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Richard Carnes: To Vail and back

Imagine you took a large wad of $20 bills and laid them end to end from the Town Council Chambers in Vail to the very top of Vail Mountain (PHQ), being careful to follow Vail Road up past the Vista Bahn and then tracing the contours of Riva Ridge.

After catching your breath, you lay another trail of $20s all the way back down to where you began, parallel to the first.

Step back and observe your financial handiwork, and then realize the approximately 10-mile strip of Benjamins is almost ” not quite, but almost ” the entire amount of money the Vail Town Council has spent on Seibert Circle (more than $2 million), from the rocks carved by Jesus in 2004 to the wet flying flames currently occupying the location.

Now, imagine you are one of the following:

– A full-time town staff member.

– A full-time town staff member in line for a merit raise.

– A full-time town staff member who just qualified for the employee-housing-assistance program.

At this point, realize the chance exists that you now qualify to either lose your job, not receive that merit pay raise or no longer be able to qualify to buy that house, mainly because the town spent the limited tax funds elsewhere.

Makes you want to toss Alka-Seltzer in a fountain, don’t it?

But before you cross your verbal tips, trust me ” I understand running a town is hard. Managing a town is even harder.

Providing vision, leadership, efficiency, transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility for a town is hands down the hardest of all, and no one can fully appreciate the commitment required until they wear those shoes.

So when it comes to the town of Vail’s recently announced $1 million budget cuts, I can truly empathize with the council and its difficulties in making such decisions, as I experienced similar (albeit smaller) budget issues at the town of Avon back in the mid-’90s.

Yes, hindsight is the great beneficial equalizer of all critics, yet I make the case that this particular issue should be a lesson not just to criticize but to greatly enhance the foresight of all future councils.

I have not been alone all these years in my constant criticisms of government spending when it comes to their pious “artistic license” of tax dollars. I was not the only one to poke fun at the town of Vail’s inanity of wasting $100,000 on those silly windmills. And I am certainly not by myself when it comes to pointing out the absurdity of wasting tax dollars on public art in general, especially when folks such as Alan Kosloff, Ron Riley and Vail Resorts prove it can be done with private dollars instead.

Without a doubt, I will not be the last, either. But please, ladies and gentlemen, let’s learn from it this time.

Oh, and while I’m at it, if you used $1 bills and laid them end to end from Town Council Chambers all the way to Dotsero, you’d waste just about as much as the county did for its new (proposed) logo.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.


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