Klanderud for mayor, McCabe and Markalunas for council | AspenTimes.com

Klanderud for mayor, McCabe and Markalunas for council

Aspen voters will find plenty of choices among the slate of contenders vying for seats on the City Council on May 6. Though they differ on the issues, we have no doubt they all share one attribute – a passion for Aspen, for which we should all be grateful.

That said, we’re endorsing three individuals we believe can best direct the city government – Helen Klanderud as mayor, and Tom McCabe and challenger Lisa Markalunas for the council.

Our choices for the two council posts emerged only after a spirited staff debate that took the better part of a morning, but Klanderud was a hands-down favorite for mayor.

In her first term at the council helm, she has proven herself knowledgeable, accessible and willing to consider proposals with an open mind.

She runs a tight ship at council meetings and tries to keep discussions focused. Yes, she has cut off some long-winded citizens, but we actually appreciate her efforts in that regard. We also admire her restraint – she has yet to club Councilman Tony Hershey with her gavel, though he can certainly try her patience.

This newspaper has disagreed with Klanderud on important issues, including the Entrance to Aspen and the Burlingame affordable housing project, but she has impressed us with her open mind and her willingness to move forward with popular projects like Burlingame that she may not personally favor.

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Chief among her challengers is Councilman Terry Paulson. He has the longest tenure on the council, but, oddly, we don’t believe that experience has given him the ability to lead it.

Paulson represents an important segment of this community, and we endorsed him two years ago for that reason. However, he displays little ability to work with his colleagues and even distances himself at every opportunity.

Until his recent bid for mayor, in fact, Paulson was a virtual nonparticipant at council meetings. His attendance record is impeccable, but he rarely added anything to a discussion, leaving us to wonder how well he knew the subject matter. Remaining mute is no way to represent one’s constituents.

The self-admitted dark horse in the mayor’s race is the outspoken Andrew Kole. He makes for an entertaining talk-show host on GrassRoots TV, but we’re not sure that experience lends itself to Aspen’s highest elected office.

On his program, Kole can be abrasive, opinionated and domineering. He insists that his television personality is not his real personality, but we agree with Klanderud that a leopard doesn’t change his spots that easily.

Kole presently sits on the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, a good forum for his ideas on revitalizing Aspen’s economy.

Vote Helen Klanderud for mayor of Aspen.

Now the council candidates. Once bursting with 10 hopefuls, the field has since narrowed to seven, though two of the dropouts appear on the ballot – Tom Peirce and Vitashka Kirshen.

Before we explain our council endorsements, we want to extend our heartfelt sympathies to Peirce, who was forced to withdraw because of medical problems related to his battle with cancer. We wish him a speedy return to good health.

McCabe, seeking his second term on the council, has served us in the manner we had hoped when we endorsed him in his last bid for a council seat. He clearly does his homework and frequently appears to be the council watchdog on city financial matters. He is articulate and asks insightful questions.

He is also a candidate that, more often than not, takes positions agreeable to this newspaper. McCabe has been a member of Aspen’s working class for more than 30 years. He recognizes the things about Aspen that need to be preserved but understands that well-thought-out changes must be made to help Aspen move into the future.

It bothers us that McCabe doesn’t want to talk anymore about the Entrance to Aspen, but we believe he understands the importance of improving the entryway to our town and will work toward solutions if he wins another term.

Markalunas emerged as somewhat of a surprise from our staff debate as a candidate who could bring fresh ideas to the council. As a native Aspenite, she may well understand the town better than any current council member or candidate. She has a solid grasp of how Aspen has changed over the years and how it needs to change to remain livable, viable and unique.

Her father served on the council, and both parents continue to be contributing members of this community. Yet Markalunas is not a clone. She has put a lot of thought into the issues the council will face in the coming years and has formed her own opinions. And she has already served on city committees, proving her commitment to Aspen.

She is a firm backer of affordable housing, which we continue to believe is one of Aspen’s most important challenges. And though she does not endorse four lanes of pavement across the Marolt property, she is the only candidate willing to publicly state that the entrance must be fixed to make mass transit more feasible, even if it means running light rail across the open space.

We are intrigued by Markalunas and believe she deserves voters’ support.

Vote for Tom McCabe and Lisa Markalunas for City Council.

Since we highly respect anyone willing to run for public office, let us quickly state why we did not endorse the other candidates.

We struggled long and hard with Rachel Richards and would likely have endorsed her if a third seat were open. She has received our backing in past elections, when she won two terms on the council and one of her two bids for the mayoral post. Though we have disagreed with her on some issues, more often than not she reflects this newspaper’s vision for Aspen.

Her dedication to public service is unquestionable, and her accomplishments in public office are impressive. But we think it’s time for new blood on the council. Richards could possibly serve us better as an advocate for projects near and dear to her heart.

We are also concerned about animosity between Richards and Klanderud, who opposed each other in the 2001 mayor’s race, and between Paulson and Klanderud, which could deadlock the council. Many citizens have said they want a council that can cooperate.

Incumbent Tony Hershey was another tough one to pass over. We did not endorse him four years ago, but he turned out to be a better councilman than we expected. He has put his heart and soul into the job, and has opened his mind to the possibilities of a better transit system and even fought for it. In his own unique way, he represents a key segment of this community.

Unfortunately, Hershey flunks deportment. He rudely interrupts other speakers, treats some citizens with disdain and, too often, behaves in a manner that borders on juvenile. Naturally, he has been relatively well-behaved in recent weeks. If only he’d shown a little of that restraint throughout his term.

Torre is another solid candidate. When he ran for mayor in 2001, we lauded his enthusiasm and wished he’d set his sights on a council seat. We had hoped he would seek appointment to one of the city’s boards or commissions and gain a little experience in the trenches. He didn’t.

We’re not convinced he’s up to speed on current issues. For example, he cited concerns about Burlingame because “Aspen doesn’t need any more big cement boxes” but family-style developments instead. Burlingame has never been planned as “cement boxes,” but as a neighborhood with plenty of homes for families. Do your homework, Torre.

Pepper Gomes has run for elected office often enough that he at least deserves credit for his efforts. His sense of humor and Hawaiian shirts would bring some much-needed levity to the council. However, his continued stand against affordable housing, and suggestions this time around that price caps should be lifted on our current inventory, make it impossible for us to endorse him.

Finally, there is Cliff Weiss, who helped S-curve supporters defeat the straight shot in last fall’s election. We don’t agree with his opposition to the Bus Rapid Transit proposal and to Burlingame, or with his suggestion that a third of our deed-restricted housing be set aside for “essential” workers.

On a final note, we remind citizens that the right to vote is precious and should be neither taken lightly nor tossed aside out of frustration or apathy.

So please take the time to vote Tuesday, May 6. In this race, every vote will count.

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