Yuri Kostick, Eagle's new town mayor, interviews with SneakPEAK staff
By Phil LIndeman
Last Tuesday’s election brought four fresh faces to the Eagle Town Hall, including a new mayor in long-time town board trustee Yuri Kostick and a board newcomer in Brandi Resa. Kostick won a nail-biter of a race, barely edging out former mayor Ed Woodland by only 32 votes. Joining Resa on the town board are Joe Knabel and Anne McKibben, both of whom have been active figures in the community for years.
The election came at a crucial time for the town, as the local economy continues to slide and voting on the contested Eagle River Station proposal is just weeks away. SneakPEAK asked Kostick and Resa to give insight on their upcoming terms, along with their outlook for the immediate and long-term future of Eagle.
SneakPEAK: Now that campaigning is finished and you’ve taken office, what issue requires your most immediate attention?
Brandi Resa: Although I’ve been attending meetings for over two years, my most pressing issue is to understand the technical aspects of how the town and meetings are run and being transparent to the Eagle community.
Yuri Kostick: Jobs and the economy remain the number one priority for everyone in Eagle. My focus will be on what our town can do now about this issue. I plan to work with the business community and the chamber to take immediate steps if we can. Right now, every little boost that we can possibly give to the local economy is critical.
SP: The Eagle River Station proposal is a major issue, and you now share office with people of differing views at a time when residents demand action. How will you work productively with other officials to find a solution you think is best?
Resa: I am against Eagle River Station and hope the voters understand the details of the project, which is 30 percent bigger than when voted down. If they decide a project that is 80 percent more retail space than Glenwood Meadows makes sense for our community, I will do my part in helping to make sure the project is a successful one. And either way, as leaders, we need to provide an example that even though we might disagree on this particular project, we do not need to divide our community as happened previously.
Kostick: The reality is that the official actions have been taken by the board and now the project is in the hands of the voting citizens of Eagle. As the mayor, if this project is approved by the voters, then it is my responsibility to ensure that the project has the best chance of success and I will do everything that I can to make sure that it works for Eagle.
SP: Economic uncertainty is inescapable in Eagle County, from school district budget cuts to a disappointing season at up-valley ski resorts. How will you ensure Eagle’s long-term security while moving forward with town projects?
Resa: As a policy decision maker and having a fiduciary responsibility, I will do my part in ensuring that any project that is reviewed while I am trustee makes financial sense for the community. This is done through the various financial and other agreements on particular projects and asking hard questions of the applicants.
Kostick: We simply need to develop an economic plan for our community that is sustainable and long-term. Hoping for economic windfalls or relying on snowfall amounts is too risky in my book. One way to ensure economic security is to continue to seek real economic partnerships wherever we can. It’s not entirely glamorous (the traffic engineers will disagree and claim that there is nothing more glamorous than five new roundabouts), but my favorite example is what we have accomplished at Eby Creek Road. Construction is scheduled to begin to build five new roundabouts between the Market Street area (City Market) and U.S. Highway 6. This work has been achieved through collaboration with the Town of Eagle, Eagle County and CDOT.
SP: As of 2011, communities in the Central Rockies had the highest home foreclosure rates in Colorado. Foreclosure filings in Eagle County hit 437 last year, with the majority coming from Eagle and Gypsum. What can be done at the town level to help struggling homeowners?
Resa: The town has considered changing its policy on the deed-restricted units, which might help some homeowners. Unfortunately, there is not an immediate solution for those already in that process, but over time as the economy resets, bringing jobs to Eagle will certainly help all of us.
Kostick: The town, through its partnership with The Valley Home Store, has been closely monitoring the Colorado Attorney General’s allocation of the mortgage servicing/foreclosure processing settlement funds. The settlement funds supplemental loan modification programs which could help underwater borrowers or borrowers at risk of imminent default of their loans as well as provide additional funding for housing counseling. Beyond that and in the long term, by preserving and enhancing our town’s character and keeping quality of life high, when the financial institutions become more willing to lend and people’s confidence in their jobs strengthens, Eagle will be a place that folks will look to settle down with their families and purchase homes.
SP: Recreation and tourism are trademarks of Eagle County. What can the town do to attract visitors throughout the year and bring out the potential of trails, open space and rec facilities?
Resa: The town can support the newly-hired marketing staff, the Eagle Chamber (and) the Vail Valley Partnership relationship, as well as listen to the recently formed marketing committee. We have great amenities in Eagle such as the Eagle River, mountain bike trails and hunting access, and I look forward to seeing the marketing effort continue to grow.
Kostick: I believe that Eagle has tremendous potential in recreation. I was the author of the ballot question to get funding for events and marketing for the Town of Eagle. We are creating a website to map our trails and promote recreation. I was also one of the founding members of a trail group in Eagle that has already gone to work building new trails and maintaining existing trails. We have only just begun to capitalize on the recreation opportunities which benefit the residents and will fill hotels and bring people to the restaurants of Eagle.
We also need to continue to work with the recreation districts and the Vail Valley Partnership to bring regional or national sporting and recreation events to town. The trick is to develop the recreational amenities in such a way that they remain high-quality for the residents and provide a great visitor experience so that people will want to come here and spend their money.
SP: Transparency is a constant concern for any government official. Do you think Eagle does a good job of staying transparent and listening to residents? If not, explain your ideal remedy.
Resa: Because of my efforts over the past two years, the Town of Eagle now provides the board packets to the public. I was filming the meetings on my own because the previous board decided not to do so. I believe the ideal remedy approach is similar to that for our economy – there is no one specific answer. However, given technology available, there are many ways to reach citizens, especially those that cannot make it to town hall on Tuesday nights. Personally, I’ve started a blog, “BrandionBoard – fun at Eagle Town Hall”, so that people can follow along the adventures of a trustee member who is representing them.
Kostick: I said this on the campaign trail but, simply put, I would like to invite people back to town hall. For whatever reason, I have seen a tremendous decline in public participation over the last four years. How we invite people back is the question. It is 2012, and I believe that it’s time for Eagle to record the meetings and make them available for people to watch when they can. We can also increase transparency by continuing to develop web-based communication and provide more “e-government” services to residents if we can deliver these services at a lower cost to the town.