Vail Daily Our View: Jobs No. 1 in this economy |

Vail Daily Our View: Jobs No. 1 in this economy

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado

The Eagle County commissioners, like other larger employers in the valley, have had to make lots of “difficult decisions” about people during this economic slump.

“Difficult” doesn’t begin to touch it. Try searing, excruciating, agonizing. Those cut closer to the truth about laying off good employees.

The county’s toll soon will be 77 layoffs since the recession began. The latest pain comes from an impending 30 percent drop in property tax revenue when home values for tax purposes finally fall to match today’s circumstances.

Of course, the business community is further along in this gantlet – in part, from paying higher property taxes, thanks to a wrinkle in the two-year appraisal process that kept values sky high for taxation while market values plummeted.

Jobs tied to construction, development and real estate – a hefty share in our go-go boom days – have taken the biggest hits of all.

The commissioners, like others, take their decisions about layoffs very seriously, understanding the challenges for those who are laid off and for those left to cover larger roles. We all certainly feel their pain. But given this, shouldn’t the county commissioners maybe take job creation a little more seriously?

It’s interesting that during boom times the reputation – fair or unfair – was of the commissioners being unable to say no to development proposals. Now, it seems a “just say no” mindset has taken root. It’s a bit out of phase with these times, though.

The most symbolic project, perhaps, is Eagle River Meadows, where the remnants of the Edwards gravel pit sit just west of the Eagle River Preserve.

The hemming and hawing among the commissioners over a sketch plan – the first part of a three-stage approval process – has been rather incredible, considering the long vetting the development endured before the county planning commission recommended approval and the state of the local economy.

In other words, here’s an opportunity to provide precious jobs and eventually provide a boost for a struggling valley. There are few proposals in the pipeline now.

Of course, that’s only one of many considerations when looking at a development, including that eternal tug between people who believe the valley needs growth and those who wish it stopped in 1975.

But flip-flopping from hearing to hearing over the past six months about whether to consider housing on the north side of the Eagle River or just on the south has been borderline irresponsible.

And this only over a preliminary approval to proceed to the next step of the process, the preliminary plan. Precious time has been lost for no good reason and the developers’ funds unfairly tapped as a result.

Can a majority of the three commissioners not make up their mind, or is this just part of that “just find a way to say no” mindset expressing itself?

No one disputes that development proposals need scrutiny for a whole host of reasons. But surely deciding against the north side before deciding for the north side before deciding against the north side again is a bit much, considering that jobs and livelihoods are at stake, too.

We do think this plan is pretty good, that the planning commission did a good job vetting it, and the county commissioners have a chance to help with job creation, along with shaping a good project that fits with the surrounding wetlands next to the gravel pit.

And we understand the awesome responsibility the commissioners hold to make sure projects are right.

We hope they understand that they also have responsibility for those “difficult decisions” regarding people beyond their own payroll.

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