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Commercial vs. community

David O. Williams

A chicken-and-the-egg debate is starting to shape the Vail Town Council election, but don’t ask incumbent Greg Moffet to speculate on which comes first.Moffet, who threw his hat into the ring for re-election Tuesday, Sept. 9, says Vail has to pay attention to both its commercial and residential sectors, just as the current council has been doing for the past four years.Moffet scoffs at the platforms being proffered by both pro-business and pro-community candidates who say town government must focus on revitalizing one or the other in order to stimulate both. He also discounts the notion that battle lines are being drawn on the issue that will shape the election for four of seven council seats Nov. 4.”I do not believe that’s a widely-held belief,” Moffet says. “I do not believe camps are forming, and I think that most people believe that (commercial and residential) go together.”Moffet, who owns a bus-advertising company in town, says the council he’s served on the past four years has been able to focus on both, spending an unprecedented amount on economic development while simultaneously funding neighborhood projects like Donovan Park.”The current council has accomplished both objectives,” Moffet says. “We’ve been extremely supportive of the businesses and we’ve been extremely supportive of the neighborhoods, and the facts bear us out on that.”Mark Gordon, a Vail Resorts communications center supervisor who announced his candidacy last week, opted out of a pro-business coalition formed to put the economic engine first because he felt its platform didn’t put enough emphasis on the community.”I’m all for helping the businesses, but I believe that the businesses are jut one component of the community and we need to think of the community as a whole and not these individual special interests,” says Gordon, who wants to see 1,500 new full-time residents in Vail in the next several years.”I want to see sustainable economic recovery, and to make the businesses truly sustainable and successful we need people living here again. That’s why in the off-season (down-valley) businesses are busy and we’re a ghost town.”Moffet cites the town’s building of the Middle Creek affordable housing project and its takeover of the Timberidge employee housing units as purely pro-business moves made by the council and agrees with Gordon that the town needs to focus the same energy on returning a middle class to Vail.”We need people living in this town,” Moffet says. “I don’t believe we can theme park this town and turn the lights out at 9 o’clock. Without the community we fundamentally change the character of the resort and come a lot closer to being Beaver Creek.”In addition to building more employee housing so Vail businesses can count on workers living closer to work, Moffet points to business initiatives like the lodging tax that has funded Vail marketing to the tune of up to $1.8 million a year since 2000.Kent Logan, a retired investment banker who is still running despite the folding of the pro-business Coalition for Progress this week (see related story), wants to spend even more on marketing. He also says that fixing what ails the commercial core will allow for better funding of community projects.”Business has to be the key issue here,” Logan says, adding that community amenities hinge on increasing the sales tax base. “What funds all those other projects? It’s sales tax revenues.”Every resident of Vail does have a very direct link (to the business community), because if they do better and generate more sales tax revenues, there will be more in the budget in Vail to do a lot of other things.” Moffet, though, says the current council has done plenty to stimulate the business community, and he cites initiatives as varied as building the Vail Whitewater Park, funding the Vail Chamber and Business Association and increasing funding for special events.”We’ve vastly increased the amount of money we spend on business development, and there’s a point at which you have to say enough,” Moffet says. “I don’t know if we’re there yet, but we’re pretty close.”He says bringing more locals back into Vail, which has a permanent population of 4,500 but a housing pool that’s nearly 80-percent owned by out-of-town residents, isn’t necessarily the cure-all for reversing the trend of lagging sales taxes nor is throwing more public money at the business community. He blames the ailing local economy on the stalled national economy.”We’ve got to quit smoking dope,” Moffet says of those who advocate desperate measures to fix the economic engine. “We’ve got to quit going to war with Iraq and people need to stop flying airplanes into buildings.’Look, I would gladly compare Vail’s economic performance with any other mountain community over the last three years. I do business in most of the ski towns around the state, and our economy is better than most of them.”Of the other four seats up for grabs in November, Rod Slifer was still undecided on running again as of Thursday, Sept. 11, Bill Jewitt, the other half of Logan’s now-defunct coalition, says he still plans on running for re-election, and Chuck Ogilby is not running again. Mayor Ludwig Kurz’s term expires in February, and a special election will be held in January to fill his seat.Candidates can begin picking up nominating petitions Monday, Sept. 15, and must obtain the signatures of at least 10 registered voters by 5 p.m., Oct. 3 in order to be placed on the ballot.


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