Candidates: Keep fairness in mind in all that you do
April 17, 2003
With the Aspen City Council election just a couple of weeks away, on May 6, we’ve heard a lot of talk about conflicts of interest, ethics and fairness. That’s not unusual, especially in the political hotbed of Aspen, but the issue seems to be more at the forefront during this particular election.
Questions were raised earlier this week about sitting council members reviewing a development that the Aspen Skiing Co. could have a stake in, after the council members had recently received the company’s endorsement. That situation will be discussed in more detail in Friday’s daily editorial.
Let us state up front that we strongly urge everyone involved in this election to keep issues of fairness and potential conflicts of interest in mind during the next couple of weeks. Ethics should be of paramount concern.
This leads us to something that came up during the last City Council election, when GrassRoots television talk-show host Andrew Kole ran for a council seat. He recently joined this spring’s mayoral race, along with incumbent Helen Klanderud and Councilman Terry Paulson.
We feel Kole has an unfair advantage if he chooses to use it. A portion of each of his shows is dedicated to reading through the local papers and commenting on the issues of the day; some shows are entirely dedicated to politics. So, while other candidates must pay for advertisements and air time, Kole has a built-in forum to push his political platform.
To his credit, Kole told this newspaper he will not use the show for that purpose. He has even scheduled a guest host for a candidate round table on a future show. However, we don’t believe this goes far enough. He still enjoys a sort of “bully pulpit” that is unique among the candidates.
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On Tuesday, the above-mentioned Skico endorsements were a topic on Kole’s show. He did not imply that “If I’m elected, this type of thing would never happen,” but it was clear he was disgusted by the whole matter. That, in effect, amounted to political positioning.
This editorial is not intended as a stab at Kole, and we don’t believe he’s conducting an unethical campaign. But we do urge him to restructure his show for the next couple of weeks. He should refrain from reviewing the local news on each show and schedule guests to talk about issues unrelated to city politics. He will have plenty of other opportunities to comment on the issues before May 6.
That said, we must also point out that we believe Councilmen Tom McCabe and Tony Hershey should have disclosed campaign contributions they received from individuals involved with the Obermeyer Place development, which was before the council Monday for a vote.
We’re not talking about a lot of money here ($500 total for each candidate), and both councilmen have been supporters of the project throughout its approval process. However, again, candidates should ensure that all cards are on the table to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.