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Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Day after hot election is the test of a community

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

Here’s a small-town value that neighbors in Eagle will need to remember well in a couple of days: Togetherness.

And also forgiveness.

This will play out in the wake of Tuesday’s election crescendo over Eagle River Station, the proposal for the “lifestyle” shopping center on 88 acres of pasture just east of where Chambers Avenue currently ends.

Regardless of how the vote goes.

This one hits close to home for me personally, in addition to professionally. Vail’s equally hot Crossroads-Solaris referendum and Minturn’s embrace of Ginnturn were much more, well, academic considerations for me. Incidentally, I favored Solaris and opposed Ginnturn, which will bring actual sprawl to Battle Mountain if built.

Vail’s voters agreed with me, and Minturn overwhelmingly went against my judgment of the bid to build a new private ski and golf resort, and double or triple the size of the current quaint town.

I can’t vote on Eagle River Station. But like many, I’m directly affected by living in “greater” Eagle, a mile up Eby Creek Road now and before that six miles south of town. This is where we raised our kids and where our connections are most personal.

So I get even less pleasure knowing I’ve angered neighbors by expressing “wrong” opinions, which simply is a job requirement. Praise from those who agree with me on this issue doesn’t quite make up for that, of course.

And when things get heated, folks will sometimes get a little personal. For a short period, like it or not, it seems everything gets put on the table beyond your “logic.”

Your self-interests, biases, motives, ethics, various perceived character flaws inevitably come up for scrutiny if you dare speak publicly about the hottest controversies.

For whatever reason, I don’t take even those slings and arrows personally. I can see the root of it, and I suppose nearly a quarter of a century of covering and editorializing on tough issues has thickened the hide.

But for those unused to being seared this way, speaking up is a big deal.

So I have a lot of admiration for the folks in Eagle who have put themselves out there on both sides of the Eagle River Station proposal.

Especially the small-business owners.

Some fear that Eagle River Station would take customers from them, and a few see it as I do, that the people who shop there now will continue and the development will bring a bit more traffic to these largely hidden districts if it passes.

But a bigger worry for them all is whether speaking out as they believe will cost them costumers. Getting a small-business operator to speak frankly is among the biggest challenges for a journalist for this very reason. I understand it, but man can it be frustrating.

Those willing and strong enough to declare what they think anyway are pure gold for a community facing big decisions like Eagle’s.

I don’t have to agree with their logic to appreciate the fact that they are speaking up, and admire them greatly for that.

In a small town where we know many of our neighbors, the stakes for speaking out invariably are higher. Frankly, it’s part of what I like best about small community journalism, too.

Outside the newsroom I was anonymous when I labored for bigger papers. Here, it’s much different. The bar is a lot higher for the knowledge that I’ll surely run into that person maybe I criticize or disagree with at the Post Office, grocery store or a social event.

It’s the same for us all in a community the size of Eagle, and even the valley as a whole.

On balance I like it. When we are known, we also are accountable in our little society. We are better people.

Still, speaking out strongly in the heat of a battle will cut and bruise.

Tuesday all this comes to a head with the election results. Eagle River Station’s proposal will prevail or not. Maybe there will be another proposal down the road. Maybe not. But that would be another day.

After the respective parties celebrate and mourn Tuesday’s results, there will be the all-important Wednesday that will test the true fiber of this small town.

Can neighbors who disagree — at times hotly — over the worth of the shopping center come together again as neighbors. Can they forgive one another for having the “wrong” views and perhaps sharing those views in ways that one party or the other didn’t like?

My bet is yes, we’ll manage to avoid holding grudges for the most part. We’ll tip toward the qualities that make small towns better and largely avoid the darker side of this lifestyle, when people hold fast to grudges.

Sure, that’s a hopeful view. The community could well sour in the wake of an election this contentious. That happens.

But if we are able to recognize that those who disagree most vehemently with us only want what they believe is best for Eagle, we’ll get through.

The evidence adds up for me to support Eagle River Station as a means to improve this community. But I can see why people who come to the opposite conclusion do so.

Our mission after Tuesday is simple: Forgive our neighbors for their opinion as they forgive us for ours.

Simple, but far from easy. Still, that’s not a mission impossible, just what makes a small town truly great.

Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.


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