Change because change is critical
Let me begin this endorsement column by issuing a disclaimer: the publishers of The Vail Trail have a policy of not endorsing candidates for public office. However, if I want to put my name and picture with it (presumably so I can be identified and targeted by enraged losers later), I’m welcome to take a stab at picking winners.So think of this as my political pro picks column, and please note that I was 10-4 last week handicapping NFL games.One final disclaimer, though: I’m a raving liberal Democrat a bit of an oddity in this county and while I try to keep my biases out of news stories, I make no such pretense on the opinion page. So take my suggestions on the Nov. 4 Vail Town Council election, which will fill four vacant seats, with a grain of salt.That said, I’m deeply conflicted on the issue of conflict of interest. While I don’t subscribe to the Kaye Ferry school of “the only good Vail Resorts executive is a (you know the rest),” I do feel obliged to give more than just lip service to the subject.Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone has taken the appearance of impropriety to a new level during his relatively brief political career. His boss at Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate, incumbent Vail Town Council member Rod Slifer, has largely avoided such accusations during his lengthy political career.He’s done so by being the model of political uprightness, recusing himself from any official decision that might be construed by voters as a financial windfall for the part-owner of the largest real estate company in the Vail Valley which is also partly owned by Vail Resorts.Slifer, who is seeking reelection, has already taken a pass on several Lionshead redevelopment decisions a project the ski company has committed $400 million to completing over the next few years.I’m not in the slightest questioning the ethics a Vail founding father who has dedicated years of public service to the town he helped build.Rather, I’m saying Vail needs a council member who can vote on every aspect of the massive Lionshead project over the next few years and exert pressure on VR so that the town realizes the utmost benefit from the redevelopment. If Slifer can’t, or won’t, vote, he’s not fully serving the community.By the same token, if I was a Vail resident something my wife and I fervently hope to be again some day I would likely vote for Mark Gordon based on his platform; except that he’s a Vail Resorts employee who also says he’ll recuse himself on some Lionshead votes if elected, in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.Gordon correctly argues that legally, because he would not be financially benefiting directly from his decisions, he would not have to step out of chambers on every VR-related vote, but he says he will on some for appearances sake. Again, we need elected officials who can vote on major projects.It’s unfortunate, but because Vail is a company town and because government must watchdog the private sector we’re eliminating a lot of good candidates on this basis. But there’s never been a time when letting the fox guard the hen house made less sense.Candidate Kent Logan understands that. He also knows that leadership is the key to keeping special interests from running away with the town’s future. He’s a strong pro-business candidate who will work tirelessly to demand fiscal responsibility while simultaneously trying to revitalize Vail’s commercial core. Once that’s accomplished which should take less time than we think given signs of imminent national economic recovery then he’ll focus on the community.Those candidates who put building community amenities, including more middle-class family housing, ahead of economic revitalization are speaking my language. Gordon is the leader of that pack, but since I can’t pick him for employment reasons, I’m giving the nod to Kimberly Ruotolo, Paul Rondeau and incumbent Greg Moffet. Logan can watchdog them too.I like incumbent Bill Jewitt, who for the past four years must have felt a bit like Custer surrounded by Sioux warriors, but I’m not sure he has the passion for the job after the failure of his pro-business coalition formed with Logan to attract other candidates. And it doesn’t say much about his consensus-building and backroom deal-making power to be continuously outvoted 6-1.Finally, picking Blu’s bartender Dave McDougall might score me points with Vail’s drink-slingers, which is not to be underestimated, but Dave seems a tad too uninformed on the issues. It would be great to have a younger voice breaking up the middle-aged, pale-male syndrome (he’s the only one running for the money $6,000 a year), but his learning curve would be too steep.So there you have it: Logan, Ruotolo, Moffet and Rondeau. Because they speak to my pet issue of bringing warm bodies (not just workers) back into Vail. To make Vail a cool ski town where tourists want to congregate and linger, you need locals. Failure to fix the down-valley exodus will doom Vail to a slow, choking death as a sterile, gated ghost town.Former Mayor Rob Ford, whose Vail Tomorrow and Common Ground housing initiatives were unfortunately derailed by neighborhood NIMBY’s, is wrong. It’s not too late to revitalize Vail as a ski town, and the end result will be economic bliss. qDavid O. Williams is a former Vail resident who wants to move back to town and needs a cheap, roomy single-family home. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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