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Letters to the Editor

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Still a supporterI’m writing with regard to the idea of a private conference center attached to two new hotels, proposed to be located on the site of the Lionshead parking structure. I guess my quotes on the subject in the Daily last week came across as less than a ringing endorsement. Several people mentioned that to me, including one letter to the editor that accused me of “flip-flopping” in my support now that it wouldn’t be a “windfall” for the lodges.Yes, I would have preferred a public facility, as was proposed last fall. Although I don’t understand the “windfall” perception, since it would have been funded almost entirely through lodging tax collections. But that ship has sailed. I do support any conference center capable of accommodating meetings two and three times bigger than Vail’s current largest facilities. I still believe that it is one of the only ideas presented heretofore that can actually have a positive impact on the seasonality of our tourism economy. That is, it can drive people to come here in the off season when we need them most.I am totally confident that a private facility like this will be a positive for Vail’s economy. Frankly, it will be every bit as good for our retail community as the one proposed last year. It will be nearly as good for the restaurant community, as well. While there was some hue and cry last fall that the meeting attendees would be somehow kept captive in the conference center for their meals, that’s hogwash. People want to go out to eat and they will. The incremental dining business all across town would have far outweighed the convention banquets. On the other hand, the operators of two for-profit hotels, and their associated restaurants, will work much harder than a public facility would have to keep those people there for meals (but still with only limited success). So yes, it will still be a big plus for food and beverage operators. As for lodging, currently 81 percent of the town of Vail’s lodging revenues are generated November-April. Only 19 percent comes in the other six months of the year. That’s not a healthy economic situation, period. Those figures come from the town’s sales tax reports. THAT’s why most of the lodging community fought so hard last year to approve a conference center. That’s also why we were willing to pay for most of it with a lodging tax.Now, two new (presumably large) hotels will capture a significant amount of the incremental conference business coming to town. Well, that’s fair. They’re paying for the facility. And it WILL be good for the town. All I’m saying is that the positive impact on the lodging occupancies experienced by those of us who are already here will be less than it would have been with a stand-alone center. Yes, we’ll still get some overflow, and for that we’ll be appreciative. But forgive me if I continue to worry about that 8-19 number. As a lodging guy, I’m not quite as enthusiastic as I was last year. Should I feel guilty about that? I don’t think so.Overall, from a town-wide perspective, put my name under the heading of “supporters.” And if this proposal can also be massaged to include a significant amount of new parking, along with some projected cost savings to the community on future repairs of existing parking, well then it’s even more attractive. Rob LeVineGeneral Manager, Antlers at VailVice Chairman, Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism BureauAll in the rhetoricIt’s impressive how Don Rogers is able to stretch his distilled ignorance into a 600-word “Don’t worry, be happy” op-ed in favor of illegal immigration. Just to follow up on a couple of Rogers’s triumphant “arguments”:1. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, helping make East Germany into one big prison. In contrast, a barrier on our Mexican border would be intended to keep people out, so that Americans could better control their own destiny, without being swamped by the human discards from the venal, failed societies of Hispanic America.2. Field labor is about 6 percent of the price of produce. So if we tripled the wages paid to farm workers, consumer prices would increase less than 20 percent. At those rates, Americans would do those and other “menial” jobs – not as careers, but as first steps on the employment ladder, as I did when I was a teenager. And how much does the average household spend on produce, anyway? A few hundred bucks, so we’re talking about less than $60 per household per year increase in food costs as the price of ending slave labor.So Rogers needn’t fret about the cost of oranges quadrupling. Anyway, Rogers doesn’t need oranges. He needs brain food.Paul Nachman Bozeman, Mt. Vail, Colorado


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