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May 2, 2013
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Candidates say Aspen mayor’s seat a necessity

The six candidates for Aspen mayor are Maurice Emmer, L.J. Erspamer, Adam Frisch, Derek Johnson, Steve Skadron and Torre. Check The Aspen Times this week, Monday through Friday, to see where the candidates stand on a variety of issues.
Today’s question: Would you agree that the city could operate just as well if the mayor’s seat were rotated annually among five City Council members instead of separating the position (and the pay scale)? Or would you prefer that the mayor have a longer term, greater legislative powers and a higher salary?

Maurice Emmer

Aspen’s unique Home Rule Charter establishes the mayor’s role as first among equals. While the mayor is a part of City Council (same vote as any other member), the mayor proposes the agenda if he doesn’t control it, decides who will speak and in what order, imposes time limits and keeps order.
Strong and fair leadership involves discharging those tasks so that all parties feel they are treated fairly, all points of view are respected, presentations to council are taken seriously, proposals are appropriately challenged, and business is dealt with expeditiously. Wise leadership makes sure important matters are discussed and decided in full view of the public, not in private meetings; that the consent agenda is not used to avoid public scrutiny.
Responsible leadership applies time management so that more routine matters do not consume unnecessary time, while weightier matters are allowed the time for appropriate vetting, public input and recommendations directly from volunteer citizen boards and commissions.
These are not ceremonial duties of the mayor; they are substantive. The citizens can decide from their own observations whether all members of council at any given time possess the skills necessary to preside at meetings effectively.
The current term of two years as conceived in the charter has worked; I see no need to change it. I oppose higher pay for council or mayor, as they should not be full-time jobs and should not become full-time jobs. The mayor should not be given greater legislative or administrative powers.
The mayor should be the city’s most enthusiastic and visible ambassador. The records of Helen Klanderud and some prior mayors as the city’s ambassador set a high standard others should emulate.

L.J. Erspamer

I don’t believe in rotating the mayor position. This has been a policy in other cities and creates uncertainty on an annual basis. The mayor pro tem should continue to be rotated as it has been in the past.
City Council sets policy and it should remain in that format. However, the mayor as well as council needs to have more oversight and accountability of city government on a continual basis by direct communication with the city manager.
The salary for mayor and council should be adjusted to compensate for their time and effort. This will bring more candidates forward in new elections. The Pitkin County commissioners’ salary is around three times that of council and mayor. However, any raise supported by council should not be put into effect during their current term in office.
The council has enough legislative powers at this time but council needs to be more proactive rather than reactive in processing information from staff and giving them direction.
The term for the mayor should be four years. This would alleviate a change in the majority of council every two years and bring more consistency to the council.

Adam Frisch

I do not agree that the mayor’s position is mostly as a figurehead and I do not support a rotating mayor seat. I believe the mayor and council seats are indeed different positions; the community treats and votes for them as such.
I see the mayor as having three main responsibilities:
• The mayor’s vote is equal to the others at the council table; I support keeping that equality of voting and all other legislative powers the same.
• There are the very important responsibilities of being the face and voice of the community. It is the mayor’s job to be the ambassador of Aspen, council and the community at mostly local and regional non-profit and community vevents, but also at a few national and international events. In this important role, it is imperative that the mayor represents the entire town and the entire community, not just those who share his or her personal political beliefs.
• Finally, the mayor sets the agenda — literally and figuratively. The mayor not only runs the meetings, but is responsible for controlling what and when issues come before council, and most importantly, sets the tone for the room, which has a direct effect on the community’s desire and ability to participate in its elected government.
The existing terms and compensation are appropriate for the positions. I support having the mayor’s term be shorter, thus being held more accountable than the council members. The current pay scale is appropriate as the mayor deserves a slightly higher pay for the additional roles of setting the agenda and serving as the city leader.
The current pay reflects the balance between attracting a wide variety of people to serve while discouraging full-time politicians. The pay should be low enough so as to discourage the notion that serving on council is a full-time job. Full-time politicians are not appropriate for our small community.

Derek Johnson

I support continuing with the mayor being the head of council. If I become mayor I will be collaborative and facilitating of City Council conversation.
The mayor should be an ambassador of our community. I think the term of two years is OK; however, it does mean the person in the mayoral seat is perpetually running for office.
The salary, while modest, is appropriate. This job should not be a full-time position. The mayor and council should direct the city manager and set policy, leaving the execution of those policies to our capable city staff.

Steve Skadron

I disagree with the premise. I see the mayor as much more than a ceremonial position. It’s about thoughtful, forward-looking leadership trying to achieve decisions that affect community through deliberation, not acrimony.
Our system, as it now stands, has served so many, so well, for so long. I prefer to keep it that way. Today, voters have the opportunity to elect three new seats every election cycle (one seat is the mayor’s; two are the City Council’s) which creates opportunity for fresh faces and new ideas. I think that’s a good thing.
As they say, “bad council members are elected by good people who don’t vote.” So please vote. And when you do, be careful — it matters.

Torre

I do not consider the office of mayor as “ceremonial.” I approach it as a job.
As mayor, I will facilitate the communication between the community, the City Council and the city, guiding the effectiveness of government. As mayor, I do not bring an agenda but will work with the community I represent and the city administration to provide efficient, accurate representation.
I do not think the position should be rotated, as not all council members have the experience, time or insight to lead the process.
I do not ask for longer terms, more power or money. I am honored to serve my community and look forward to being an excellent mayor.


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The Aspen Times Updated May 2, 2013 11:35PM Published May 2, 2013 11:35PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.