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Forum signals transition for Vail

Stephen Lloyd Wood

To a packed house at town hall – promoters even had to bring in extra chairs – the gang of five challengers and three incumbents faced each other on business-related issues in what the moderator – David O. Williams of the Vail Trail – called “slightly different format.”They also faced a relatively serious panel of representatives from the Vail Chamber & Business Association, which sponsored the event.”I thought it went very well; I thought it went very quickly,” Kaye Ferry, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, said of the three-hour forum. “It’s hard to find a format that works.”All in all, more than two dozen questions got bounced around, most of them directly related to the concerns of the local business community, which despite Vail Resorts having record profits has had a relatively bad time the last few years. Other questions centered on how local government functions and how each candidate would improve it.The entire forum – in addition to another, similar event conducted earlier this month – is expected to appear on public access television, Channel 5, at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. throughout the Vail Valley over the next few weeks, Ferry said. More information is available on the chamber’s Web site: http://www.vailchamber.org.”A lack of direction’Mark Gordon, who’s running on a community-based platform that aims to increase the number of people living in Vail full-time, said residents “need confidence” in the Town Council.”We need to weigh all the information we get carefully,” said Gordon, who works for Vail Resorts as lead foreman of the company’s mountain communications center in Lionshead. “We have a great staff, but there’s a feeling of a lack of direction.””The big picture’Bill Jewitt, an incumbent running for his second term, said the Town Council needs to “put more credence in what the staff tells us” and not talk about items that simply could be addressed with consent agenda. That way, he said, staff could take care of minor items that often bog the council down for hours.”We could make big changes in how the town operates by changing the way the Town Council operates,” said Jewitt, who owns Bart & Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead. “We need to be talking about the big picture instead of getting mired in the details.”Rather than have a council member sit in on VCBA meetings, we should have a staff member do that,” added Jewitt, recommending the town’s new manager, Stan Zemler, take on that role.”Tuesday night theatrics’Kent Logan, who’s running for public office for the first time, concentrated his answers on leadership, priorities and better communication. The community has “broken down,” he said – along with its elected officials, who seem to have fallen into “micromanaging” things.”It’s time we begin communicating as a community,” said Logan, “and not coming down to Tuesday night theatrics.”Logan, a retired investment banker, said leadership is also needed in Vail’s relationship with other towns in Eagle County, as well as the county itself.”This place will always be known as “the Vail Valley,’ not “the Edwards Valley’ or “the Avon Valley,'” Logan said. “Part of leadership is bringing the valley together when it should come together. We’re all in this together.””Letting people know’Dave McDougall, a barman at Blue’s in Vail Village, has been running on a platform of representing the younger crowd in town – the people who work at bars, restaurants and hotels. A good way to improve relations with the business community, McDougall said, would be creating a staff position within the town’s government specifically for that purpose.”The town manager’s kind of busy,” he said. “So I say we create a position to look over it.”Better communication with residents and tourists alike also could help solve other problems, such as parking on weekends in the ski season.”I didn’t even know there were 60 spaces available,” he said, referring to special parking allocated for shoppers this season. “We have to do a better job of letting people know about things like that.””A single policy goal’Incumbent Greg Moffet defended the current council on which he’s served for four years.”As governments go, this one isn’t bad,” he said. “We need to find and define a single policy goal for this council and use that as a touchstone for decisions.”Moffet agreed, however, the council needs to get away from micromanaging things staff members should be able to handle.”If you think it’s screwed up now, just wait until the council gets involved,” Moffet said in response to how the town’s elected officials could manage impending construction projects so they don’t hurt business.”Devil’s in the details’Paul Rondeau, a former systems engineer with IBM who’s owned a home in Vail since 1963, said government can always improve. He stressed fiscal responsibility and accountability, saying the “devil’s in the details.” He said he’s watched the council for years try to deal with problems – such as parking – typically without getting anything done.”I’ve never known how they get things done. Now I know – they don’t,” Rondeau said. “The simple answer is the council is dysfunctional.”Rondeau also suggested forming a “shadow cabinet” of former council members that could help the next council take on projects and problems.”What’s disappointing is the lack of community involvement,” said Rondeau. “We need more dialogue, less head-butting.””Second-guessing’Kim Ruotolo, an original member of Vail’s housing authority and a working mother of two, said while she thinks the community should be more involved, sometimes limiting public input should be “limited” so as not to drag the process down.”You elect us as leaders; we then hire professionals,” said Ruotolo, who said her No. 1 priority if elected would be to bring back Vail’s vitality. “We need to trust what they bring to us instead of constantly second-guessing.””All things to all people’Rod Slifer, a former mayor who’s served on the council many times and running for yet another term, also agreed the staff could play a more responsible role in local government.”Staff should make more decisions,” said Slifer. “The Town Council has really fallen down in not communicating what we expect.”We’re not all things to all people,” Slifer added. “We need communication with the business community, with residents and with second-home owners. Each of their interests are just as important to them as the interests of the others are to the others.”


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