Here are the facts
On the Internet there’s a great Web site called Truthorfiction.com. It’s the first place I go to when I want to check on the accuracy or truth of one of the countless e-mails we all get as forwards. Unfortunately, there’s no similar Web site you can go to that can vouch for the accuracy of some pretty wild claims starting to surface in our local county commissioner election.
Now, as a commissioner running for re-election, you should expect a bit of bias in this column. However, I believe, if you have an open mind, you’ll see the emptiness in some of the claims made against me.
1.”The Board of County Commissioners is fiscally irresponsible.” Fiction! What I haven’t been hearing from my opponent are his ideas on what should get funded and what doesn’t. Complaining should not be confused with leadership. Truth: the Board of Commissioners has maintained a balanced budget with reserves that have ranged between 35 percent and 50 percent.
2. “Runyon doesn’t listen to voters.” Fiction! Two years ago, voters got a chance to decide if they wanted to raise $3.3 million by increasing property taxes for early childhood development. The voters said no. Yet, that didn’t make the problem go away or change the fact that over 40 percent of voters were willing to raise their taxes to support children’s services. So what did we do? Truth: We found a modest compromise by using existing funds to test a dramatically scaled-back plan that was of what was originally proposed. In doing so, we attracted some private sector investment, provided much needed help to children in our community and did not raise anyone’s taxes. I believe it’s important to listen to both sides and work towards solutions in the middle.
Historical truth: Several years ago, the Republican-led commission asked voters to fund the 800Mz emergency radio system. Again, the voters said no. The commissioners funded it anyway from within the existing budget. No one raised a peep. Is there a double-standard here? Of course there is, but then again, it’s election season.
3. “Runyon raised property taxes.” Fiction! I did not. Under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), only voters can raise taxes. Truth: Free market forces, in the name of increased property values, pushed our tax bills higher (mine increased by 46 percent, too). Truth: Eagle County acts as the central collection point for your property taxes, but only receives 15 percent of the total. Even if we returned all of the county’s “increase” it would work out to about $100 per year per Eagle County property owner. Truth: I’m working on ways to help people on fixed incomes who are struggling to pay ALL their property taxes (not just Eagle County’s 15 percent).
4. “Runyon and the county aren’t working with the towns and employers in the valley.” Fiction! When I came to office, there was a deep distrust of the county. Ask any of our town managers or elected council members and they’ll tell you that we may still have a ways to go, but communication and collaboration with the county are better than they have been in years. Truth: I created the Blue Ribbon Housing panel. I instituted regular mayors and managers meetings. I started the Transportation Collaborative. All of these actions have built a new level of cooperation and trust.
5. “The county is risking tax dollars on Stratton Flats.” Fiction. Would keeping the $4.5 million in U.S. Treasury bills earning 4 percent be safer? You bet. But, isn’t it the job of government to invest in community? Truth: The county’s investment position is second after the main lender and ahead of the developer. For this “riskier” investment we will earn 6 percent on our money and create 226 new deed restricted affordable housing units.
6. “Stratton Flats is a corporate bailout.” Fiction. This is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that’s required to build affordable communities. Truth: A nearly identical project, Miller Ranch, which everyone agrees was successful, also required public investment. Otherwise, it never would have been built.
7. “He’s a go-along to get-along commissioner.” Fiction. My friends were always surprised when I ran for county commissioner. They know that I’m, at heart, an introvert. I’m not a lightning rod. I’m not a headline grabber. Truth: my voting record shows plenty of independence on key issues where I sometimes surprised my fellow commissioners by publicly voting against them. I always prefer consensus over polarization, but when I believe that core principles of protecting our county’s best interests are being pushed aside, I have no qualms about stating my position, holding my ground and voting my conscience.
I’m proud of my past four years of service to the citizens of Eagle County. In tackling our high priority issues of housing, transportation, forest health and open space I’m proud of my abilities to bring people together, to seek out their ideas and to create an environment of action.
It’s hard work, sometimes slow and sometimes frustrating, but it’s my home and you’re my neighbors and knowing that I can play a part in making a positive difference for Eagle County is what gets me up in the morning.
And that’s the truth.
Peter Runyon is an Eagle County commissioner and is running for re-election.