Three questions for Aspen City Council runoff candidates Torre and Ward Hauenstein
May 22, 2017
Two candidates — Ward Hauenstein and Torre — are left standing for the vacant seat on Aspen City Council. With the runoff set for June 6, the City Clerk's Office mailed out ballots last week. In-person early voting starts today at the Aspen City Clerk's Office and will run through June 5.
The Aspen Times asked the same three questions to the two finalists.
The following are the questions and their answers.
Question: What separates you most from your opponent when it concerns Aspen politics?
I think the things that separate me most from Torre are my perspective and approach to problem solving. My nine years of retail experience in Aspen gives me an appreciation of the trials associated with a resort economy. I started a bicycle shop for Sabbatini's in the late 1970s and my computer business in the '80s. Being a small-business owner for over 30 years provides me with a valuable prospective for the council table.
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Being a family man with two children who were born in Aspen and have roots here makes me keenly aware of the life of a family in a resort town. I have witnessed firsthand the challenges facing young adults starting a life in Aspen. My wife of nearly 37 years is a respected teacher at the Aspen Elementary School. All these life experiences give me an appreciation of child care, youth programs, school athletics, the arts, social services and mental health needs in the valley.
My experience in the computer business has honed my abilities as a problem-solver. I will bring these analytical skills to the council table. I am a people person and work well with people. I enjoy the relationships I have made with my customers over the years. I have a sense of humor that can lighten the mood at the table.
I am fresh blood. I will bring a fresh perspective to the table.
There are several things that separate me from my opponent, three of which I will discuss here in particular. The first is my experience both as a two-term council member and what I have learned with four years off council. Secondly, my solution-driven approach to the issues that Aspen faces. And thirdly, my continued commitment to work on affordable housing, environmental leadership, community building, business support, transportation solutions and other challenges and opportunities.
My experience enhances my ability to become an effective team member on council immediately. I am eager to bring a balance to council that my broad Aspen community involvement and history can add to our representation.
As a decision- and policy-maker, I have always been open to ideas and input that moves us forward to solutions. It is not enough to just shoot down proposals and not bring something to the table for answers. As we look to the future in Aspen, we should have a vision for the Aspen that we want to live in, and we should employ the solutions to create our Aspen.
I have been dedicated to working for Aspenites for many years. I have voted for over 250 housing units to be created and continue to seek to refine our current program to support our current resident partners as well as provide new units. I helped to ban the bag, mandate recycling and supported Aspen Tap programs; environmentalism is at the core of decision-making. We can do more, and I have ideas and solutions to add to our green efforts. I seek to further support the families, community and businesses that make Aspen so special. From child care to citizen input and local business support, I promise to continue to work for you on the issues that matter.
Q: Mayor Steve Skadron has said one of his main priorities for the next two years is to lay the foundation (figuratively speaking) for expanding the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall two blocks to the east. What are your initial thoughts on this? Is it something you would consider supporting?
I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with Steve again and support him in an initiative to expand the pedestrian malls. I have heard different suggestions of where to expand the malls and it is deserving of a broad community discussion and extensive input. After that input, I could support a test program that helps us to make any changes positive moves for the downtown experience before we make more permanent built changes. As we look to make improvements to the current malls and potential expansion, we must consider the challenges of parking, business access, disabled and elderly access and other unforeseen impacts.
I believe in the mayor's initiative for a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly core experience. And, while one solution may not fit for all, we can create a unique Aspen that forwards our shared goals and respects the challenges that different Aspenites are facing.
My initial thought is that more information is needed. I will consider every idea presented to me. At this point I do not know if extending the mall is a good idea. It is an idea only. I need a community conversation on this. There are too many unknowns at this point to consider supporting it. I would support discussing it. This is an example of something that needs to be thought through. To be considered are: parking spaces lost, business mix, traffic flow, cost to the citizens, economic impact, visitor experience and many more.
Q: Momentum is gaining for the concept of creating a regional housing authority. Do you think the city of Aspen should entertain joining this potential alliance, or does the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority need to be fixed first?
I think that Aspen would be an asset to any regional housing organization and we should continue to look for ways to refine APCHA, as well. The current inventory and assessment that is going on at APCHA right now is a good start to understanding what we have, what we do and how we can do better for our future needs. I am in favor of regional planning and cooperation in our valley. At this time, I do not know what type of authority is being suggested, but I do think that especially in a valley such as ours, regional cooperation is sensible.
I am an advocate for standing with our current resident partners to address their issues, and I am for creating new units that address the needs of our community for our workforce and families. We need to look for ways to address a changing landscape of housing needs, and utilize new housing products for integrated, public, private and partnered projects.
Workforce housing is a regional issue. I will focus on workforce needs. Aspen should certainly entertain joining a regional alliance. We need to continue to improve and fine tune APCHA at the same time. If we wait to "fix" APCHA first, we will lose years on a regional approach.
Defining the problem first and targeting outcomes must precede creating a solution. Housing is not the only solution. Aspen is the economic engine driving the valley. I want to discuss other possible solutions. More housing will create more transportation demands. There are certain jobs that must be in Aspen such as hospitality, restaurant, retail and skier services. Some jobs could be either moved to mid or downvalley, or telecommuting a few days a week can reduce traffic. A holistic approach is needed. Piecemeal solutions do not serve our valley best.
The experience Aspen and Pitkin County have gained in 35 years should be shared with a regional authority. The scope of Aspen's involvement in a regional authority must be completely vetted.
As with the question of extending the mall, I am open to discussions.