Friday, August 7, 2020

Second homeowners organize PAC to have voice in local politics

Raising $ for permanent organization

By Mark Reaman

A new group comprised of second homeowners and local businesses have formally organized a Political Action Committee (PAC) with the intention of making their voice heard by the various elected government boards in the valley, including the county commission and town councils.

The GV2H (Gunnison Valley Second Homeowners) PAC has been registered with the state and organizer/administrator Jim Moran said the goal is “to help make the Gunnison Valley a place that is governed well for all; not just for some. Non-resident property owners are no less committed to this community than any other group and would like a seat at the table when it comes to policy making.”

In an email response to several questions submitted by the Crested Butte News, Moran indicated the group is in the early stages of coming together and in the process of choosing an eight-member board. It appears that decisions by public health officials since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis last March and reactions from elected officials to concerns voiced by people led to the formation of the new group.

“The recently established PAC has the growing support of hundreds of second homeowners, local residents and business owners,” Moran said. “There are more than 4,385 non-resident property owners who have no voice, yet pay a significant portion of the residential property taxes and sales taxes in Gunnison County. Those same taxpayers, some of whom were here isolated in their homes, received the postcard from the county telling them they were not welcome to use their property or the resources that their taxes help support, under penalty of a $5,000 fine and up to 18 months in prison. Additionally, there are business and commercial property owners paying commercial property taxes and collecting local sales taxes who also have no voice in the jurisdictions where their businesses pay taxes because they don’t (or can’t afford to) live where they work. Those same business taxpayers have undergone untold economic damage at the hands of policies made against their will by unelected public officials. What GV2H PAC hopes to achieve is to be a voice of unity and fairness of governance where all constituents do not have a voice.”

The group has sent out mail invitations to the 4,385 people who own property in the county but do not reside here to contribute to the PAC. Similar invitations are expected to go out to local business owners in the near future. Moran said while the group is less than five weeks old, it expects to top $100,000 in donations by this weekend.

Moran said he does not know what the ultimate cost is to run an effective PAC but the “GV2H PAC would like to raise enough funds over time, to establish a full-fledged organization capable of representation of our interests in all venues on a permanent basis. One of the primary lessons learned during this spring’s rapid series of public orders and amendments is that without a permanent organization established, it is very difficult to keep up with, or have an effective voice in the ever-evolving regulations impacting our constituents. Effective advocacy simply cannot be done issue by issue.

“We would expect our involvement would work no differently than that of any other subset of the tax-paying population,” Moran continued. “As an example, when I spoke with Roland Mason regarding the ICELab industry sub-groups, he suggested that it might be appropriate for second homeowners to be included and have their own subgroup. Unfortunately, that never happened. Our preferred mechanism for involvement is 1) to engage as the issues are being decided, 2) have a voice in those issues that impact us and 3) to participate in the electoral process by independently supporting the election of candidates who take our interests seriously and independently opposing the election of those who don’t.”

When asked if the intent of the PAC was to pay lawyers to keep an eye on elected boards, Moran said that would not be the first step but could be part of the equation. “GV2H PAC expects our collective voice to be given the same attention (no more; no less) as other constituents in the ordinary process,” he said. “When elected officials ignore the peoples’ voice as happened this spring, individual citizens or classes of citizens often seek legal recourse. Legal recourse is potentially a part of the process but a last resort; not a starting point.”

As to the charge that the group has suggested second homeowners stop donating to local non-profits and instead contribute to the advocacy group, Moran said he and the official PAC organization “have never held such a ridiculous position. We want a united community and the non-profit world is one of the BEST examples of the productive collaboration between residents and non-residents,” he wrote. “Anyone who is concerned about charitable donations drying up because of divisiveness created by county officials should support the PAC. The PAC is designed to unify people in this county and hold elected officials accountable when they alienate a particular constituency.”

Moran said members of the new PAC felt they had no choice but to organize, given the circumstances that occurred this spring. “We would love nothing more than to continue to be productive participants in this community, celebrating life with friends, buying homes, starting businesses and donating to the charities that move our collective hearts and carry our collective voices,” he said. “If there is division in this community, the responsibility lies clearly with elected officials who cannot reasonably expect anyone to productively participate while being ordered to leave their homes.

“We would like to see representative government for all constituents,” Moran concluded. “When elected officials consider themselves to be ‘advisors’ [paraphrasing county commissioner Jonathan Houck] to unelected county employees as opposed to representatives of the people, elected officials have it backwards. These officials should be accountable to those who elect them; not to an established bureaucracy.”

The next step for the PAC is to officially seat a board that would be split between four local business owners and four non-resident property owners.

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