Our View: In Avon: A need for pragmatism
Let’s start with the good news:
There’s quite a lot of good stuff going on in Avon right now, from work on the pedestrian mall to transforming Nottingham Park to finally, finally, getting the I’s dotted and T’s crossed in what turned out to be a five-year battle with the developers of the Village at Avon. The town’s trail system is a winner. Retail sales are going up, and the town should be ready to greet the world when the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships come to the valley.
That said, a lot about Avon’s town government strikes a sour note with us, from allowing not one, but two council members to serve while living outside town, to what we view as an appalling lack of transparency in business dealings to allowing one member’s construction company to engage in legal, but fishy-looking, projects.
Then there’s the ready-fire-aim attitude we see far too much of from the government, driven by an ambitious town manager finding ways to accommodate an ambitious council agenda without proper, public examination of the issues.
Avon needs a healthy dose of skepticism on its council, so it’s good voters there can put a new majority on the board this year. That’s why we’re favoring a quartet of candidates who seem willing to put the brakes on what too often looks like a runaway group.
We’ll start with Matt Gennett, the only incumbent running. Gennett was appointed just in June, but ran in 2012, missing election by a relative handful of votes.
Gennett has been too much of a gentleman to say this, so we’ll say it for him: He told you so.
Gennett cast the sole vote against the fast-track building of a new stage at the park. As a professional planner, he understood the needs of the project simply couldn’t be met at the budget originally approved. It was no surprise to him when the cost of what’s turned into a pavilion — which was first envisioned as a far more simple project — more than doubled in a matter of weeks.
Gennett’s also a healthy skeptic about the town’s recent purchase of the “Skier Building,” which the town plans to turn into a new town hall. He’s concerned about another impending budget disaster with that project and maintains there are better uses for the building.
Really, who needs a town hall in the middle of a pedestrian mall?
That brings us to John Minervini, who we also endorsed for council in 2012. As a former top executive with the Auto Zone auto parts company, Minervini understands budgets, customer bases and the other nuts and bolts of keeping a business running.
Minervini believes the Skier Building could have better uses than a town hall and has suggested some sort of public-private partnership for the structure instead of dedicating it to municipal uses. That’s not a bad idea, really: The town has the parking the never-occupied building has always lacked.
The other two candidates we’re endorsing would also bring solid business sense — and few conflicts — to the board.
Angelo Loria, a real estate appraiser, has a keen understanding of both residential and commercial estate. Since that’s his job, we believe he would bring a sharp pencil to the process if the town decides to buy another building any time soon.
On that subject, all of the candidates we’re recommending are skeptical about “certificates of participation,” a legal work-around of the Colorado Constitution’s TABOR amendment, which limits governments’ taxing and spending power.
While those certificates — one-year promises to pay debt with town funds that don’t require governments to ask voters for money — are legal, they certainly don’t fit TABOR’s spirit. When government is spending millions, these candidates — and we — believe voters need a say.
That brings us to the curious case of Thomas Beaver. Beaver, the owner of Montana’s restaurant, is another skeptic. If elected, he would also be the only council member whose business is day-to-day interaction with the public. That’s an important perspective, we think.
Beaver is also in the curious position of being in the midst of a lawsuit with his landlords, the Hoffmann family. One of that family’s companies in the past year or so bought much of the old part of town, an area that has needed redevelopment since about 10 minutes after it was built.
The Hoffmanns are making what we see as a fairly transparent attempt to evict a tenant — a standard, if unsavory part of business. Beaver has a signed lease and doesn’t want to leave.
That said, Beaver said he’s optimistic about the prospects of a healthy relationship between the town and its second-biggest landlord — the Village at Avon is the biggest.
We’ve met with all but one of the remaining candidates and believe any of them would bring enthusiasm and intelligence to the board. But the candidate we didn’t meet can’t earn any sort of recommendation.
Peter Buckley is intelligent, dedicated and fits perfectly with our slate of skeptical candidates. Unfortunately, he’s proven over the years to be a loose cannon in public settings. He seems unable to get along with others, which would make him a needlessly disruptive element on the council. Frankly, that’s the last thing Avon needs.
Avon needs a healthy dose of pragmatism to go along with its big-picture views of making “Heart of the Valley” more than just an empty slogan. We believe Gennett, Minervini, Loria and Beaver are the people to do that job because of their individual attributes and what we see as an ability to work in a group environment.