Community involvement vital, Avon candidate says
The Town Council doesn’t have total control of Avon’s future –and that’s a good thing, says Councilwoman Debbie Buckley, who’s running for reelection.
“It takes more than just roundabouts and statues to make Avon better. It takes the involvement of all the citizens,” says Buckley, the only female candidate. “Any one individual, or group of individuals, cannot possess all the answers or effect change.”
Like many towns in the Vail Valley and Colorado, Avon is battling with a slumping economy. The Town Council can spark economic revitalization, but Avon could use some help from a larger, neighboring government, Buckley says.
“Too many Avon citizens forget about how much of their tax money goes to Eagle County and isn’t returned to Avon,” she says. “As an Avon taxpayer, I am tired of seeing our county commissioners spend county tax dollars on things like Edwards’ infrastructure.”
Because Edwards – unlike Vail, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum –is an unincorporated are of Eagle County, the county government pays for all of the costs a town government would.
“I don’t like the idea that every incorporated municipality in Eagle County is paying for Edwards’ infrastructure and that our current county commissioners are assisting in that process,” she says. “I propose a coalition of the incorporated areas to work together to encourage the county commissioners to return more of our respective tax dollars.”
Debbie Buckley, 45, a Web developer who runs her own Internet company, was elected to the council in 1998. Her husband, Peter Buckley, was elected to the council in 2000. The two have frequently disagreed during council discussions and often cast opposite votes.
Debbie Buckley touts years of hard work as one of her top qualifications for reelection – plus, she adds, she never misses council meetings. In her professional careers she has dealt with large staffs and multi-million dollar budgets, Buckley says.
Along with running her own business and serving on the Town Council, Buckley is also the chairwoman of the Eagle County Regional Transit board, which operates the county bus system.
The Avon Town Council has done a good job managing development, but could do better, she says.
“Council needs some improvement,” she says. “Required is the need to provide economic opportunity while protecting the unique aspects of Avon that we all cherish.”
In October 1998, the town signed development agreements with the Sheraton Mountain Vista, across from the Avon Post Office, and the Village at Avon, currently under construction in east Avon. The Home Depot and Wal-Mart will open stores at the Village at Avon by next fall.
“I believe Avon needs to improve the management of commerce between the different retail, lodging and dining areas of Avon,” she says.
Buckley says she supports a proposal to spruce up the pedestrian path running east from the Avon Library, between the Seasons and Avon Center buildings to the roundabout. The proposal is known as the “Town Center.”
“I support the Town Center concept. However, we must find a way to make the plan pay for itself,” she says.
But the next Town Council should work hard on economic revitalization, she says.
“I propose a stronger liaison between business and Avon’s Council through regular, properly advertised and scheduled public meetings,” she says. “Avon’s economic identity will continue to evolve with the right leadership.”
The town government’s revenues are slumping along with business in Avon. But Buckley says she does not support charging fares for the town’s free bus system to increase the town’s cash flow, as has been proposed.
“More marketing and special events in conjunction with our businesses and surrounding towns may help increase Avon’s sales tax,” she says. “I propose that we need more than that. We need to work with the private sector to aggressively try to bring more businesses to Avon.”
The economy is the biggest problem the new council will have to deal with, she says.
“Overseeing the massive development at the Village at Avon will be the responsibility of the next few councils,” she says. “I look forward to this ongoing challenge to promote smooth integration between the economic opportunity the village represents and the existing businesses in Avon.”
Vail Resorts is still planning to build a gondola to carry skiers from Avon to the slopes of Beaver Creek Mountain. The ski company has asked Avon to pitch in between $3 million and $6 million to build the gondola.
“As a skier, I would pay my own money to ride the proposed gondola in Avon,” Buckley says. “However … I don’t believe any government entity should subsidize any large publicly-held company.”
But that doesn’t mean Avon shouldn’t help in other ways, she says.
“I believe Avon should help Vail Resorts develop the gondola. However, working as a traditional municipality, which means assisting with parking, roads, transportation, and gondola base-area infrastructure,” she says. “I will not vote for a $6 million dollar Avon taxpayer-funded check made out to Vail Resorts.”
Buckley says she would like to help more residents participate in the government by changing the times the council hold its sparsely-attended meeting. Now, council meetings start at 5:30 p.m. and are usually preceded by a work session, that isn’t televised. Buckley says the meetings should be held later in the evening.
She says she also wants to change how the mayor is elected. Currently, the Town Council elects the mayor every for years. The Town Council will pick a new mayor after this election because term limits prevent Mayor Judy Yoder from running for reelection.
“I would like to change the Avon Town Charter to have the mayor elected by the people, not by council,” she says.
If she retains her seat, Buckley says she won’t miss a meeting.
“I am proud of my 100 percent perfect attendance record at all council meetings and history of working hard to improve the quality of life for everyone on Avon,” she says. “In this time of changes, I feel my
experience on the council will be valuable in decision-making.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.