Aspen City Council candidates discuss campaign
Ryan Summerlin May 6, 2013
At last week’s Aspen Business Luncheon, the four candidates for two City Council seats were asked about the best and worst aspects of running for public office. The election will take place Tuesday, and voters are allowed to make two choices.
Three of the candidates — Jonny Carlson, Art Daily and Ann Mullins — are new on the local political scene. Carlson, a native of California, is an art consultant. Daily is a longtime local attorney. Mullins, a landscape architect, chairs the city’s Historic Preservation Commission but never has sought an elected position.
Dwayne Romero, president of real estate management and development firm Related Colorado, is a former Aspen councilman. He resigned his seat in January 2011 to become Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s director of economic development. Five months later, he left that job, citing the difficulties of being away from his family while working in Denver.
Romero said the best part of election season has been getting to know people better.
“I’m just jazzed about who (the candidates) are and what they represent, and frankly I think we’re blessed with that,” he said. “Secondly, I’m jazzed about the younger demographic getting engaged in this particular election season. … That can’t be anything but good for Aspen going forward.”
The worst, Romero said, has been having to answer questions about his shortcomings in the public arena.
“I survived,” he said.
Mullins said one positive aspect of campaigning has been all of the things she has learned.
“I haven’t worked this hard since graduate school,” she said. “I’m really fast-track learning about all of these issues and everything involved.”
She said she also appreciates the suggestions people have given her and likes the fact that she has gained information about the city that she didn’t know previously.
“It’s really been fun,” she said. “The worst part is the relentless number of things that all of us have needed to do … and trying to fit in work and family and a normal life.”
Daily said the best part of running has been getting to know the council candidates and the mayoral candidates as well.
“These are caring, capable people,” he said. “I really enjoyed the chance to walk a lot of neighborhoods where I haven’t spent time in a long time — Smuggler and Truscott and a bunch of others.”
The hard part for Daily was the time and intensity involved in campaigning “and the need to sell myself and what I believe in to others.”
Carlson — who noted that “I’m not a politician, clearly” — said he’s enjoyed getting to know more people in town.
“It’s enlightening,” he said. “The worst part of it is public speaking. I guess any press is good press … but the press is hard.”
The following capsules recap where the candidates stand on a few selected issues. The information was culled from the candidates’ answers at recent political forums and from their responses to questions The Aspen Times recently posed.
Downtown building limits
Romero criticized the recent process by which a majority of the current council set a 28-foot height limitation (except in the case of lodging projects) for new and renovated structures and said the Lift One site should be revisited for a hotel-lodge proposal. Mullins said that downtown height restrictions were a necessary step following the effects of many new developments over the past decade, but added that the city should strive to be more flexible and creative when addressing development rules and proposals in the future.
Daily said he’s an advocate of more commercial uses in the downtown area and agrees with the council’s ban on free-market residential projects. Carlson said his philosophy would be to go “low and slow,” adding that taller buildings obscure the views of the city’s most prized asset: Aspen Mountain.
Castle Creek hydroplant
Carlson said the city of Aspen erred in going over budget on the proposed hydro-power project, which failed in a nonbinding referendum last November. He said he would support restarting the project if it can be proven to save taxpayer money in the long run, provided that it is favored by a community majority.
Daily said he would support an initiative to revive the project but that further analysis of the impacts are necessary. Mullins said she would support another council and community discussion of the project, adding that she believes a compromise between pro- and anti-hydro forces is achievable.
Romero said he would oppose a push to restart the project over the next two years. He said there are other ways for the city to reach its goal of a 100 percent renewable-energy portfolio for its electricity utility.
In closing statements at the luncheon, Carlson, who got into the race partly to draw attention to Aspen’s high suicide rate, described himself as “a workingman’s politician” who is no threat of becoming “a career politician.” If elected, he will rely on his common sense and street sense, he said.
Daily talked about the need for more kindness in the community: “We are linked to one another by invisible threats, in deep and primitive ways, that we really don’t understand very well,” he said. “At the heart of things, it’s the kindness of others that nurtures us the most, particularly when the going gets hard. Kindness is one of those rare things in life that makes perfect sense. … Kindness will make our town function even better than it has.”
Mullins said that she has learned that the council and the mayor need to have better relations with the city’s residents. She pointed out that in her career as a landscape architect and as a member of the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission, she is used to taking in a wide variety of viewpoints and applying them toward decisions: “I really love this city, and I think I know what this city is about,” she said. “What I’d like to do is keep Aspen an exceptional city for its residents and its visitors.”
Romero said the individuals representing the four-person field for council and six-person field for mayor suggest a “turning of the guard” for Aspen, “and there’s more collaboration, I sense, and more consensus-building, that exists across the team.” He said that whomever the voters select, “I think it’s going to be great and we’re going to pull together and continue to work on our problems to make this town even better.”