Vail Daily letter: Difference in philosophy
Candidate for Eagle County commissioner, District 3
Eagle County voters have asked me about the differences my opponent, Sara Fisher, and I have regarding the governance of Eagle County. These are my views and the authorities as defined in the Colorado Revised Statutes for county government:
The simple difference between us is philosophy, but the impact of our philosophical difference in government management has major implications for the future of Eagle County. My philosophy is to manage the county government as a business, in accordance with Colorado Revised Statutes, which state under Title 30-11-103, page 141, annotation: ” The county commissioners are invested with full and sole power to manage the business affairs of the county.”
Annotation, page 142: “The board possess such powers as are expressly conferred upon it by the constitution and statutes and in addition thereto such implied powers as are reasonably necessary to the efficient execution of its express power and duties.”
2nd annotation, page 142: “These powers, it is evident and unquestioned, are to be used in such manner as would best subserve the interests of the citizens of the county of which the county commissioners are simply the representatives.”
I believe this means the commissioners are subservient to the citizens. County commissioners represent and work for you and are your public servants.
The day before Sara announced her re-election bid, she asked me why I was running for commissioner. I explained that after four and a half years working for the county, it was clear to me that the county needed to operate more as a business, because it wasn’t working well at all. She told me that “government was not meant to be run as a business.”
I couldn’t disagree more. I see the county government as a business with the taxpayers and citizens as stockholders and as with any corporation (county government is defined as a quasi corporation) the stockholders have the right to vote for the members of their board of directors.
That is where we are now. It is election time, and the county stockholders have a clear choice: either we choose to elect candidates who respect the mandates of our state and federal constitutions, who respect the will of the people and who strive to reduce the size of government and government spending, or, we can elect candidates who do not share these values. I believe it is time to reduce the size of Eagle County government, reduce spending, and get back to basics as authorized in the CRS.
Because of this philosophy, I believe the Eagle County Board of Commissioners overstepped its statutory authority, to the detriment of our private developers, contractors, and subcontractors and real estate companies, when they made the decision to expand the Housing Department to the Housing and Development Department. Couple that with the BOCC approval of new and onerous building requirements, “green” and sustainability requirements, and an obstructionist attitude toward private development and a zero-growth philosophy, our non-tourist economy has been all but destroyed.
During the course of my campaign I have spoken with private builders, developers, and trades people about the building requirements, costs for revisions, repeated attempts for approval to build in unincorporated Eagle County. They told me that it was not only time consuming but extremely costly for developers and builders. I asked they why they did not speak out and I was told repeatedly that if they spoke out against the county, if they publically supported me, then there would be retaliation when they applied for permits and approvals. Hearing it once was not to concerning, but hearing it seven times in separate conversations, it is extremely alarming.
All imposed regulations add to the cost of building, which is passed on to the consumer and as costs increase more people finding purchasing a home here unaffordable.
So who runs to the rescue? Eagle County government became an “equity partner” in Stratton Flats for 4.5 million tax payer dollars as an “investment.” A commissioner (not Sara) declared that it was the county’s responsibility to “invest” in the county and that while $4.5 million was safer earning 4 percent interest in U.S. treasury bonds, the county would earn 6 percent on the return on Stratton Flats, even though it was a riskier investment. What? The BOCC risky investment has resulted in a loss of $360,000, the “safe” interest over two years, with no idea if there will be a return on investment, let alone return of the initial equity investment.
CRS 30-11-101-III, annotation: “And a county has no power to acquire real or personal property as a speculation or an investment, nor does it have the power to retain property lawfully acquired for the use of the county when the use therefore no longer exists, and it may acquire and retain such property as it now reasonable needs, or in the foreseeable future may reasonably need, but no more and such needed property is exempt from taxation, however, other not needed property should be on the tax rolls as provided by law.”
So are we now collecting taxes on the 166 lots that the county no longer “needs” for affordable housing?
Eagle County is now third in line for repayment after the bank and Pauls Corporation.My opponent has stated that the county got caught like all other developers in the down economy. She further has said the reason they (BOCC) bought Stratton Flats was that at the time the local developers were too expensive and too busy. I do not understand that reasoning. The building permits issued for Eagle County have been on a downward trend every year since 2004, when 710 permits were issued for a value of $216,470,469.47. In 2007, 576 permits were issued for a value of $190,179,625.11. As of Aug. 31 this year, 303 permits have been issued for a value of $52,720,067.19. How could our local contractors and developers have been too busy?
So far this year, the number of foreclosures has reached 407, and we still have three months to go! The unemployment rate is around 7.9 percent. Not a pretty picture of our economy, and my opponent still believes that affordable housing is a priority. There are plenty of homes for sale below the cost of Eagle County’s idea of “affordable housing.”
The Housing and Development Department did refinance the HUD loan, add Low Income Tax Credit financing (and regulations) on top of Section 8 requirements, garnered green grants (along with a green czar position), a HUD grant and held on to a small rural development grant for the last few years before using it for the renovation of Riverview apartments. This all had to be approved by the BOCC and the Eagle Riverview Affordable Housing Corporation Board of Directors. (This corporation is a sub-corp of Eagle County).
Having a bit of knowledge about this refinancing package and the scope of renovation, I was very disturbed that the old, inefficient electric baseboard heat registers were not going to be replaced in all of the apartments. I asked why not and was told there wasn’t enough money to do that. The accurate statement is that the county (Housing Department) decided it was more important to take a $500,000 developer fee rather than spending approximately $400,000 to replace those heaters and add a thermostat. It is as unacceptable to appropriate refinancing funds for anything other than a complete renovation of our asset.
As the property manager at Golden Eagle Senior Apartments, I managed the budget and eliminated an annual $50,000 county subsidy by reducing staff and tightening the budget, saving the taxpayers $150,000 over three years. Because I have managed large communities, I look at expenses and the bigger picture through the eyes and understanding of a business manager. My opponent does not believe the government should be run as a business, so understanding consequences of risky equity investment, frivolous spending and overregulation is missing in our current county government philosophy and operation.
This current management practice has resulted in disdain and lack of respect for our county employees, our citizens, private business owners and anyone who challenges the BOCC. This is not what the electorate intended. We have only to look at the disaster in Washington as a comparison to the disaster here with Eagle County Government.
I cannot and will not support any further involvement of Eagle County government as a developer and would like to eliminate the “development” part of this county department. Further, I want to assemble stakeholders to review and make recommendations for reasonable building requirements.
I have pledged to personally seek new businesses to locate in Eagle County and will continue to be a voice for private business, less regulation, and certainly less government involvement. I will work for you so that this county can grow and thrive, not only for us, but for our children and our wonderful grandbabies, who will learn to ski, fish and raft in the most beautiful county in Colorado. On November 2, your vote for me will bring a new philosophy, vision and positive energy to Eagle County Government.
I welcome your emails and comments. My email is Claudia@electclaudia.com.