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Time for Vail business guru

Kaye Ferry

I read with great interest Paul Rondeau’s guest commentary a few weeks ago in the Vail Daily. Paul is a big process guy. He believes that if a topic is moved through the system following set protocol and procedures, the outcome will be positive. Without speaking for him, I think he also trusts a system that includes the public by providing sufficient information and discourse to allow for an intelligent exchange of ideas, which hopefully will result in an intelligent and thoughtful conclusion. One at least that the voting public feels they have had influence over.He painted a partially positive picture of this year’s town meeting, which was held over the Christmas holidays at the Donovan Pavilion. I missed it, as I was teaching skiing and couldn’t get there by 4. But I trust Paul’s observation. If he said it was informative, I’m sure it was. But informative to a point. He was disappointed that the town was not better prepared to answer specific questions on their foray into the private sector.Which brings me to the other part of the story that needs discussion. As I move from meeting to meeting and even more interestingly, from social event to social event, increasingly the conversation turns to the role of government, and more specifically, Vail government.Traditionally, government has been charged with providing for public safety and basic community infrastructural needs such as roads. In the town of Vail, that definition has expanded over the years, and sometimes rightly so. Since we are all in the business of tourism, I guess Vail could be thought of in a way as a company town.Now I don’t mean to imply that anybody owns this town. But in the sense that we are all jointly involved in a single business, tourism, we do function a little differently than a typical municipality, But the question that keeps coming up is whether or not the town has moved too far away from a traditional role and has taken steps to seriously encroach on the private sector.To reference Paul again, he pointed out three very clear examples, although there are others: Donovan Pavilion, Timber Ridge and the proposed conference center. These are clearly, or should be, revenue centers. In some people’s minds, these represent areas outside of what the textbook political science definitions are for municipal government. To others, they are simply services that need to be provided that somebody has to do.At this point, at least where the first two are concerned, they are a current reality that we simply have to deal with. But that raises in my mind two significant questions: Is this the course we would like the town of Vail to continue to pursue and if so, how do we manage them?I generally function from the perspective that what is done is done. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue down a road if we’re not comfortable going there. Yet we have to find an acceptable way to deal with what we already have.Did you see the movie “Six Degrees of Separation”? The theory is that there are only six steps between you and everybody else on the planet. I believe it applies to topics, too. If you give someone a topic, six steps later you can be on whatever other conversation they want to gear you toward.They used to say that you could start me out anywhere and I get the conversation around to affordable housing. Then it was parking. The price of beans could quickly result in a discourse on the Frontage Road on weekends. Now it’s the business guru as I refer to my current mission. We need one.Is the town going in the right direction? Paul’s process could stir the debate on that and hopefully result in an acceptable answer. From my point of view, however, we have a lot of parts of a puzzle already in place that needs attention. If the town is in the business of tending to traditional private business ventures, then it needs someone from the private sector to jump in and manage them.As I said, Paul mentioned three big ones, but there are more. Most governments don’t market themselves, but we do through the Vail Local Marketing District, which manages just under a $2 million budget. Then there’s the Commission of Special Events, which has another half million dollars to fund mostly street events, another non-traditional government function. The proposed conference center is another story. If it’s built, whether it’s a revenue source or revenue drain will mostly be a function of not only its management, but its interaction with the community as a whole as well as the marketing district and the special events commission, to name just a few.I could go on. But the main point is that the town of Vail has entered into the private arena, like it or not. Now we need to hire a professional to pull these things all together, someone who can assess the effect of one on the other and address the best path to make each financially viable.We need someone with a clear business background whose role is to interact with the business aspects of the community in creating a new model for the future of the town. Leave the nuts and bolts of running government services to the bureaucrats. Let’s hire a business professional to tend to business. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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