What the town can do
Priorities, that’s the operative word.
According to Webster’s, it means that which takes precedence. To prioritize is to arrange in order of importance. Nowhere does it indicate eliminating anything from the list. The implication is that there is a need for something to be placed in a role of requiring more immediate focus than something else. The need for something to happen first. In some cases, something has to happen first IN ORDER FOR something else to happen second, third and fourth. Is that so confusing?
In the case of the Town of Vail, we need to generate money to pay the current bills.
That’s the first priority. Future projects come after that, after we’re making money again. Sounds easy enough. But in this town there are some complications.
The citizens have told us twice (officially, that is) in the last year that they want sales tax to pay the bills. They made it clear in the last election that an increase in property tax was unacceptable. They repeated that message in the spring when answering the community survey. Fund this town with sales tax is what they resoundingly said. So there seems to be no mystery as to what the citizens of Vail want.
So what’s the problem, you might ask? That’s easy, too. Sales tax has been declining for a number of years.
Now, there are those who’d like you to believe that 9/11 is the culprit. And then, how could anybody predict such a downturn in the economy? Then, lo and behold, a war. And right in the middle of our busiest season!
Well I’m here to tell you that if you look back at sales tax revenues, they’ve been declining for a long time – years in fact.
You can’t attract new businesses with rents the way they are. But the town can’t control that. And they can’t do much about the retail mix, either. With store fronts empty, landlords aren’t going to be picky when someone steps up and wants to sign a lease. So when you get right down to it, the town is limited as to what it can really do. But there are some things that it can do and these are things that it should do ASAP.
First, the easy things. And what are they? Communicate. Streamline the process. Take care with construction schedules. Adjust business license fees. Devise a sign code that can be understood. Don’t dig up the streets in July.
In general, lighten up. Pretty much it just comes down to not getting in the way.
There’s also a list of things that will be a challenge. From the now defunct meetings on the economy, there was a whole list (and by the way, why did those discussions ever start if there wasn’t a clear plan for completion?). Look at legislation to force the rental of empty spaces or have a penalty on them (in July there were 30: 22 retail; 8 restaurant). Better signage. Overhaul DRB and PEC. Share market studies among the many organizations in town. Communicate better with business, residents and guests.
So, make no mistake. There are plenty of lists. We’ve analyzed issues to death. We’re not at a loss for things to do. But we do seem to be remiss in not doing them. When it comes to action on these issues, there is little or none.
So once again, we get back to leadership. If there is none, we’ll go nowhere. But to get some, we need to change those in charge. And don’t fall for the excuse that the problems that exist here exist everywhere. What happens someplace else is not our concern. What happens in Vail is.
You can make a difference. Register to vote if you haven’t already. Oct. 6 is the deadline. And then do your homework. Be sure that the candidates represent your interests in the long run. Short-term solutions do not solve long-term problems.
MISC.: I went to the Streetscape meeting on Sept. 10. The purpose was to start reviewing the plan and its proposed implementation. Naturally, snowmelt came up. There were a lot of questions concerning the steam that would rise off the streets, the cost, the look of a ski resort without snow, etc.
As an FYI I asked for a show of hands as to who in the room supported snowmelt. At that moment, I counted 27 non-staff people in the room. Four were in favor: one business owner, three residents.
Not scientific, but have we actually polled the community before we embark on this very costly and disruptive plan? The one area that could really use it, lower Gore Creek (Promenade), isn’t even on the list. You need ice skates down there in the winter. The question is, are we about to embark on another costly project that no one wants? Shouldn’t we at least ask?
GOTCHA: That’s probably what the Vail Recreation District is saying now about the $200,000 that the town of Vail will be paying for set-up/teardown costs associated with the bubble. There was an agreement at the beginning that the VRD would set up and the TOV would tear down. Seems the TOV reneged on that deal, and the VRD ate all the costs. Now it’s the TOV’s turn. Guess what goes around comes around.
MORE BUBBLE: Remember the ROI (return on investment) question that is raised every time money is requested from this council – most vocally asked by Councilman Moffet? And also recollect the justification that sales tax will be increased by the money parents spend in town while their kids skate.
Well, here’s the math: We’d have to net $2,247,191.01 in sales from those parents alone to pay the costs associated with putting that bubble up and taking it down. What do you think the chances are? So much for ROI. I guess if you’re Mr. Moffet and your kids are in the program, that question becomes moot.
Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, vaildaily.com- search:ferry.
Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.