Eagle County commissioner candidates talk about what they’ve learned | VailDaily.com

Eagle County commissioner candidates talk about what they’ve learned

Man Inserting a Voting Form into a Ballot Box
Getty Images/Digital Vision | Digital Vision

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The candidates for Eagle County commissioner have this fall been asked a handful of e-mailed questions about their philosophy and policies. The final question is simple: What have you learned from this year’s campaign that you’ll use if elected?

Over the past six weeks I’ve sent weekly e-mail newsletters to nearly 2,000 Eagle County residents. As part of this effort I asked some important questions via a link to an online survey. I did this to engage in community conversation and to hear what you are thinking. The topics were:

• Predictions on the local economy.

• When growth would return.

• The impact of zoning and development requirements.

• Open space.

• Bus service.

Not only was I pleased with the response, but also the additional comments people shared with me. Here are the findings:

• Economy: I was encouraged to see that 53 percent of the respondents feel the economy in the county will improve in 2011. About 24 percent feel that it will be the same while only 12 percent feel the economy will get worse, and 12 percent say they don’t know. Overall, I’d say this is cause for cautious optimism.

• Growth: Only 6 percent of people responding think growth and the demand for affordable housing won’t return at all. About 38 percent feel it will pick up in one year, 6 percent in two and 50 percent in five years.

What that tells me is that there’s a fundamental belief that affordable workforce housing, which has been a chronic problem for over 30 years, will still be with us. While there’s no short term pressure to add to our affordable housing inventory, we need to carefully monitor that market and make sure we have some plans in the top drawer when demand reappears.

• Impact of regulations: I asked if we should consider relaxing current town and county zoning, green and other development requirements as an incentive to promote more building. An overwhelming majority of 89 percent of respondents say no! Only 11 percent feel we should relax restrictions. It’s worth noting that development plans are on the back burner throughout the county and the country, not because of regulations, but because of lack of market demand and very tight capital.

• Open space: The survey respondents indicate a strong interest in protecting open space. Less than 1 percent favor historic ranches being preserved, while 24 percent favor green buffers between communities and 25 percent favor river corridors. About 51 percent feel a balance of all three is important. This mirrors my own belief that there is no single most important type of land worth considering for open space preservation. All are important for all the right reasons.

• Bus service: I’d say that 93 percent of respondents supporting the county’s bus service is a very strong vote of confidence. ECO Transit ridership is 11 percent of our population, which is actually well above average for public transit. Although most of the respondents don’t use the bus regularly, they certainly understand the importance to those who do and to our economic vitality.

While the surveys aren’t the same as scientific polls, they mirror the comments and conversations I’ve had on the campaign trail this year. This input will help to guide me for the next four years as I continue to serve you as your county commissioner.

What a thought-provoking question!

Campaigning for Eagle County commissioner definitely qualifies as a learning experience but not in new lessons as much as “ah-ha!” moments, recognizing things I already knew coupled with the opportunity to use those things learned long ago from my parents; from living a successful but somewhat nomadic, joyous and full life of experiences; from raising kids as a single mom and from my well practiced Christian faith.

My campaign has given me the chance to listen to our citizens and their frustration with the current direction of Eagle County government. These are some of the realizations, surprises and insights from my campaign.

• Our county citizens are concerned about their families, the economy and lack of employment. They are worried about what the future of Eagle County holds for their families. They are good people who want to get back to work.

• There is great apprehension by county employees, developers and construction workers that if they dare speak out against our county government they will lose their jobs or be subject to retaliation when seeking approvals. (I knew that one since I had to quit my job in May to continue my campaign for commissioner.)

• People want a leader who will listen and stand up for them when they are too afraid to speak for themselves.

• That one can present facts, in black and white, but people will still believe what they want to regardless of the facts, including my opponent.

• Life experiences happen in a certain order for a reason – to strengthen, teach, and humble us for the challenges ahead. Campaigning has been a test to win the election and tackle the responsibilities as your county commissioner.

• Old friends and new friends made during this campaign will remain friends long after the election is over.

• My husband, Jeremiah Smith, who is a tireless campaigner, has provided me with unconditional love, support, strength, and comic relief and during this campaign.

• I will never be “politically correct.”

Thank you for the great memories and moments during this campaign! On Tuesday, the future of Eagle County will be determined by your votes. My decision to run for commissioner was the right choice for me. I hope you agree and elect me to serve as your next Eagle County commissioner.

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