, Diana Donovan and Bill Jewitt – the same as two weeks ago.
1. EMPTY: As of July 15 there are eight empty restaurant spaces and 22 empty retail spaces for a total of 30. Think that has something to do with declining sales tax?
2. VLMD: A discussion took place during the Vail Local Marketing District update on Tuesday evening regarding the problem of using lodging tax dollars to fund a joint marketing venture called Prima. This program is used to highlight valleywide cultural events that are offered this summer. The VLMD contributed $60,000 to promo foundation and Bravo productions in both Vail and Beaver Creek. There is no problem. The regulation is clear. The legislation that is in place simply needs to be followed to avoid any possible jeopardy.
And we do not need to “figure out a way to get around it,” as Councilman Moffet suggested. We need to follow the law. If money is needed for co-op programs for valleywide marketing, then the TOV needs to finance it from the general fund, and those dollars should be kept in a separate account. The law is the law for a reason and the voters funded the VLMD with very specific guidelines.
3. A RECUSAL: The debate about conflicts of interest goes on. As you may recall, I questioned the appropriateness of sending Rod Slifer to negotiate the convention center site with VRI. I used their working relationship (Slifer, Smith and Frampton, Vail Associates Real Estate) as the reason. Even Mr. Slifer finally admitted to the conflict on Tuesday evening when he recused himself during a discussion of a VRI application for a new snow cat access bridge across Gore Creek. I raised the same concern for Ludwig Kurz, as VRI signs his paycheck. He chose to vote. It never ends.
Do your part: call them and write them.
To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com
For past columns, vaildaily.com-search:ferry
Kaye Ferry, founding president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.