Out of political capital | VailDaily.com

Out of political capital

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Expanding the Eagle County courthouse, jail and Sheriff’s Office for $24 million, despite all the controversy about government spending, was approved this week.

The good news is that judges, sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors will be a little more comfortable as they go about their very important jobs. Also, the county, at least for a while, won’t have to pay to ship its inmates to other jails.

The bad news is that the Eagle County Commissioners ” when it comes to large, expensive projects ” has spent whatever political capital it had left.

If the current board, or the new one that is sworn in this winter, announces spending of more than, say, a few million dollars, it will have to be a pretty special project or the county may again see volunteers out gathering signatures for a recall election.

Along with the jail expansion, which was rejected in a survey, voters both Democrat and Republican were already annoyed with several county financial decisions, including raising property taxes by refusing to lower its rates, spending money on early-childhood programs that voters rejected, and re-landscaping the county building with more environmentally friendly plants.

Regardless of the merit of any of these projects, taxpayers sound like they’re not interested in having any more of their money spent on a project that they haven’t been convinced is essential.

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We hope the jail expansion was really needed because other “critical” projects that come along in the future are going to face a fight by voters. For instance, the county talked about a biomass plant this week. The facility is supposed to convert trees killed by pine beetles into electricity. It’s very expensive to build but also could be a major environmental stride for the county. The county also will likely need more money to deal with a booming population.

Those are both worthy needs, but because of recent spending decisions, they may likely be dead the moment they’re placed on a county meeting agenda. To get anything accomplished, the county will have to prioritize its projects and make a very strong case to voters first.