Vail Daily column: Upcoming elections loom large
We had a number of elections earlier this month. A belated thank you goes to the candidates who ran for office in Minturn and Eagle, and a belated congratulations to those who were elected to serve. It’s among the greatest honors that your peers in the community can bestow, and it’s important work.
We have more elections coming. It’s your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in important issues that affect your community. On Election Day, every vote matters. This is true in November during the presidential election and it is equally important in the upcoming May elections.
Voter turnout for local elections, typically held in off-cycle years, has historically lagged behind state and federal races set to take place in November, but recent results suggest it’s slowly becoming even worse.
That is an unfortunate trend, as these elections help shape the future of our community and are important to the entities with initiatives on the ballot. Consider that our taxpayer-supported special districts throughout the county are seeking funding, including the Eagle County Health Service District, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Edwards Metropolitan District and Gypsum Fire Protection District have ballot initiatives. As these are special districts, not every voter is eligible to vote on each issue.
Ballots have been mailed, and are due in early May. All ballot initiatives and potential mill levy or sales tax funding requests deserve scrutiny by voters, and these elections help determine the type of community we want to be. A quick look at the issues:
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• Eagle County Health Service District, better known as the Eagle County Paramedic Services, are looking to increase the mill levy up to 0.75 for general operating expenses and other purposes. They have been severely impacted by Medicaid reimbursement rates for ambulance services.
• Eagle River Fire Protection District is looking to construct a new fire station in Avon and in Edwards, as well as to construct a training facility. Bonds would be issued to support these capital projects, and will allow the Fire Protection District to replace outdated and undersized facilities that do not meet the needs of the community.
• Edwards Metropolitan District is asking to impose a sales tax not to exceed 1 percent for the purposes of financing, constructing, operating and maintaining streets, transportation and safety improvements to Edwards Access Road and U.S. Highway 6 within Edwards. Edwards is the largest population center within the valley and traffic conditions and pedestrian safety are an issue; Colorado Department of Transportation and Eagle County have earmarked funding for road improvements that require a local match.
• Gypsum Fire Protection District is asking for a mill levy to provide safety gear and communications equipment, training, staffing, equipment and building repairs, and to avoid cuts to emergency services. Current mill support is lower than comparable fire districts in the region and passage of the ballot initiative is imperative to maintain survival of the district.
The May elections have the potential to impact our pocketbooks and many of us don’t know much about the special districts looking for funding. Barring an emergency, we don’t use their services. Critics might say that special districts are too complex and their funding isn’t necessary for their niche service needs. Yet special districts exist to provide singular focus — in the cases of the Eagle County Health Service District, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Edwards Metropolitan District and Gypsum Fire Protection District ballot issues, that issue is primarily public safety. It’s your job, as an educated voter, to determine if the funding requests and associated mill levy increases sought by these special districts are worthy of a “yes” or “no” vote.
Democracy works best when people know about the governments and special districts which serve them. Make a point to research the topics, determine what type of community you want to live in, and most importantly, to vote.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.