`I quit,’ says Vail’s frustrated mayor | AspenTimes.com

`I quit,’ says Vail’s frustrated mayor

Sarah S. Chung

Fed up with debilitating opposition to his policies and the general hostility he faces when strolling through town, Vail Mayor Rob Ford is calling it quits with half his term remaining.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed with the various roadblocks put up at every turn. I think I’ve done all I can,” Ford said yesterday. “If the community wants to go in a different direction, maybe it’s best if I step down.”

Elected as a Vail councilman in 1995 and then as mayor in 1997, Ford feels he was put into office to tackle three growing problems. Banging his head against a wall wasn’t one of his goals, he said.

He plans to resign in November and put his seat on the ballot, along with four other open council positions.

“My outlook for Vail is not very encouraging. I feel Vail has already gone over the precipice and instead of grappling with the problems, everyone’s just sitting around complaining that the proposals made aren’t perfect,” Ford said.

“I feel that Vail is going through an identity crisis and doesn’t really know where it wants to go. They’ve identified the problems, but are unwilling to accept the solutions proposed,” Ford said. “And needless to say, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to lead a community that doesn’t know what it wants.”

The lack of affordable housing, updating the town’s tourist accommodations, and improving community facilities for a year-round tourist season are priorities identified by the community. But according to the resigning mayor, the initiatives made by the council have been generally blocked at every opportunity.

“There’s no question affordable housing is totally paralyzed by being in the court system,” said Ford referring to four separate lawsuits filed by potential neighbors of proposed housing projects.

And the council isn’t having much better luck on the other fronts. A preliminary design for a new gymnasium and ice rink were met with outrage by neighbors, while incentives to encourage new hotels in town have only resulted in a few nibbles of interest.

It’s not that council members want a pat on the back, said Ford, they’d just like to be able to move forward and not be attacked in the process.

“When I ran for office, I expected lively debate, but in my mind it’s gone beyond any acceptable level of discourse. This very rude, in-your-face opposition is not what I signed on for,” Ford said.

Recently elected Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards said she can “sympathize with the frustration.”

“I think it’s a loss for the Vail Valley,” Richards said. “I don’t know all the circumstances, but I’m sure his resignation makes a very strong statement in their community.”

Former Aspen Mayor John Bennett recalled Ford’s term in office as aggressive and one with vision. While bickering in Aspen may not have sunk to Vail’s level, Aspen is not immune to the problems swirling around Ford’s resignation, he added.

“It’s sad when people become so wrapped up in their own interests that common goals are lost and vicious attitudes are displayed toward people with different views. I think the tenor of debate is out of control here in Aspen, as well,” Bennett said. “We’re poisoning our own wells when an environment is created where many of the best and brightest want no part of public office.”


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