Private sector can do more help |

Private sector can do more help

Seven years ago the Eagle Valley community rallied around my family. Kelly, my youngest daughter, then 12, was the most seriously injured in a car accident that left her with a paralyzed arm, facial injuries, multiple fractures and internal trauma. The community provided a plane to fly my family from the accident site back to Vail.

Fundraisers helped pay for surgeries in Canada that were not covered by insurance. And the constant concern and support from friends and churches got us through this difficult time. These selfless acts impressed me, motivated me, and inspired me personally and our whole family to service.

Almost daily we read in the Vail Daily about selfless acts of kindness and service performed by members of this community. We hold fundraisers for cancer survivors, accident victims, and for a 12-year-old girl who received a heart transplant. We support the performing arts, outreach programs for urban youth, Habitat for Humanity, and countless other worthy causes. Rotary is extremely active and its service projects clearly demonstrate how businesses in the community want to reinvest to make this a better place to live. And all of these acts come through private, selfless giving.

Yet, somehow, in the view of our local, state and federal government, these generous, selfless do-gooders turn into profit hungry war-mongers seeking to rape and pillage when it comes to affordable housing, childcare centers, senior citizens homes, or environmental conservation. Clearly the view seems to be that the private sector cannot be trusted, and the only solution to these needed and necessary services is taxation. In the case of the second-home owners in this valley who overwhelmingly support the charitable causes, and would invest in other service-oriented projects, it is taxation without representation. So this strange dichotomy continues ” give generously but make sure to turn the other cheek so we can reach in your back pocket, take what the government demands and spend more.

There must be a better way. The discussions here in the paper demonstrate the need for affordable and employee housing. Further, based on the November elections, a substantial minority (the initiative did lose) of the valley believe we need affordable childcare. Support for senior citizen services is also strong, as our population grows and ages. The issue is how to provide these services, care for those who cannot afford the service, while operating in the most productive and efficient manner. In my view, government is the least efficient, least qualified, and most costly way to provide service that can be performed in the private sector.

It is time to sit down and think creatively, outside of the traditional models to meet the growing demand and need of these critical services. Public/private partnerships work effectively in infrastructure and other longer return on capital projects. In my eight years in Hong Kong I witnessed how China and Vietnam, the two remaining viable communist systems, used public/private partnerships to build roads, schools, hospitals, and water systems. In the late 1980s and early 1990s when both countries were emerging from isolation, and needed foreign capital to rebuild their economies, they adopted incentives and deferred taxation programs to draw capital. And their grand experiment in capitalism is hugely successful in raising the standard of living of their populations, improving basic services, and building an economic powerhouse. Of course, there is abuse and excesses, and we read about slaves in sweat shops and real estate scams, but the fundamental principle of providing incentives to generate capital for basic infrastructure needs is sound.

Eagle County will continue to grow and there must be an adequate infrastructure to support that growth. Yes, we need to have policy that will protect and preserve the environment and the healthy lifestyle we all have chosen in being here. We need to solve the affordable housing shortage to attract and hold the younger families working to survive in the county. Coupled with the affordable housing then comes childcare and schools. Other infrastructure must be developed and maintained. There is no shortage of capital available in Eagle County and with creative structure that capital can work to provide the needed services.

A friend of ours is looking seriously at structuring an affordable housing project. He is retired, does not need to have a strong profit motive, is seeking to meet a critical shortage and not lose money. Why not encourage this kind of entrepreneurship, provide incentives and fast track the approval process?

The people in this county are generous, intelligent, and creative. We need to tap this resource to solve the critical infrastructure needs of the county.

Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at

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