Romer: We need to embrace the power of pragmatism |

Romer: We need to embrace the power of pragmatism


Pragmatism is severely underestimated in today’s increasingly polarized word. Thinking of or dealing with problems in a practical way, rather than by using theory or abstract principles, should be embraced by those on both sides of any issue.

Consider former Colorado governor and current presidential candidate John Hickenlooper. He was recently booed at a California Democratic Party event for staying things such as “socialism is not the answer” for suggesting that most people don’t want to give up their private health insurance for a government-run system, and saying that “we shouldn’t try to tackle climate change by guaranteeing every American a government job.”

In announcing his campaign for president, Hickenlooper embraced pragmatism and said, “Being a pragmatist doesn’t mean saying no to bold ideas, it means knowing how to make them happen.”

It should be easy to agree that it is important to “make things happen” to address areas of need, regardless of your political affiliation or feelings toward our former governor. And supporting pragmatism isn’t just a national issue. We are faced with the need for pragmatism locally as well, especially on issues including housing and healthcare.

Consider the proposed development in East Vail. One of the largest concerns expressed during the rezoning process was the potential negative impact on wildlife, and specifically, the local bighorn sheep herd, whose 1,880-acre winter range surrounds and includes this parcel.  

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The first step to mitigating the wildlife impacts of a development occurred when Vail Resorts rezoned 18 acres for Natural Area Preservation, and concentrated the development potential of the parcel onto the five acres that was zoned for housing.  

Over the course of last winter Triumph Development, which has a contract to purchase the 23-acre parcel, commissioned a biologist to study the bighorn herd and understand how the herd uses the site.

The results of this study found a relatively low use of this heavily forested parcel by the herd — but it does more frequently graze on the parcel and cliff-band above the Vail Mountain School and surrounding neighborhoods to our west. One of the other valuable outcomes of the study was a series of design recommendations from the biologist that Triumph plans to incorporate into its development plan.

Critical to the development application is an environmental impact report as well as a wildlife mitigation plan, prepared by Western Ecosystems, Inc. The report and proposed wildlife enhancements are some of the most substantial ever proposed for development on private property in Vail. 

Pragmatically, we should acknowledge private property rights and significant investment to support wildlife mitigation efforts in order to address a key community issue.

Consider healthcare. The high cost of health insurance has been an ongoing and increasingly impactful issue in Eagle County. Addressing the high cost of health insurance is essential to the continued success of our community, and to efforts to retain community members.

A “yes, and…” approach is needed to fundamentally address the issue of health insurance cost; providers, insurance companies, and the government all need to be part of the solution and niche programs need to build on each other to support community needs. 

Pragmatically, we need to bring all stakeholders to the table to build a program that works for everyone and meets the needs of our community.

There are those who are obstinate and unyielding in their positions. These people — those who boo a candidate, those who oppose private property rights, those who fight against innovation in support of the status quo — regularly fight pragmatism. We need pragmatic leaders who focus on figuring out how to get things done to support our community. 

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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