Choices clear in county board races |

Choices clear in county board races

Vail Daily Editorial Board

There shouldn’t be much debate in the county commissioner races about experience.

Thankfully, we can safely leave that bit of hyperbole to the presidential campaign.

All four people running for Eagle County commissioner have served capably as locally elected leaders in the past. Incumbent Commissioner Peter Runyon and former Commissioner Dick Gustafson are competing in one race. Former Avon Councilwoman Debbie Buckley is running against former Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney in the other.

They all can be relied upon to do their homework, speak relatively clearly, know what they are talking about, take principled positions and base their decisions on what they truly believe is best for our community.

So let’s recognize that much as the campaigns slide into the silly season. These are good people, with public records that can be checked to match rhetoric with voting records.

There also are distinct differences between the Republicans and Democrats. To set the scorecard, the Republicans are Buckley and Gustafson, and the Democrats are Runyon and Stavney.

These contests are far more about policy than personality, frankly a welcome change from 2002 and 2004. Both those county board elections were marked by lightning-rod incumbents surviving all too much mud-slinging at their characters.

Neither party should take much pride in those elections.

We look for this one to be much more principled. There are clear choices with direct consequences for Eagle County’s future.

Under the current regime, the county has been proactive, even aggressive, in tackling crucial challenges. Those include affordable housing, getting local governments to work a little more together, everything that comes with rapid population growth, and a litany of social and environmental concerns.

The all-Democrat board can take just credit for this leadership. But it also shoulders responsibility for leading the way for property taxpayers finding bills that jumped up an average of 43 percent this year. Small pieces of the pie for each local government entity that “needs” the windfall adds up quickly for the people who must pay those bills, after all.

So a tax-protest group has formed. And with that, those eternal questions have arisen more pointedly about what government should do, and should not do.

It’s a classic divide between the Democratic model, as practiced now, and the Republican model, which seeks to limit government’s role, spending and – ahem – taxation.

Should government really have its nose in subsidizing affordable housing, preschool and so on? Or has the “free” market proven so utterly incapable of solving these problems that government must step in? And what’s the right balance for this community?

These are fully legitimate and difficult questions, which the voters will answer again this fall.

Meantime, let’s agree that all the candidates are good, capable people who want the best for the county’s residents. And let’s focus on the real differences in where they would take the county. After all, there’s plenty of fodder for lively debate on that subject alone.

Support Local Journalism