In shadow of Bush and Kerry, important issues await voters
County Clerk and Recorders are like high school referees: they never get enough credit for their hard work, and people usually only pay attention to them when something goes wrong.Eagle County has had a long stretch of competent County Clerks, from Johnette Phillips to Sarah Fisher and now Teak Simonton. As of Oct. 22, Simonton had already dealt with 5,666 votes, 750 of which were early votes. The Eagle County building, by all accounts, has swarmed like a beehive on lunch breaks for quite some time as voters register, ask questions, apply for absentee ballots and take part in early voting.And things seem to be going well. A reader who is in Germany for a year, Mr. Mike Armstrong, contacted us by email with some questions about his ballot. Apparently it isn’t clear if a voter should use a pencil or a pen to fill in the ballot’s little ovals, and a stub that isn’t supposed to be detached had come detached during shipping overseas.But Mike, and others like him who are reading the Vail Trail at vailtrail.com from far away, can be assured that their votes will count (so long as they’re in on time, of course). The clerk and recorder’s office has assured me of this.Using a pen or a pencil may seem like a little problem, but it’s problems like these that can turn large in a close election. All signs point toward a close presidential election, but what about our other races? With the big race pulling voters out to the polls, there are a few local issues I’d like to address before we get to the 11th hour. County commissioners: Not that I’m Nostradamus, but I’m predicting a close race in both county commissioner races. In the District 2 race there’s been a large amount of vocal support for incumbent Arn Menconi, and incumbents generally have an edge. But there seems to be a movement behind former Sheriff A.J. Johnson because a good number of voters are tired of the controversy surrounding Arn and fellow Commissioner Tom Stone (on the other hand, some voters like Arn for that very same reason: he’s the only candidate with the proven ability to challenge Stone head on).But Johnson’s strong suit (beyond his experience in law enforcement) is his attitude. Johnson is relaxed and ready for the job, and he is well prepared to work with people from all over the political spectrum. His no-nonsense attitude makes him a transparent candidate, and there’s no slick talk involved.The same can be said of Buz Reynolds, who has attracted some attention by running as an independent who refuses to take campaign contributions. This may hurt Reynolds in the long run, as party affiliation may garner a few under-informed votes from party-line voters. And if the election is close well, a few votes could make all the difference.And as for the District 1 race, Peter Runyon’s smart-growth platform has given him a pretty solid base among long-time locals, but we’ll see how much sway he has among newer residents when Election Day comes. Richard DeClark has earned the vote of Pete Seibert Jr. and support of Gerald Gallegos (two ultra-long-time locals), but he has yet to deliver strong answers to any of my questions about how he plans to guide the county’s growth. Since Gallegos and Seibert are both tied to the land development industry, it makes me wonder if they support DeClark because they feel he won’t watch their work as closely as Runyon, who seems more dedicated to enforcing the Eagle County master plan. District Attorney: There has been no response to a citizen complaint asking current DA Mark Hurlbert to investigate the actions of County Commissioner Tom Stone regarding Real Estate and Commissioner dealings with ASW. Hurlbert handled the Kobe Bryant case well and deserves re-election based on that issue, but I’ve been wondering why there has been no response to the Stone complaint as of yet.Hurlbert explained that the complaint has been passed around the state like a hot potato: he declined to investigate because of his ties to Stone (who signs his paychecks and is a member of his political party), and he therefore passed it to Glenwood. Glenwood did nothing, so he passed it to Steamboat, who dropped it when their investigator left to serve in Iraq. The complaint is now with Mesa County and yes, we’re still waiting for an official answer. Perhaps by the time Stone is up for re-election two years from now, we’ll have it. Vail Recreation District: The 5A and 5B Town of Vail ballot measures seem disturbing. An additional property tax was already passed in May of this year to help the VRD with Dobson Ice Arena improvements. The VRD currently brings in $1,758,000 in property tax per year according to the Eagle County Assessor, and the TOV collects $2,478,000 a year. If 5A and 5B pass the VRD will collect about $3,374,000 a year far more than the entire TOV. But VRD board member Nino Licciardi says the town has other sources of income while the VRD relies on golf course and fee revenues for anything beyond the property taxes. Some of the facilities, he points out, have been around at least as long as I have (and that’s getting pretty old these days, right?). Still, I feel the VRD will survive without both 5A and 5B. Maybe the passing of just one of these ballot measures would do? Minturn RV Park: If 2B passes in Minturn this year then the town could change dramatically. A high-quality RV park could bring a new kind of clientele up valley, and those clients could end up boosting the local economy. But it may not be a lasting boost, and it may strip away some of Minturn’s quaint feel. With the talented Nicole Magistro entering into a new position as economic coordinator for the town (after the election), I think Minturn can find better ways to fill its restaurants and hotels than with the RV park. On the other hand, an RV park gives real Americans a chance to roll into our valley and sit side-by-side with the elite, and my egalitarian instincts tend to enjoy that idea. VTTom Boyd can be reached for comment at email@example.com
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