Zalaznick: What would a GOP county commission do? | VailDaily.com
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Zalaznick: What would a GOP county commission do?

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado

It seemed like smooth sailing for the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.

OK, so the “nanny tax” and home rule failed, but those were just small bumps in the road amidst soaring approval ratings, a jackpot of tax funds with which to pay for the children’s programs voters had rejected, a failed recall campaign, affordable housing deals, endorsements from the local paper and open space purchases.

And then kablammo! Citizens groups all over the place. Constituents having well-attended meetings to talk about how upset they are with Arn, Peter and Sara. This trio is all of the sudden facing residential revolts over having raised property taxes and having kicked the tires on several million dollars’ worth of land in Edwards for affordable housing.

(OK, to be accurate, the county commissioners didn’t raise property taxes. Assessed valuations of homes in our hot market went up, and the commissioners left the mill levy rate the same, which effectively raised property taxes. They coulda-shoulda lowered the mill levy, the angry mob says.)

Oh yeah, and developers are unhappy with the affordable housing guidelines the county is proposing. Maybe they’ll form “Eagle County Developers for Common Sense” to fight to loosen the affordable housing regulations the county seems likely to impose.

What does this all mean for the election coming up this fall? Will there be a Republican coup? Perhaps the anti-tax furor will allow Debbie Buckley to swipe from the Democrats the seat being vacated by Arn Menconi, who, by then, will know whether he can retire not-so-quietly to the mayor’s seat on the Eagle Town Board.

Will a yet-to-be-identified Republican knock off Peter Runyon?

And what will it mean for Eagle County if Republicans recapture the Board of County Commissioners? Checks for every homeowner who was gouged by the commissioners’ decision to keep the tax windfall they received thanks to soaring property values?

Financially speaking, property taxes are the one place homeowners get a break around here. The increase may not mean much to some second-home owners and wealthy year-round residents, but to those making just enough to make their mortgage ” or who want to trade their condos in for single-family homes and a more stable place in the community ” that money the county kept would be a big help.

And more than just Republicans should be angry about the board’s tax decision, because it wasn’t very Democratic. The county is using the money to fund things voters said they didnt’ want to pay for ” the childhood programs and to expand the Eagle County Justice Center.

The justice center was never on the ballot, but a survey conducted by the county found it would likely lose its bid to increase taxes to build a bigger jail and new offices for prosectuors. The early-childhood initiatives may not have been directly paid for by the snatched taxes, but the commissioners did their snatching not too longer after deciding to fund the kiddy programs.

On the other hand, if Republicans take back the board, does that mean the county’s affordable housing efforts go out the window? Buckley says she thinks businesses should play a bigger role in sheltering their employees, but it’s hard to see a Republican commissioner and a Republican-dominated board putting too much pressure on small-business owners who don’t want to spend their sometimes razor-thin profit margin on apartments for employees.

Or does Buckley think businesses that haven’t provided any worker housing will just pitch in out of the goodness of their hearts?

A Republican board would likely buy less open space. And it’s hard to see a Republican board doing much to expand recycling facilities in the county. Because those things cost money, and Republicans insist the market will take care of all of our problems.

OK, so will “the market” wait tables in Vail Village when seasonal workers can no longer afford to live anywhere between Vail Pass and Glenwood Canyon? Will the market, deciding in a moment of benelovence not to make the higest profit possible, build affordable housing when there’s land for sale in Wolcott?

Will the market, facing the prospect of losing money, find a way to recycle all those plastic shopping bags?

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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