Basalt is adrift on town shuttle tax proposal | AspenTimes.com

Basalt is adrift on town shuttle tax proposal

The Basalt Town Council has decided that political foreplay with voters wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Two weeks ago the council unanimously wanted to hold an advisory vote in November on a proposal to increase the town’s sales tax to fund a shuttle system. The council intended to use the results to determine if a second election – one that counted – should be pursued next spring.

But Tuesday night the board rejected the idea of an advisory election by a 6-1 vote, and one member even deemed it “irrational.”

“I thought this was sort of an irrational idea the last time we talked about it,” claimed Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt, who had previously approved the advisory election with the other council members. She said she had reservations because voters would tend to vote “no” or not vote at all if they didn’t have enough information.

Her hunch was backed by Town Manager Tom Baker. He wrote in a memo that voters would probably need more information than what’s available, even for an advisory vote. In addition, he said a “no” vote in the advisory election “will put us at a distinct disadvantage for the real vote in April.”

Only Councilwoman Tiffany Gildred wanted to proceed with the advisory vote. She said she felt it could be a valuable tool in helping the town decide how to proceed with shuttle service.

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For the council overall, deciding what not to do proved easier than deciding what to do.

Whitsitt wanted to “crank up” a citizens’ committee as soon as possible to make sure the issue has community support in time for an April 2004 ballot question. The committee would hash out issues like how much service is needed and how it should be funded. Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin wanted to hire someone, if necessary, to help organize the effort.

But Mayor Rick Stevens noted that there is no funding available in 2003. Waiting to fund a citizens’ committee in 2004 might provide enough time to get the issue on the April ballot, he said.

Whitsitt reacted angrily to the suggestion that a shuttle vote may be delayed until November 2004. She said government has to be able to work quicker than that.

The Town Council has increasingly relied in the past two years on direction from Baker, by establishing a strong town manager form of government, and on the citizens’ committees that Baker is fond of creating. Without Baker attending the council’s meeting Tuesday and without funding for a citizens’ committee for the next three months, the board appeared paralyzed. No clear direction was set on how the town government would proceed on the shuttle issue.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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