Vail Election: Gordon big on ‘community’
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Incumbent Mark Gordon said the next Vail Town Council will have no time for a learning curve – members are going to have to “hit the ground running,” he said.
Gordon said he’s running for re-election for many reasons, but his experience is what he thinks the town needs most right now.
“I know the issues,” Gordon said. “I know how to build coalitions and get stuff done.”
Gordon, 46, is originally from Freeport, N.Y., but grew up in Louisville, Ky. He went to Indiana University for both undergraduate and graduate school, studying comparative literature, film and pop culture.
In Louisville, Gordon owned a convention business and said he wanted a change. He sent out his resume and ended up finding a job on Vail Mountain for $11 an hour. He was hired over the phone and moved here three weeks later. His wife, Tracy, quickly found a job at an art gallery. The couple adopted their son, Sasha, 6, a few years later from Russia.
While Gordon had never really seen the town of Vail, he moved here and immediately felt at home, he said. He participated in homeowner’s associations in Kentucky, but started going to Vail Town Council meetings soon after moving here in 2000.
Gordon is big on community. He said rumors that Vail is shrinking just aren’t true.
“We have as many people living here as ever – full-time residents,” he said. “There are families here; this is an amazing community.”
Part of having a community means there has to be housing that everyone can afford, he said. Gordon is proud of the work the last two Town Councils have done for affordable housing and wants the efforts to continue, even if the slower economy has changed the market in Vail slightly.
He also wants areas in town, such as a community garden in Stephens Park, where people can come together and feel like they’re part of a community. The experiences in town for the people who live here are just as important as the experiences guests have in Vail, he said.
The town’s job is to provide those experiences, and that’s an area of the budget Gordon doesn’t ever want to see cut. He supported spending extra marketing money last year when the economy was taking a nose dive. He said if the town spends money to bring people here, though, there can’t be service cuts that guests would notice.
“When people come to Vail, it has to be seamless,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the town has to stay nimble and flexible so it can adjust to whatever economic conditions it confronts. The current Town Council has done an excellent job doing just that, he said.
“The town is in great financial shape,” Gordon said.
Residents pay taxes to get benefits, which is why Gordon said he “philosophically has issues with the town amassing all these reserves.”
“There’s room to spend some reserves, but we shouldn’t look for things to spend them on,” he said.
Town government’s transparency is an area Gordon said can always improve, but he said there’s legitimacy in executive sessions where important negotiations are happening.
“You can’t have the person you’re negotiating with know your strategies,” he said.
Gordon’s personal strategy as a local politician is to be involved in order to make a difference in the place he has called home for nearly a decade. He’s proud of Vail’s successes, and wants to help ensure they continue for many years to come.
“This is a great place to live,” Gordon said.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Vail Daily: What makes you the best candidate for the next Vail Town Council?
Mark Gordon: I believe it is vitally important for the town’s well being that the next Council can “hit the ground running.”
It is important to have a broad range of experience to sit on Council. But in this critical time of transition for the town, what is more important is council experience. I not only know the rules that the council works by, but I pride myself on my ability to build consensus and get things done immediately.
VD: With an unpredictable economy, how should the town spend its money? Are there areas of the budget where you think money could be cut or added?
MG: Fiscal responsibility is not a campaign platform issue – it is a given with me. No matter what type of economy we find ourselves in, the town government should always be careful with taxpayers’ dollars. During the previous four years and even as a citizen activist, I’ve always called for smart use of town funds. The town is presently going through an “organizational health” assessment. I look forward to seeing the results of this process and take the findings into account in all of my budget decisions.
VD: The Vail Citizens for Action group is proposing an increase in the lodging tax to pay for more marketing, which would also free up some general fund money. What do you think of this idea?
MG: I think it is important for the town to be looking at its revenue as well as its expenses. The idea of an increased lodging tax worked well for a conference center, so the idea is intriguing to me, but I will not advocate for this tax without the support of our lodging community. We need to make sure that there are no unintended consequences.
VD: How transparent is Vail government?
MG: The Vail Daily has commended the town of Vail on its openness in the past. I believe that a town government can never be too transparent, so there is always room for improvement. I believe we do a pretty good job of informing our citizens, as well as listening to them. We have an incredibly engaged and informed populace here in Vail. Listening to and discussing issues with our citizens makes me a better council member.
VD: Affordable housing is a topic that never goes away in Vail. How do you think the town is doing on affordable housing?
MG: During the previous four years the town of Vail has made great strides in affordable housing. We now have rules in place that will insure that there are always “locals” living in Vail. Not only has the previous two councils been leaders in providing housing, but our community has come out in broad support. Vail is currently building the Arosa Duplex and negotiating with a developer for Timber Ridge. It is important to not let the economic downturn cause us to turn back our efforts on housing. We have to think of housing as infrastructure and necessary to the success of Vail.
VD: What do you think of the job the current town council has done?
MG: I think the current council has been doing a good job in very tough times. There is significant diversity of opinion on almost every topic, and this always leads to better decision-making. No one can accuse us of not looking at all sides of an issue.
VD: How should Vail solve its parking problems?
MG: We have been slowly chipping away at our parking problems, although I still maintain that a real parking problem would be an empty parking structure. I believe the addition of Donovan Park free parking last winter was a big help. This year we are hopefully adding 140 additional parking spaces at two locations on Frontage Road. The town is also looking at innovative solutions such as Ford Park, as well as negotiating with Vail Resorts for Ever Vail. I also participate on the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, and the Town is looking at possible transit solutions as well. I’d like us to work with ECO Transit and develop a “powder express” bus. Perhaps together the town, the ski company and the county can create some park and rides.
VD: What’s the most urgent issue Vail needs to address?
MG: The overriding issue that Vail faces is one of maintaining and enhancing a sense of community – all of the other issues fall under this umbrella. It is community that leads to our success as a place to live and a place to visit, but we do need to also concentrate on economic development, environmental sustainability and housing.
Many of the solutions to these problems overlap. For example, I’ve been working with a private company to build a biomass energy generation plant here in Vail. With this plant we will be able to heat the streets and many of our buildings in a sustainable way. It will also be a state of the art plant that other municipalities will want to tour and learn from.
Vail was not created by being timid. Our history teaches us that success comes from vision, recognizing opportunities and just getting it done. Now is the time for bold, big picture thinking. The challenges that we currently face are actually our opportunity to ensure that Vail remains the best ski town to live in and to visit for the next 50 years.
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