Why, how and what must change in Vail
We are at a midcourse correction point in Vail. This requires CHANGE. The change involves building on the work of past councils. Change is explained by why, what and how:
n WHY: URGENCY – responding to unparalleled negative and positive events. The negatives include a triple whammy of summer and winter sales tax reduction due to (a) 9/11, (b) insidious loss over an extended period due to Vail having real competition from downvalley and elsewhere, and (c) soft economies – Denver, U.S., global. The positives include progress toward the complete revitalization of Vail’s economic engine in our core area. For town government, this means maximum effort to facilitate well-reasoned private development projects, coupled with refurbishing our public infrastructure. All this implies a sense of urgency that has not been needed since the early days of Vail government.
n WHAT: FROM A COLLECTION OF ISSUES TO STRATEGIC CATEGORIES.
Folks get fired up with issues – including parking, empty storefronts, regulations, I-70 noise, third fire station, gymnastics center. But consider that an effective council may be one that has a laser-like focus on a doable number of objectives, rather than “boiling the ocean” and quick fixes. Note the recollections of past council members, citing a handful of items in their accomplishments. Hence, we may need to move from REACTING to a myriad of issues, to GETTING AHEAD of things by focusing on strategic categories.
These categories will break into individual topics, master plans, directions and doable solutions. We need to be sensitive to where our overall focus is going in terms of COUNCIL TIME and BUDGET DOLLARS.
Notions of strategic categories include: (a) municipal services, (b) infrastructure, (c) economic vitality, (d) sense of community, (e) dealing with Vail resorts as a true peer – partnering in many cases, and (f) a tight list of “other” for administration and things not predicted or categorized.
n HOW: PROCESS – (1) how things get done, and (2) how governance happens. This is the boring stuff. First, the way council gets things done needs to be streamlined for reasons of effectiveness (BETTER
decisions) and efficiency (thereby creating TIME for the laser-like focus to occur without getting side-tracked). This includes doing a better job of managing agendas and running council meetings.
Second, the way governance happens includes exercising fiscal responsibility. Regaining the 50 percent share of sales tax money that is supposed to go to building/maintaining infrastructure must be re-established. Note: operational/personnel expenses now take 60-65 percent – this “drift” has been going on for some time. Without the 50/50 in place, we don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure! The 50/50 restoration can happen with a TWO-PRONGED approach.
Establishing an on-going improvement program at the council/town manager level will work on the cost-reduction side of the budget equation. Well thought-out revenue generation ideas that become reality work on the other side of the equation.
The other aspect of governance is accountability. We need to enhance the town’s annual disclosure and performance reporting for our stakeholders.
A final note about change. Our current mission statement is off the
mark. It assumes the all-important, infrastructure is in place and never focuses on proactive support of economic vitality in a resort town where most revenue comes from sales tax.
Now we have a new town manager coming on board. This rare situation is another opportunity to begin anew with synchronized government and to further highlight the election’s importance. Finally, the new council needs to “hit the ground running” and be in a degree of alignment.
The preceding text represents a vision of government operations.
It really does not contain anything that original. Rather it is a collection of ideas, principles and practices – admittedly assembled in a particular way – based on observing the Vail scene.
I wrote it to create further interest in Vail’s upcoming election of council members. One may agree or disagree with some or all parts. But what if a number (or all) of the council candidates, coupled with the sitting council members, would buy in to the notions presented?. Then we would have a group of folks forming a critical mass for ALIGNMENT of
ideas for CHANGE in Vail’s government.
But we must be talking about real change, not just electioneering. Keep in mind, erosion of the 50/50 infrastructure-to-operations ratio was not generally known by the public until recently. Regardless of where one stood in the past, it must be addressed in the future.
Alignment of ideas for change in Vail’s government does not imply any lockstep notions for specific topic solutions. There will be plenty of diverse opinions to go around. Perhaps the question of buy-in to the alignment idea could be put to the candidates at public forums?
Previous columns by Paul Rondeau appeared in the Vail Daily issues of July 11 and Aug. 31.