Political capital | VailDaily.com

Political capital

EAGLE COUNTY ” Two Eagle County Commissioners may soon discover how much political power can be gained by backing a winning horse.

Peter Runyon spearheaded the drive to get a government reform effort called “home rule” on the ballot. The measure passed, albeit by less than 200 votes. Fellow Commissioner Arn Menconi also supported the ballot issue.

Menconi and Runyon, both Democrats, and Republican Commissioner Tom Stone all supported a ballot issue in which the commissioners asked voters for permission to pass a county smoking ban.

With Menconi and Runyon going two-for-two on ballot issues, do they now have what President George Bush called “political capital?”

“Home rule isn’t an issue of a mandate for Peter or Arn,” Runyon said. “It’s all about better government. The charter is the mandate.”

The day after the election, Menconi said much the same thing as Runyon.

“I haven’t really thought of it in that term,” he said. “I think last year people voted for quality of life, the environment and land use, and this year they voted for representation.”

But, Menconi added, he has more on his agenda.

“For several years I’ve been hoping to bring some type of funding for early childhood development,” Menconi said, pointing to the fact that Summit County voters Tuesday agreed to a property tax increase to fund early childhood programs.

A county study of what’s needed is about finished, he said. That should provide some idea of what early childhood programs might cost.

Whether that study translates into a request for more tax money is still an open question, though. The Eagle County School District is likely to ask voters for a tax increase next year, Menconi said. That could delay a county request for more taxes.

While Menconi and Runyon downplayed the notion of having “capital,” a former Vail Town Council member said both do have it right now.

“With the charter going forward and with Referendum C passing statewide, it’s clear there’s a progressive base that speaks to the agenda Arn and Peter are espousing,” said Bill Jewitt, who unsuccessfully ran for the Home Rule Charter Commission. “I think they have a good deal of political capital.”

Another Vail resident questions how useful that capital might be.

“It’s a push and shove, trying to divide limited funds,” said Mike Mathias, an Eagle County Fair Board member who also failed in a bid for a seat on the charter commission.

“But the fact is they have momentum right now, and they will have it until the board changes,” Mathias said.

For Jewitt, who claims never to have had any political capital of his own, whether Menconi and Runyon keep the pull they now hold depends on if they continue to be successful.

“A politician gets political capital when he’s elected,” Jewitt said. “Then you use some on issues. If they win, you get it back with some interest. But if you lose a few, it diminishes. It’s kind of like the stock market.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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