Torre throws hat into ring for Aspen mayor
Ryan Summerlin February 26, 2013
ASPEN – Councilman Torre, who has said for more than a year that he would run for mayor in 2013, made it official Monday.
Torre, 43, has run for mayor three times – in 2001, 2005 and 2007. He is serving his second four-year term on the Aspen City Council, having been elected in 2003 and 2009. He is not term-limited from seeking re-election to the council because his two terms were not consecutive.
“The fourth time’s the charm,” he said of his bid for the top spot of Aspen elected office. “You’re going to get somebody who’s dedicated to Aspen, dedicated to the environment, dedicated to locals.”
In a brief interview following Monday night’s council meeting, Torre stressed that as mayor, he would foster an atmosphere of inclusion.
As a council member, he has served under two mayors: Helen Klanderud and Mick Ireland. He said that although they were different in terms of political goals, they were similar in that they both had strong agendas and pushed hard for what they wanted.
Torre said he would employ an alternative style.
“I feel the same now as I have for a couple of years,” he said. “I can bring new energy, enthusiasm and a leadership style that can bring the community together. I want to put aside the divisiveness and tap into the wealth of talent that we have in our community to make collaborative decisions.
“That’s something that I haven’t really seen from the mayor’s seat in a while. The primary job for the mayor is to bring together both the city resources of staff and the community resources of so many great, smart, invested individuals.”
In a statement he emailed to local media Monday, Torre listed five “key issues” on which he would concentrate: environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, affordable housing, balance between preservation and development, and the future of the oft-mentioned Aspen Idea (embodied by the phrase “Mind, body, spirit”).
In 2011, Torre was a driving force behind a city ordinance implemented last year that prevents Aspen’s two grocery stores from providing plastic bags to customers. The move was designed to encourage residents and visitors who shop at the stores to use reusable, environmentally friendly bags. The grocery stores still provide paper bags to customers for a 20-cent fee apiece. The revenue from that fee is shared between the stores and the city, which uses it to promote environmental initiatives.
Torre acknowledged that the bag ban, as it came to be called, is largely symbolic and a way to set an example of environmental stewardship for other communities and individuals.
“I think it was assimilated into our community very well,” he said. “At first I was not in favor of the 20-cent fee, but even that has seemingly been going well. I am happy with the results, but I will remind you that it is just a first step. We are not saving the earth by reducing the bags here in Aspen. If we can get people to be more conscientious about their consumption, and their waste management, it might have long-reaching effects and make positive environmental progress. All I’m asking people to do is to take steps.”
Torre recently voted in favor of a 28-foot height limit for new projects and renovations of existing buildings in downtown Aspen. He got the ball rolling on the recent height-limit debate by proposing an emergency ordinance in early 2012 that would have created a height limit of around 38 feet, about 4 feet lower than the 42-foot limit in place at the time.
The proposed emergency ordinance was defeated because four votes were needed to pass it and Torre only had Ireland and Councilman Steve Skadron on his side. But the discussion set the stage for a council majority to implement a 28-foot limit later in the year, which effectively limits downtown developments to two stories. A third-story exception would be allowed for lodging purposes.
Torre said he would have preferred an ordinance that allowed a third story for other uses besides lodging, such as affordable housing or office space. He said he didn’t have council support for those extra uses.
He agrees with Ireland and Skadron that free-market residential developments in the downtown area – “penthouses,” they often are called – generally don’t create economic vitality in Aspen’s commercial core because the owners are largely absent for most of the year.
Torre said he believes he’s uniquely qualified for the mayor’s post.
“I think my experience in many areas outweighs the others,” he said. “I’ve been here for 20 years. In that time I have worked every job, from an on-mountain ski instructor to a tennis pro, which I am now, from restaurant and bar management to retail and everything in between. I even had a printing company out at the Airport Business Center. I’ve done a lot of work in this town that gives me a certain take on business and what business means.”
He also pointed out his experience in city government and his knowledge of the Roaring Fork Valley in general.
“I’ve been on council for two full terms, but really my experience in local politics goes back 12 years. And I have lived from Basalt to Woody Creek to Snowmass Village to Aspen, so I also have a valleywide view of our community.”
Torre – who goes by the single name – was born in Silver Springs, Md. He grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., and lived in New York City, San Francisco and Denver prior to moving to Aspen.
Councilman Steve Skadron and Adam Frisch also have declared their intent to run for mayor. Councilman Derek Johnson is strongly considering entering the race.
Petitions to qualify for council or mayor can be picked up in the City Clerk’s Office starting March 18. Mayoral candidates must record at least 25 valid voter signatures under the process. The deadline to turn them in is 5 p.m. April 5.
The election will take place May 7; a runoff, if necessary, would be June 4.