Editor’s note: Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Basalt Town Council in the April 1 election. Coverage by The Aspen Times this week focuses on major issues in the town.
Today’s question: Please outline three cornerstone issues of your campaign.
Jeff Orsulak: Basalt is an amazing community, and I count myself lucky to have lived and worked here for the past 13 years. The foundation of a great community is participation, and I believe it is important that we all participate, and more importantly, that we are all encouraged to participate. As a council person, I plan to foster that participation so that the town’s vision becomes our vision, because I believe in an inclusive town, a town where everyone has a say whether they are 20 or 70, they work or are retired, they’ve been here for 50 years or 50 days, because a community of participants is a strong community.
I look forward to providing my experiences as a designer and planner, as a community volunteer and community board member to help Basalt as we solve today’s issues, and through those solutions we create a shared vision for the future — a vision which creates a flourishing community that we can all be proud of today, tomorrow and 50 years from now.
Gary Tennenbaum: Better schools directly translate into a thriving economy. Families are attracted to areas with great schools, and the town should be a partner in creating an incredible school system. The town also has to be directly involved with early-childhood care. Working with developers and finding significant funding can vastly improve our preschools, which are critical for helping kids thrive in later years.
Implementing the town’s parks, open space and trails plan is my passion. It is the reason most of us moved here, and we have the plan and tools to enhance our trail system, parks and acquire more land to protect our rivers and wildlife. Completing the connection from downtown to Southside is critical.
Ensuring the successful planning and development of both downtown and Willits: We have two unique areas of Basalt, and ensuring each stays unique and attracts people to come play, stay and pay will ensure that both areas thrive.
Richard Duddy: In my opinion, the cornerstone issue of the day is to improve the downtown-Willits dynamic. A cornerstone is a link between two walls that unites the walls, a good reason to make this the biggest priority for the council. My second key issue is to focus on the prosperity of our citizens and businesses. Without individual prosperity, living in Basalt will continue to be difficult. Finally, I would like to keep Basalt the same by making it better. There are strong feelings about the downtown and its revitalization. We must forge ahead to create new parts of our town with new ideas that are based on keeping that Basalt feeling.
Bernie Grauer: A. Focus on revitalizing the downtown by initiating projects that the town can control and not relying on the unpredictable future of privately owned property: I favor selling the Lions Park and Town Hall land and purchasing the remaining two developable acres of the Pan and Fork for small-scale development and a public plaza. There is real value in keeping our small-town charm, sense of place and sense of history.
B. Continue to move ahead with long-term planning for the future of the downtown: We must be sure to integrate the needs of Southside and Willits, such as a Highway 82 underpass, or connector buses. Remember to be fiscally responsible to our property tax payers.
C. Make council actions as open and transparent as legally possible: I promise to evaluate all matters with an open mind and treat everyone appearing before the council with courtesy and respect.
Mark Kittle: The primary issues of concern for the town are, in my opinion, community, marketing and responsible growth. By community, I mean a sense of togetherness as a town despite our geographic separation and ethnic diversity. Towns are defined by their location and their residents, and in that regard we are way ahead of the curve. We live in one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and have a diverse group of talented, caring, community-minded people to care for and foster the many amenities that Basalt is blessed with. Government’s role is to assist in this community outreach but to know when to step back and let the town’s citizens be the primary players.
More often than not, less government involvement produces better products and results. A marketing plan, developed by the town, is a vital component to the strategy of attracting outside visitors to our little secret, Basalt. After all, without tourism, where would we be? Basalt is no longer the farming/ranching community that I once knew, but with proper guidance and direction, the elected officials could easily collaborate with the Chamber of Commerce and other interested parties to formulate goals and priorities for Basalt moving into the future.
My final topic of concern would be based on responsible growth, both economically and feasibly. This topic requires slightly more government involvement in terms of sound decision making, fiscal responsibility and forward thinking in areas of energy use, environmental impacts and long-range master planning. I would like to think that we, as a community, have the duty and responsibility to care for, nurture and maintain the special beauty of this little town we call Basalt.