The five candidates vying for the three open seats on Avon City Council took part in a public forum at Avon City Hall on Monday evening to present their campaigns and answer questions on some of the city’s most pressing issues. town.
The list of candidates includes two incumbents – Chico Thuon and Tamra Nottingham Underwood – and three challengers: Rich Caroll, Calyn Rieger and Ruth Stanley.
Unlike a debate, a forum is not intended to pit candidates against each other. Instead, the goal is to provide the public with equal amounts of information about each candidate to better inform their vote. Chris Romer, President and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, moderated the panel, during which each candidate had 90 seconds to introduce themselves, 60 seconds to answer a series of topical questions and 120 seconds for statements. Closing.
True to its design, the forum was a friendly event that presented a widely shared vision of Avon’s future and areas of opportunity. While experience and approaches may differ, most initiatives have received universal support, illustrating a clear and optimistic path for the city over the next four years.
Affordable housing was the star of the show, opening the forum as the first issue of the evening and being consistently mentioned by candidates as a priority from which many more wins will emerge.
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Candidates expressed satisfaction with the city’s current strategic approach to housing and are committed to expanding programs that have proven successful for the community. My Casa! Havean installment assistance and deed restriction program, has repeatedly been touted as the city’s most successful program in recent years, and all candidates have said they would expand this program if elected.
The opportunity to develop land the city already owns – including the Swift Gulch land north of I-70 and the old fire station and city hall near the city library – has been identified as an area where more immediate action needs to be taken, as well as the use of public-private partnerships to extend the power of the city dollar.
What to do with the fire station and City Hall space was a question in itself, garnering support for a mixed-use space where affordable housing is combined with concessions and community gathering space. Thuon also recommended taking advantage of the prime location to create potentially expensive rooftop rental space that could generate revenue for the city.
Increasing the number of toilets near Nottingham Park was another common priority, mentioned by Stanley and Underwood both as an infrastructure objective and as a potential opportunity for fire station and town hall development.
The question of whether the candidates supported the November ballot measure to create a regional transportation authority in Eagle County met with universal and enthusiastic support from all candidates, many of whom said they were looking forward to it. to use the services themselves if the measure passes.
There was a repeated comment that the RTA would “bring us together as a community” and that the RTA is a particularly good opportunity for Avon. With its location in the center of the valley, the RTA would help expand the already growing use of the city as a transport base. All agreed that the financial benefit to residents will far exceed the 50-cent sales tax required to fund the initiative, as well as being a significant boost for climate action in the area and accessibility. overall in the county.
Moving on to another transportation topic, Romer asked the contestants if they felt parking was a problem at Avon, and if so, how they would solve it. The majority felt that parking was a growing problem, particularly in terms of impacting traffic in local businesses, but overall it was not seen as an immediate priority.
All were against adding pay meters for parking, although both Rieger and Underwood called for creative approaches, such as those that would allow residents and local employees to park for free while managing visitor traffic from more controlled way. If the RTA is passed, the candidates also agreed that new park-and-ride locations will become a necessity to facilitate the accessibility of transit routes.
The commitment to invest in additional child care centers in the city was another political goal that everyone supported. The Vail Valley Foundation recently proposed the development of an 11,000 square foot daycare center in Avon, located just southwest of Walmart, which when completed would serve approximately 168 children, from infancy through kindergarten. All of the nominees said it’s the city’s responsibility to invest in child care for local residents, and it looks like regardless of the makeup of the new council, this partnership opportunity will be greeted with a broad support.
A question about which capital improvements candidates would prioritize elicited different responses, covering a range of opportunities in the city.
Underwood and Carroll said maintaining all existing infrastructure and municipal services is the first priority, after which Underwood felt upgrading Nottingham Park’s irrigation system was essential. For Carroll, keeping the city safe and walkable and bikeable was a priority.
Stanley prioritized the development of toilets around Nottingham Park and active spaces in the city centre, and Thuon said he felt it was essential to build a secondary exit out of the Wildridge area in Avon in the event of a emergency in case of fire.
Rieger supported the creation of a downtown development authority to take responsibility for identifying downtown revitalization opportunities, similar to those found in communities like Glenwood Springs and Fort Collins, as well as expanding open spaces.
The final question of the evening asked the candidates what they would most like to be remembered for at the end of their four-year term, if elected. Carroll and Stanley said making progress on workforce housing would be a paramount achievement, Underwood and Rieger highlighted progress towards climate goals – of which, they noted, affordable housing is a key part — and Thuon wanted open communication with voters and the creation of a secondary exit from Wildridge to mark his tenure.
To watch the full forum and learn more about the individual contestants, go to highfivemedia.org and keep an eye out for upcoming Vail Daily candidate profiles.