Candidates struggle to find the time
Chris McDonnell, 26, who works for Vail Resorts as a public safety officer at Bachelor Gulch, said adding 20 to 30 hours to his work week is more than he is ready to commit at this stage of his life. Peter Cook, a retired East Vail resident and a member of the board of directors for the Vail Recreation District, said he “didn’t have the time right now to properly devote” to town business, adding the town has become “bogged down in rules and regulations.” And Colleen McCarthy, a long-time merchant in Vail, said being a council member had become a full-time job.”That’s what staff is for,” McCarthy said.Why so much time?While no one doubts the sincerity of those statements, the question now is why being a member of the town’s highest authority – basically a volunteer position – has become so burdensome. Council members, indeed, are known for spending a lot of time in their role, but the question nobody in Vail seems to be able to answer is “Why?”Fact is, besides the regular, televised meetings – in which throngs of people often wait in the wings to add their input, play to the camera and seek to sway decisions – council members spend hours and hours at home between meetings poring over mountains of paperwork, most of it a dry read, indeed.Then there’s the list of almost two dozen special commissions, committees and task forces on which Vail council members are expected to represent the town. If divided equally among the seven members, that’s more than three apiece.Merv Lapin, a Vail councilman from 1988 to 1996, has said there is “a big learning curve” early on in one’s political career, and a lot of time is spent just learning how to do the job. He credits the two mayors with whom he served – Rose and Peggy Osterfoss – with being organized and helping keep the time requirements from getting out of hand. Still, doing a “good job,” he said, requires 25 to 30 hours a week.And Sybill Navas, who spent eight years on the council – as well as on a multitude of special commissions, boards and task forces – has said being a member of the council “requires as much time as you’re willing to put into it.” She said she spent an average of 20 hours a week, “sometimes more,” on town business, which makes it “extremely difficult to hold down a job.”Navas, known for taking on more than her share of such groups, said that’s an invaluable part of a council member’s role, however. That’s why, even now, despite having been away from the council for two years, she still sits on the state Water Quality Commission and remains involved with the Vail Valley Exchange -as president – and the Commission on Special Events, as administrator.”You can’t isolate yourself by not being on commissions. You don’t get a sense of the whole picture,” said Navas. “I still find it stimulating dealing with the issues and being involved.”Something to learn downvalley?Sometimes, however, one can learn from looking at Vail politics from the outside, such as from downvalley in Avon, where Town Council meetings are known to last an hour or less -even with a public input session. While the population of the two mountain resort towns are roughly the same, it’s obvious their visions of what government should be are far different.”Process is like anything else, it’s best when used in moderation,” says Bill Efting, former town manager of Avon and former assistant city manager of Aspen. “Citizen involvement is important, but elected officials are elected to make decisions.”Efting, who now works for the city of Glenwood Springs, says communication is the key to efficient governing. A town council should not be micro-managing matters – such as zoning variances, sign codes and the use of outdoor retail sales racks – that really should be taken care of beforehand by committees, town planners or merchants associations, he says.”There are ways to speed these things up,” Efting says. “The staff should give as much information in advance as it can and tell the council where the bumps in the road are. It’s the staff that’s supposed to be able to see something coming.”Meanwhile, McCarthy, who owns the Baggage Cheque in Vail, blames the current council for exacerbating a problem that got out of hand long ago.”The council, all they do is flap their jaws and pat themselves on the back. But they don’t listen,” she said. “Maybe they’re too busy with their “vision.'”Gang of eight now “official’Stephen Lloyd WoodWrapping up a pre-season of sorts leading to elections next month, eight Vail residents now can say they are “official” candidates for the Town Council, on which four of seven seats are up for grabs, Nov. 4. The town clerk, Lorelei Donaldson, has certified the group of three incumbents and five challengers. The gang of eight comprises:- Mark Gordon, 40, who works for Vail Resorts as a lead foreman at the company’s communications center in Lionshead- Bill Jewitt, incumbent councilman and co-owner of Bart & Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead.- Kent Logan, 59, a retired investment banker.- Dave McDougall, 27, a bartender at Blu’s Restaurant in Vail.- Greg Moffet, incumbent councilman and owner of TIGA Advertising in Vail.- Paul Rondeau, 68, a retired IBM employee.- Kim Ruotolo, 35, who works multiple jobs.- Rod Slifer, incumbent councilman and a senior partner in Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate Co.Nearly a dozen Vail residents, at one time or another since early September, expressed interest in running for a seat on the Town Council. But with the deadline for filing nominating petitions passing Oct. 3, only eight ultimately decided to take the plunge. Following the election, the newly appointed members will join current members Dick Cleveland and Diana Donovan, whose terms continue until 2005.Vail Town Council candidate forums are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, in the Vail Town Council Chambers. During the forums, candidates will have the opportunity to respond to questions from the audience in a facilitated format. In addition, the candidates will make opening and closing remarks on their candidacy and their platform for election.Vail voters will be using two ballots during the election: one to elect members to the Vail Town Council and another ballot issued by Eagle County for participation in state and county questions.All voting will take place at the new Donovan Pavilion and voters must show valid identification such as a Colorado drivers license or U.S. passport.For absentee mail-in ballots, voters must include a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement or government document showing the name and address of elector.Requests for absentee ballots must be made by the voter in writing and include full name, date of birth, physical residence, party affiliation, address to mail ballot and signature of the applicant.To request a Vail ballot, fax information to 479-2320, or mail requests to: Vail Town Clerk, 75 South Frontage Road, Vail, CO, 81657.For an Eagle County ballot, fax information to 328-8716, or mail requests to: Eagle County Clerk and Recorder, P.O. Box 537, Eagle, CO, 81631.For more information, contact Vail Town Clerk Lorelei Donaldson at 479-2136. For information on the candidate forums call 476-1000 or 477-0075.