Dick Gustafson to challenge Runyon for Eagle County commission seat
EAGLE COUNTY ” Former county commissioner Dick Gustafson said he thinks county government is “out of control,” prompting him to run for a seat of the Board of County Commissioners for a second time.
Gustafson, a Republican, served as commissioner from 1985 to 1993. He will be running against incumbent Peter Runyon, a Democrat, for the eastern Eagle County’s District 1 seat.
He said he wants to restore transparency in county government, build affordable housing through the private sector, and scale down county spending.
The Vail resident said that while he was commissioner, the board helped build the new Eagle County Building, the Justice Center, the Senior Center, the Eagle County Regional Airport and bought land for fields and the fair grounds.
“This was all done with minimum tax increases, and for several years, no tax increases at all unless first approved by the citizens,” he said. Current commissioners kept the county property tax rate the same despite significantly increased home values. They said the county needs additional money to deal with growth in the valley, but Gustafson said that is a “poor excuse.”
When new residents move in and new developments are built, tax comes from those projects without having to raise tax rates, he said.
“They’re double dipping,” he said of the current of board of commissioners’ decision not to lower the property tax rate.
“It’s a travesty when real estate taxes increase to an extent that forces seniors, who live on fixed incomes, to consider moving away from their homes because the commissioners refused to lower the (property tax rate),” he said.
While he agrees that there is lack of affordable housing for middle-class families, he does not think the county should take the full responsibility for building it.
The county has invested money to build an affordable neighborhood in Gypsum, approved the Edwards West End project’s 72 affordable condos, is demanding more of developers with the new housing guidelines, and is looking at forming a housing authority.
But private enterprise, not government, needs to solve the problem, Gustafson said.
“The county needs to help make it easier to build. Ease up on the regulations and fees, and they will build (affordable housing),” he said. Miller Ranch, and affordable neighborhood in Edwards, is one example of a model that has worked, he said.
Many county residents do not trust the board of commissioners anymore, and he wants to change that, he said.
Too many decisions are made behind closed doors, and there is not enough transparency and accountability, he said.
“I feel obligated to restore honesty and trust to the board,” Gustafson said. “I want to do it before it’s too late.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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