Peter Runyon: Eagle County needs thoughtful management for best future
Eagle County, CO. Colorado
It is just two days until the election. How do you spell relief?
This article is an attempt to help you understand the differences between me, Peter Runyon, and my opponent, Dick Gustafson, for Eagle County commissioner.
n Let me begin with an area where we agree.
Because of the current economic uncertainty, Eagle County needs to be extremely conservative with our 2009 budget. This is just common sense. In difficult times there is greater demand for county services and less revenue to fund them. Thankfully, for the last four years I have insisted on a balanced budget. We are in good financial shape entering these difficult times.
n We disagree on the county’s role in planning for the future.
In most communities the future arrives at a steady, predictable pace. In Eagle County it rushes at us like a freight train. This collapse of time leaves us, as a community, little room for planning and decision-making. That is why we conducted a quality of life survey last winter to identify the issues that were important to you. You responded:
” Growth and land use.
” Transportation and traffic congestion.
” Affordable housing and cost of living.
“Preservation of our natural environment.
These have the common thread of being tied to land use management. Also known as the future.
Dick’s philosophy holds that the unfettered free market will always make the best decisions. This is a good argument in communities with a growth rate of 1 percent-2 percent and who enjoy a lot of available land like Prairie Village, Kansas. Neither of those conditions applies in Eagle County. Our rate of growth is around 4 percent-5 percent, and our available land is limited by the surrounding national forest. For all practical purposes, we are an island unto ourselves.
Therefore, I believe that it is neither the market nor the developers who should plan for the future but we, the people, who should decide where growth occurs, where to preserve buffers between our communities, and whether or not to require affordable housing,
n We disagree on affordable housing.
Dick holds to his 20-year-old philosophy that government should not be involved in housing. Stating, “I’ve never built affordable housing … and I’m proud of it.”
Even those icons of conservative thought in Eagle County, former county commissioners Johnette Phillips and Tom Stone, understood that there is a place for government in housing in Eagle County since they, respectively, were responsible for 270 housing units at Lake Creek Village apartments and 283 units in Miller Ranch.
Dick’s legacy of decisions, including the approval of over 3,000 high-end homes, has had consequences we are harvesting today. Our second-home market is driving free market prices into the stratosphere. Traffic is becoming unmanageable. Businesses are struggling to find workers. And most troubling is that our children can no longer afford to live in the place they call home.
I believe that it is appropriate for government to step up to encourage a public private partnership to build local housing to halt the exodus of our children, our middle class, and our workers.
n We disagree on how to best reduce taxes.
Dick’s only response is to offer a simplistic plan to reduce your property taxes. Unfortunately, this means is that $2 million will leave our local economy as refunds to second-home owners and only $1 million will go to locals, averaging just $10 per month per local property owner. I, on the other hand, am working on real tax relief for struggling local taxpayers through a “homestead rebate” system similar to the one in Florida in which a rebate goes to people who claim their home as their primary residence.
n We disagree on environmental preservation and sustainability.
Dick has said that it is a bunch of politically correct nonsense. I believe that because our economic engine is based on the natural environment we need to take a leadership roll in its preservation.
The choice is clear. Dick wants to return to a developer-driven economy with little thought to the consequences to our local work force, environment and families. I believe in the thoughtful management of the future of Eagle County to preserve our quality of life.
Democratic Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon is running for re-election vs. former Commissioner Dick Gustafson, a Republican.
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