The action’s at the bar, later
I love the movie “Chicago.” I’ve seen it three times. And being from there, everything about the city makes me smile.
The story is about two show girls, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who are accused of murder. Billy Flynn’s their atttorney. As Roxie is about to enter the courtroom, she says that she is scared. Billy responds to her, “Don’t worry. It’s all a circus, a three-ring circus. It’s only show biz” – and they break in to my favorite production number of the movie, “Razzle Dazzle.”
You are probably wondering what that has to do with a column that normally deals with observations of the Vail political scene. The workings of Chicago politics have been well documented over the years. Everyone seems to know that a little behind-the-scenes maneuvering produces a lot of public results. The difference between Chicago and other municipalities is that in the Windy City, it’s pretty well acknowledged.
But that kind of juxtapositioning has always taken place here, as well. It’s simply that most people don’t know it and those who do don’t admit it.
However, at a recent event, a Town Council member got up and shared how business is really done in the town of Vail. After an official meeting. In a bar. Over a beer. He said that “if you have a problem that needs solving, find out where we’re drinking.”
Laughter erupted. I was struck, however, with the irony of it. I’m just not sure that the community actually understood how much truth there was in that statement.
And of course, I am reminded regularly that this is not unusual in government. But perhaps in bigger places, you just don’t notice.
Yet this is a small town and you can actually see and feel the results of errors and manipulation. And when it finally gets in front of the voter, it has been hashed, rehashed, pulverized, sanitized and presented with a smiling face and the implication that whatever you are about to say matters.
So back to razzle dazzle. If you confuse the issue enough, no one will be able to figure out what you’re doing. If you conduct business behind closed doors, how can it be questioned? Until it’s too late.
As the song goes, “Give em the old hocus pocus, daze and dizzy ’em.” And if you get caught, “Give em the old three ring circus, stun and stagger em.” Which leads to the final conclusion, “If you keep ’em way off balance, how will they know you have no talent?” Isn’t that great? Great for a movie, that is. Not so great for government.
Wow. If I’d known political science was that easy, I’d have changed my major.
Who would have ever thought that all you need to do is learn to tap dance to be a politician! But the more I observe, the truer and truer it seems.
So once again, we come to the question, what’s that got to do with Vail town government? Well, wouldn’t it be nice if you were part of the decision-making process? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have discussions out in the open? How about knowing that behind closed doors doesn’t mean behind doors that are only closed to you and not to some of Vail’s power brokers?
These are all questions you should consider when deciding on who will get your vote.
With the California election just now over, I find a couple of interesting parallels. The new governor took the razzle dazzle concept to new heights. He perfected it in spades. And while the entire fiasco makes me shudder, the voters in California at least had enough sense to get up off of their sofas and demand a change. It is said that people generally get what they deserve. Have we really deserved this?
Get to the next two candidates’ forums and ask the tough questions. And listen to the answers. Then check the records of those that have already served. They’ve left a track record that’s full of clues.
Here’s some of the background surrounding the failed attempt to use Ford Park this winter. To begin with, meetings were held with the Town of Vail and Vail Resorts that did not include the Vail Recreation District even though the VRD has a lease controlling the park. That made the VRD mad. Secondly, the initial assumption was that VRI would absorb most if not all of the costs since the TOV was throwing in the free temporary use of the fields to solve a VRI problem. At the get go, VRI used numbers like $1million that dwindled down to $35,000 and then back to a $50,000 cap. The TOV then realized that the deal really was between the VRD and VRI, and they stepped back, saying the TOV would provide no hard dollars to the project. That vote passed 6-1 with only the staunch VRI employee, otherwise known as our mayor, voting for the TOV to pick up the tab. As usual, when the financial burden was shifted back to VRI, the deal fell through. Guess they’re already saving for next year’s bonuses.
But good on them. They skated. And once again, the TOV did not have the you-know-whats to draw a line in the sand. VRI says the discounted passes are worth $40 million a year to them. This is year four, so you can do the math. It is high time they be forced to deal with the parking nightmare. Step one was the TOV said no to picking up the tab. Step 2, VRI also said no. Here’s what step 3 should be – the TOV should not allow Frontage Road parking this winter. Period. VRI should be forced to step up to the plate.
But until there are consequences, VRI will never voluntarily pay any money at all to solve the problem. Why should they? If this council has any balls at all, making that motion could be their last positive commitment as a group to this community. They’ve only got two more meetings. Let’s see what they’re made of. But remember, this is not about shame on VRI. It’s about shame on us if we don’t take a stand.
Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-search:ferry
Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.