Vail candidate forum draws a crowd Tuesday
Ballots will be mailed out starting Oct. 8
Vail voters this year have a 10-person field running for four seats on the Vail Town Council. Those candidates Tuesday spent about two hours answering questions for potential voters.
The forum, sponsored by the Vail Chamber & Business Association, the Vail Board of Realtors, the Vail Daily and TV8, was streamed on Facebook, but a number of residents came to see the forum in person.
John Kirschner and Barbara Brundin aren’t on Facebook. But, Kirschner said coming to the forum was as much a chance to see old friends as it was about learning about the field of candidates.
With moderator Douglas Smith primarily asking off-the-cuff questions — including their favorite powder day ski runs — the candidates had a lot to think about. As you’d expect asking questions to just about any 10-person group, many candidates echoed the opinions of others. But there was a chance to learn. Here are some of the highlights:
While most candidates support the town’s fall ballot issue asking voters for a 0.5% increase in the town’s non-grocery sales tax rate, Niko Sayag and Jonathan Staufer both oppose the measure.
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Staufer said the ballot measure is “far too broad in its construction.”
Sayag said Vail doesn’t have the space to build “a bunch of new housing,” adding that “locals shouldn’t be carrying the burden” of funding new housing initiatives.
Responding to a question about businesses struggling to find help, candidate Jermaine Wates noted that hiring problems aren’t unique to Vail. He suggested better marketing to attract employees to an attractive place. But, he added, there are no easy answers, particularly if employees face an hour’s ride home downvalley after working a long shift.
Candidate Kathryn Middleton suggested boosting wages, as well as broadening transit, including carpooling and ride sharing, adding that she favors an idea to create a regional transportation authority to beef up the valley’s transit services.
Candidate Barry Davis said he’s pleased to see officials taking a more data-driven approach to transit and other issues. But, Davis suggested, Vail needs a kind of “cultural preservation,” so Vail is seen as more than just another stop for people on their career paths.
Smith asked the candidates about their approaches to diplomacy, with colleagues, residents and guests.
“It’s not just listening, but seeking out opinions from people who don’t come to meetings,” candidate Kim Newbury Rediker said.
Travis Coggin, one of the two incumbents running this year, said he does a lot of reading, listening and questioning. That kind of diplomacy involves “trying to put yourself in each person’s shoes,” he said.
Candidate Pete Seibert said “you never know when you’re going to hear (a great idea), so you keep your mind open and take time to listen.”
Balancing transportation, environment
Candidates were also asked about balancing transportation and environmental protection.
Candidate Kirk Hansen noted that transportation is going to “change dramatically” in the next 20 years or so, particularly with a shift to electric vehicles.
Brian Stockmar, the other incumbent running for re-election, said that as a member of the ECO Transit board, he’s been advocating for using more, smaller vehicles running on more frequent schedules to get people around the valley. He noted that Zermatt, Switzerland, has a fleet of small, electric vehicles moving quickly around the resort.
“We have a great opportunity to look at that model,” Stockmar said.
After the forum, resident Lidsea Stowe, owner of Two Arrows Café, said she was glad to have listened to the candidates and their answers.
“I’m excited for some change,” Stowe said. “This is a pivotal election.”
Stowe added she was impressed with the field of candidates. And, she added, no matter who wins, “I wouldn’t be disappointed” if any of them earned spots on the council.
A recording of Tuesday’s Vail Town Council candidate forum can be seen on the town’s Facebook page.