| AspenTimes.com

Jared Polis sworn in as Colorado governor

DENVER — Colorado took a formal step to the left Tuesday with the inauguration of Democrat Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor whose overwhelming election victory and party’s consolidation of legislative control promise ambitious changes for energy and environmental regulation, health care and state-funded early childhood education.

Several thousand people gathered on the state Capitol’s west slope on a crisp morning to watch the ceremony under sunny skies. Current lawmakers and former governors attended under tight security that included closed streets.

Polis was accompanied by his partner, Marlon Reis, as he took the oath of office after a thunderous 21 cannon salute. Their children, Caspian and Cora, also attended.

Polis promised to pursue education for all children, affordable health care for more families and strict environmental protections.

“Right now our nation is experiencing a period of growing divisiveness,” Polis said. “But here in Colorado we choose a different path.

“We will never, ever be outworked,” he declared. “We will never be stunted by a lack of imagination.”

Polis is a wealthy tech and education entrepreneur and former five-term congressman from Boulder. He succeeds Gov. John Hickenlooper, a centrist Democrat, former Denver mayor, petroleum geologist and beer pub entrepreneur who served the maximum two terms. Hickenlooper is considering a 2020 presidential run.

Polis trounced then-state treasurer Walker Stapleton in November. Health care and Donald Trump’s presidency were the top issues in the campaign.

Polis’ inauguration marked a special day for LGBTQ advocates nationwide.

The planned festivities include an evening “Blue Sneaker Ball,” named after the footwear Polis sported during his campaign. Pop singer and LGBTQ activist Cyndi Lauper and the R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats were scheduled to perform.

Former state Rep. Diane Primavera, a health care advocate, was sworn in as lieutenant governor. Primavera is a cancer survivor and most recently led Colorado’s Susan G. Komen Foundation chapter in its battle against breast cancer.

Polis has promised action on oil and gas drilling and on marijuana policy.

Hickenlooper brokered a tentative compromise on fracking between Colorado’s expanding $32 billion oil and gas industry and environmentalists opposed to drilling.

He also oversaw the creation of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana market, which opened in 2014.

Polis once supported fracking limits but has abandoned the stance, saying there’s a place for Colorado oil and gas exports even as he pursues a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2040. Democratic lawmakers are working this session to strengthen air and water quality rules for the fossil fuels industry.

Polis, who was a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, says he’d pursue more industry financing opportunities and add autism to the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

Polis has called for universal health care, suggesting Colorado could partner with neighboring states to create a regional market. Lawmakers are studying a state-run insurance market for Colorado.

Polis and Democrats also will pursue funding for full-day kindergarten — and, if Polis gets his way, universal preschool, modeled after an Oklahoma program.

Polis earned his wealth by starting an internet company in college and revolutionizing the online greeting cards and floral retail industries. He served on the state board of education before going to Congress.

Political newcomer Cale Mitchell enters Aspen mayoral race

Cale Mitchell is going big with his first foray into local politics by running for mayor of Aspen.

Mitchell, 32, attempted to run two years ago but was disqualified once it was realized he hadn't lived within city limits for the past year.

So he waited for the next opportunity, which will be March 5, when a new mayor and two council members are elected. Mayor Steve Skadron, who will finish his sixth year in June, is term-limited. So is Councilman Adam Frisch, who is in his eighth year.

Frisch, current Councilwoman Ann Mullins and former Councilman Torre also are running for mayor.

Mitchell turned in his nominating petition Wednesday, which was the deadline for candidates. Mitchell ended up a few signatures short of the required amount, so he has six days to cure that, Deputy City Clerk Nicole Henning said.

Mitchell said he recognizes that his competition has more political experience, but it's time for a fresh perspective and a new outlook.

"We need to put the gears in motion and change things for the better," he said. "We need to stop dilly-dallying."

The impetus for Mitchell to run for mayor in 2017 was because of President Donald Trump. Mitchell said if someone like Trump can win office with no political experience, so could he.

On a local level, Mitchell said too much energy and time has been spent on trying to solve transportation issues.

"A lot of these issues we can't solve," he said, adding that the current bus service should be enough but it's disheartening that people don't use it to its full potential. "We have had the solution for the past 30 years but we are too good for that."

He said the transportation paradigm needs to be reformatted and "looked at on a future-based outlook."

Mitchell, who works in the accounting department at The Little Nell hotel and as an overnight stocker at City Market, admitted he hasn't been paying a lot of attention to the issues but plans to now that he is running for office.

He works about 64 hours a week, is married and rents an apartment with his wife at Centennial. He also is an avid runner, running as much as 10 hours a week.

Mitchell moved here as a teenager in 1998 with his family from Ohio. He graduated Aspen High School in 2005.

He said town has changed a lot since he first moved here, and not for the best.

"I've seen it change drastically," Mitchell said, adding development and growth have pushed out local businesses.

He wants to find ways to make buildings more environmentally friendly, including mandating solar panels on new construction.

Mitchell said the community garden at Marolt Open Space is "pathetic" and needs to be transformed into a large greenhouse where local farmers can grow produce.

He also thinks a cattle farm in the valley would go a long way toward becoming a sustainable communal community.

Composting should be mandatory, Mitchell said, adding that the city should also be capitalizing on hemp because it can "change the entire world" and be the "savior of humanity."

"We have the voice, we have the resources and we have the influence to change as human beings," Mitchell said. "We need to think about the future of sustainability and we need to make changes now."

He said he is unsure of what his campaign will be, or his specific platform, but has an open mind going into the race.

"I don't know what I'm doing," Mitchell said, "but I'm willing to learn."


Aspen’s 2019 mayoral race will be among four candidates

Longtime Aspenite and former City Council member Torre has entered the mayoral race.

Torre turned in his nominating petition to the City Clerk's Office on Wednesday, which was the deadline for candidates to declare their desire to run for elected office.

He joins three other candidates hoping to fill the two-year term. Other candidates are council members Adam Frisch and Ann Mullins and Cale Mitchell, who is a newcomer to Aspen politics.

Torre, who served on council from 2003 to 2007 and again in 2009 to 2013, said he had been considering a bid for council but after discussing his candidacy with people in the community, they encouraged him to run for mayor.

"I do see a need for a different kind of leadership," he said Wednesday.

This is Torre's sixth bid for mayor. He lost in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2015. He also ran for council in 2017 and lost in a runoff with current councilman Ward Hauenstein.

"My interest is always to be active and participate," he said.

Just like his first campaign in 2001 when he was 31 years old, Torre said he got involved in the political arena because he was "galvanized by the issues going on at the time."

Some of those issues are still plaguing the community — traffic congestion, the lack of workforce housing, protecting the environment and managing growth.

He said some of his proudest moments of his eight years on council was being the swing vote that approved building workforce and family housing at Burlingame, making recycling mandatory and banning plastic bags from local grocery stores.

"The bag ban was just a starting place. … We can do so much more," he said. "We have a lot of work to do in the environmental arena."

And one place to begin is composting, which is all but nonexistent in the city, Torre said, adding that 40 percent of the waste stream could be diverted from the landfill.

He said the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority needs an overhaul, both on how the board operates and how the program is run.

Torre added that he wants to see more housing built for entry-level workers.

As an issue-based candidate, Torre said he's witnessed a lot of missteps from the city manager's office and council on a number of initiatives in the past few years.

They include the community fight over where city offices should be built, a transportation mobility experiment slated for next year that just saw council back out of a contract with Lyft, a recent dust-up with the APCHA board about a public-private housing development and the government growing by 11 employees in 2019.

"I really feel there is a lack of communication, representation, leadership and accountability," he said. "They go in a direction that the community doesn't want."

Torre said it could be irresponsible to add 11 new positions to the payroll when observers are predicting an economic downturn next year. He added that government growth adds more layers of bureaucracy.

He said he plans to examine the staffing levels of each department in City Hall and see where those layers could be thinned out and resources put elsewhere, such as in the building or streets departments.

Torre said being on council for eight years and watching from the sidelines for the past six gives him the perspective to be an effective mayor.

"There are different ways of problem-solving," he said. "I still see work to be done."

Torre said managing slow growth is key to a successful community; he was supportive on council to reduce the heights of downtown buildings to 28 feet.

When he was an elected official, Torre took direct feedback from residents and carried their ideas to City Hall. He did that when a citizen asked for designated scooter and motorcycle parking in the downtown core.

He said he's looking forward to campaigning until Election Day on March 5.

"This campaign is about truth and having open, honest dialogues about City Hall," Torre said. "I look forward to hearing from the voters."


Aspen’s historic municipal election ballot coming into focus

The 2019 city of Aspen municipal election is shaping up to have a five-person mayoral race and four candidates vying for two council seats.

That is if all candidates file their nominating petitions by 5 p.m. today, which is the deadline for those seeking office to turn in signatures from 25 Aspen residents who support their bid for elected office.

Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins and Councilman Adam Frisch — who are both running for mayor — already have turned their petitions in, according to Nicole Henning, deputy city clerk. Council candidates Linda Manning and Skippy Mesirow have handed over their signatures of support.

There are three others who have picked up petitions for mayor but have not turned them in to the clerk's office — Torre, Cale Mitchell and Paul Kennedy.

Rachel Richards and Bert Myrin also have petitions out for a council seat and are expected to turn them in today.

Frisch and Myrin's four-year council terms will be open in the spring. Frisch is finishing out his eighth year on council and is term-limited. Myrin is seeking a second term.

Mullins, who is in the middle of her second term, is running for mayor. If she is elected, council will appoint someone to fill her seat.

Mayor Steve Skadron will finish his third consecutive, two-year term in June and is term-limited from running again.

With that landscape as of Monday, the city council candidate scene will be set by Thursday, which is when Henning is expected to verify the signatures.

What also could be on the ballot is a question approving a redevelopment proposal for the base of Aspen Mountain's west side that includes two new lodges, a new telemix chairlift at Dean Street, a ski museum and other amenities.

Council has until Jan. 14 to approve for voters an ordinance that lays out the entire project and the city's role in it, among other details.

If that additional development proposal doesn't make it an unusual municipal election, the date of it certainly does.

For the first time in city history, the election will be March 5 (the first Tuesday in March) instead of the first Tuesday of May, which has been the date set forth in the city's home rule charter, passed in the 1970s.

Mesirow, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2017, was part of a group that put a citizen referendum on this past fall's ballot proposing to change the date of the city election.

Voters affirmed their position that more participation and turnout is likely when there are more people in town, as opposed to the offseason.

Just over 2,400 people voted in the 2017 election, with 1,840 turning out for the runoff. That's a 40 percent turnout.

Henning said the city's voter registration list has been updated and now counts roughly 5,800 Aspen residents eligible to vote.

The new election date challenges candidates to campaign during the height of the winter season, when most professionals and those working in the tourism industry are busy and not necessarily focused on the political sphere of town.

Some candidates are veterans at campaigning and will adjust accordingly.

Richards, who is finishing her last term as Pitkin County commissioner, is looking to go back to her early political roots as a council member.

She was first elected to Aspen City Council in 1991 and served two terms before being elected mayor in 1999. She lost her second bid in 2001 to the late Helen Klanderud.

Richards is term-limited on the board of county commissioners after serving 12 years.

Manning is a newcomer to city politics — sort of. As Aspen's city clerk, she sees municipal government on both sides of the spectrum — the elected board viewpoint, as well as city staff who provide recommendations to council.

Manning has stepped down as the city's election official and will resign from her paid position if she is elected. It's roughly a $70,000 pay cut if she becomes a council member.

Mitchell attempted to run for mayor in 2017 but was disqualified from running for office because he hadn't lived within city limits for at least one year.

Torre has served on council previously, and has unsuccessfully run for mayor and another council seat.

The last time he ran for office was 2017. He lost the seat to current councilman Ward Hauenstein in a runoff.

In terms of this spring's election, the runoff date will be moved to April 2, instead of June.

Those who are elected will take office in June, when the current incumbents' terms are up. The newly elected officials will serve their two- and four-year terms through April, shortening their time in office for about two months.


Skippy Mesirow tosses his hat into the Aspen City Council race

Skippy Mesirow, chair of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, is running for a City Council seat, he said Friday.

Mesirow, 32, turned in his nominating petition with the requisite amount of signatures to the City Clerk's on Friday. He said he has been mulling the decision to run for a few weeks and has been knocking on hundreds of voters' doors.

"I was having 30- or 40-minute conversations in people's living rooms," he said, adding he loved every moment of it.

Mesirow said the general theme in those conversations was the deciding factor in running for one of two open council seats.

People feel "complete frustration with city councils getting anything done and constantly changing their minds," he said.

Mesirow said he would be strong in his convictions and use his personal courage to not waver on his positions.

He said he would change a number of things in City Hall, including the City Manager's office and council communication with the public.

"Our public process is broken," he said, adding he would involve the community at the beginning of any initiative, instead of at the end.

Mesirow said the No. 1 issue facing the community is the lack of housing.

He said council should insist on housing 60 percent of the workforce. That would alleviate traffic congestion in and out of town and address the growing problem of employers not being able to find enough workers to keep their restaurants and businesses open.

Secondly, council has to provide a path for affordable businesses that generate year-round jobs, and that are uniquely Aspen.

Thirdly, the city has to beef up its resiliency with climate change in mind — fires are on the rise and the landfill is almost full, he said.

Mesirow's grandparents first arrived to Aspen in 1952 and after that, his parents made Snowmass their home.

A transplant from Chicago, Mesirow moved to Aspen when he was 18, in November 2004. Because he was a member of CU-Boulder's free-ride ski team, he spent his winters training in Aspen while earning his academic credits in the summers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications.

He said he is taking the five-generation pledge: to leave for his grandchildren a town that is better than the one his grandparents left him.

Mesirow works for a vacation rental company called SkyRun. He also serves on the boards of area nonprofits and is on the city's NextGen advisory board.

He said his volunteer work would subside if elected, and he would be the hardest-working council member on the board.

Mesirow ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017, coming in fourth place with 792 votes.

He also was an organizer of the citizen referendum that led to ballot question 2A in this past fall's election, which voters passed.

A majority of Aspen voters chose to move the municipal election from May to March, with the hopes that more people will be in town to vote.

Mesirow said he believes Aspen is at a crossroads and some bold decisions have to be made about the town's future as both a resort and a community.

"I think we are at the most critical tipping point since the '70s," he said, adding that key decisions made back then, however contentious they were, make Aspen the unique community it is.

He cited the creation of the pedestrian malls, the establishment of the Real Estate Transfer Tax that funds affordable housing and the Wheeler Opera House and keeping the straight shot into town as examples.

"Aspen has been able to maintain the full spectrum of community," he said, noting that the quality of life for the middle class is eroding and, if something isn't done to protect that, the town will become a place of just the wealthy and their servants.

And change starts at the top, Mesirow said.

"The city has some of the most incredible city staffers, and upper management is doing a horrible job of utilizing them," he said. "I think we could use a change."

The election is March 5. Two seats are open on council, as well as the mayor's position. Incumbent Bert Myrin is running to keep his council seat. Outgoing Pitkin County commissioner Rachel Richards and Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning also have announced their candidacies for council.

Councilman Adam Frisch is finishing his second four-year term and is running for mayor. Councilwoman Ann Mullins, who has two years left on her term, also is running for mayor.


County Commissioner Rachel Richards to run again for Aspen City Council

Rachel Richards would have liked a bit more time after she leaves her post as Pitkin County commissioner next month to relax and maybe clean her house.

But with city elections moving from May to March next year there was no time to lose in announcing the next step in her more than quarter-century career in Aspen politics.

"I'm going to be putting my name in for Aspen City Council," Richards, 58, said Wednesday, "so I can continue to work on so many of these things that affect our citizens and our community."

Richards — a former Aspen mayor and three-term councilwoman — is leaving the Board of County Commissioners after a trio of four-year terms because of term limits. But instead of setting her sights on a state or federal elected office, she said she wants to remain active locally and continue to be involved in finding solutions to Aspen's problems.

"Now is not the time to walk away," Richards said. "The climate is threatened. Public lands in the West are under siege. If you can shrink Bears Ears (National Monument in Utah), can you shrink the Maroon Bells?"

Richards said she would bring a "broader perspective" to the City Council, include more issues important to city residents and find ways to better "check-in" with the community. Such an approach might help head off situations like the "debacle" that unfolded this year around the proposed new city offices, which likely raised construction costs significantly, she said.

"I'm a little more of a connector," she said. "I think (the council is) just a little narrow in their focus.

"It's not just climate change that will affect our future. There's more to a healthy community, a healthy economy than more lodge beds."

Still, Richards said she's not name-calling.

"I'm not running against the council and I'm not running against any individual," she said. "I'm running for the city."

Two council seats are open. Current Councilman Bert Myrin is running for a second term, and Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning said this week she is running for City Council.

Other issues facing the city that she would like help resolve include finding affordable health insurance solutions for valley residents and continuing to focus on affordable housing.

"The health insurance issue has not gone away from our valley," Richards said. "These insurance rates are killing people. I'd love to see the city become more proactive in things like that."

As for myriad issues facing affordable housing in the Aspen area — from reconfiguring the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board to retirees in affordable-housing units to funding capital reserves for public-private developments — Richards said solutions are out there and need to be identified and implemented.

"I think it's more about coming to conclusions and dealing with issues like capital reserves," she said. "It needs to be fair and efficient so money is available for new housing."

For example, the dispute with the Centennial affordable-housing complex over capital reserves and questionable construction "has gone on for too long," Richards said.

"The city has resources to resolve that," she said. "The wise application of resources is how I want to roll."

Richards moved to Aspen from Silver Spring, Maryland, (outside Washington, D.C.) after she graduated high school and before her 18th birthday, which she celebrated at Chisholm's Saloon in downtown Aspen.

"I wanted to be a ski bum," she said.

She never attended college, saying it didn't appeal to her at the time and she didn't want to waste her parents' money. Nonetheless, life's lessons began early.

"I had my son at 20," Richards said. "Sometimes life catches up with you before you think it will. Having Jacob was a defining marker in my life in that you start to care about the future."

That set her on the path to public service.

Richards first ran for City Council in 1991 and served two terms before being elected mayor in 1999. She lost a close race for mayor two years later to Helen Klanderud before being elected again to the city council in 2003. She served 3½ years of that four-year term before being elected to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

"I love Aspen," she said. "I love to serve."

She said it is hard to point to one specific accomplishment she's most proud of, instead preferring to take the long view.

"One of the real personal joys is seeing programs mature that you helped start," Richards said.

Some of those projects she had a hand in creating include the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, which encourages green-energy construction through government grants, organizing the local bus system into the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and spearheading the effort to create the Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund.

She said she's particularly proud of that last one, which provided money to protect and defend local water rights.

"I said, 'We are going to get rolled,'" Richards said. "All of our water (will be) taken … and we won't have the money to defend it (from being taken)."

To those who might call her a "career politician," Richards casually brushes off the criticism.

"The council is regularly dealing with career professional developers and attorneys," she said. "To have a career professional on the board is not a negative. It's empowering."

She's also proud of her involvement around the state, and specifically the "Dedication Award" she recently received from Colorado Counties Inc. The award was presented for her years of service to Colorado counties and her constituents.

"I was astounded," Richards said. "I was so honored. It was like my Sally Field moment."

The fact that the award came from an organization with which she'd had her differences over the years made it even more meaningful and evidence of her ability to reach compromise with people of differing political views.

"Getting people to think long-term and reconcile their differences is the challenge," Richards said.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock characterized the CCI honor as a "lifetime achievement award," and said it reflects Richards' ability to compromise, but not compromise her values and principles.

"It really is a big deal," he said. "I think it speaks volumes about how Rachel has been able to provide leadership with folks who agree with her and those who don't."

Peacock said he's not surprised Richards decided to stick around her home turf.

"I think Rachel is really passionate about this community and this valley," he said. "I think her passion lies in continuing to serve this community."

"Passion" also was a word Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper used to describe her soon-to-be-ex-colleague.

"She's so committed and so passionate and works so hard for this community," Clapper said. "I think it's good to keep her around in local politics."


Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning running for council seat

Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning has announced her candidacy for City Council, which if elected, will force her to resign from her paid position in the spring.

Manning has stepped down as the city's designated election official and will only carry out city clerk duties, such as issuing licenses for businesses, liquor and marijuana operations, as well as preparing agendas for council, taking minutes and other administrative work.

Assistant City Attorney Andrea Bryan has been named the designated election official; other staffers in the clerk's office will handle day-to-day election matters.

Bryan and Manning have switched offices so there is no conflict or appearance of one. Manning also is resigning from the city's election commission.

"The last thing we want to do is tarnish the election," Manning said, adding she has been consulting with City Attorney Jim True on how to transition from clerk to candidate. "We want to make sure there is no unfair advantage and the election runs seamlessly."

True said county clerks all over the country run for office every four years and do not take the measures the city is taking.

"None of them take the steps that we are taking to make sure the election is fair and transparent," he said, adding it's mostly about optics. "Just out of precaution, the city attorney's office is going to be overseeing the election."

Manning said she will not campaign while on the city clock. If elected, she will have to resign in June before taking office.

"I'm going into this knowing that I'm giving up my job," Manning said, adding she will find another one to pay the rent.

A native of Pittsburgh, Manning came to the valley more than a decade ago for the sunshine and lifestyle. She currently lives in deed-restricted housing.

"I will be the only City Council person who lives in affordable housing and has a job," she said of the current makeup of elected officials.

Two council seats are up — Adam Frisch is term-limited and is running for mayor. Bert Myrin, who holds the other open seat, is running for a second term.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins has two years left on her term but is running for mayor. If elected, council will appoint someone to fill her seat.

Manning, 40, has been working for the city for almost 10 years, five of which have been in the clerk's office. If she's elected, Manning will go from a $90,000 annual salary to a stipend of $1,700 a month on council.

She said she's willing to forgo her job so she can serve the public in a different and more effective way.

"I don't have a voice right now," Manning said. "I sit in the (council) meetings and can't say anything and I get frustrated, and seeing the frustration of my friends who own businesses, I think I am at a point in my job that I can best serve the community by being on council."

She said while there are great people working for the city, council should push back more on staff recommendations so mission creep and initiatives don't get further ahead than what was originally envisioned.

She said she doesn't agree with some policies and initiatives that are set by council, including next year's $2.6 million mobility lab that's aimed at getting 800 cars off the road each day through taxpayer subsidized incentives.

"There are better uses for this money," she said, referencing the modernization of the affordable-housing program, or hiring more personnel to push building permits through more expeditiously in the Community Development Department. "Incentivizing people, rewarding them for doing what they are doing already is just as silly as waiving affordable housing for developers.

"You don't solve Aspen's traffic problem with a mobility lab," she continued. "The only way we can solve traffic is to build housing here; 60 percent of the workforce commutes."

Because she frequently works with the public and business owners as city clerk, Manning said she understands their frustration navigating through bureaucratic red tape.

If elected, she said she will remove barriers to doing business, activate second-tier commercial spaces and vote for appropriate growth to maintain the resort community.

"We are a resort town," she said. "We need to be business-friendly and make it easier for small businesses."

Also part of her platform is ensuring that qualified workers are living in deed-restricted affordable housing, so enforcement of the rules and having an accurate inventory are key.

"When we don't know who is living in a unit, shame on us," Manning said.

She added that because of the interactions she has one-on-one with small-business and restaurant and retail owners, Manning understands how difficult it is to attract workers in such a tight housing market.

The city's land-use code should be changed to force developers to build affordable housing to mitigate for their projects, Manning said.

She said she supports some sort of public-private financial partnership between the city and developers who want to redevelop the base of Aspen Mountain's west side.

The project would see a new chairlift down to Dean Street, a new public park and other amenities that will benefit the community, she said.

She said she thinks the city has a great historic preservation program that other communities look to as an example.

And while not a skier, Manning uses the open space and trails system frequently as a runner and a hiker.

But there are issues that need attention and Manning said she has a unique perspective to offer.

"I'm in a position that I see both sides," she said. "And I think I have a lot to say."

The election is March 5. Candidates have until Dec. 26 to turn in their nominating petitions to make the ballot.


Councilwoman Ann Mullins announces bid for Aspen mayor

Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins will run for the mayor's seat this winter, she announced Tuesday.

"I look forward to the upcoming campaign; the healthy discussions with the other candidates that I am aware of and the candidates that will emerge; the forums; the news coverage; listening to community concerns; and all the efforts that I and the other candidates will make to clarify and communicate issues, and gain community understanding of what we as candidates hope to achieve," she said in a prepared statement.

Mullins, who is in the middle of serving a four-year council seat term, will be running against Adam Frisch, who announced his mayoral bid earlier this month.

Frisch is finishing his last year on the city's elected board and is term-limited for a council seat. His seat, as well as Councilman Bert Myrin's, will be open early next year. Myrin has indicated that he plans to run for a second term.

Mayor Steve Skadron, who has served three consecutive two-year terms, also is term-limited.

Mullins was first elected to council in May 2013.

"In my years on council we have addressed climate change, growth, affordable housing, transportation, community building, business diversity, among many other issues," she said in a statement. "We have accomplished a lot, but there is much more to do.

"As mayor, I would like to build on our successes and move ahead with the initiatives we have started in a way that is supported by the community."

She said in an interview Tuesday that she wants to be mayor instead of finishing her last two years as a councilwoman because she wants to be in a place of leadership, which means not only setting the council's agenda, running the meetings and putting forth initiatives, but also representing the city within the valley, the state, the country and around the globe.

"It's a real honor to represent Aspen," she said.

Mullins, who has served as mayor pro-tem for the past two years, said she values the importance of regional partnerships. And she sees opportunity in strengthening council's relationship with the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

She has served on the city's Historic Preservation Commission, the board of the Red Brick Council, the county's board of health, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board and the citizen grant review committee for the county's Healthy Community Fund.

Mullins has formed a campaign committee comprised of Aspenites Christine Benedetti, Ruthie Brown, Blanca O'Leary, Barbara Reid, Bill Stirling and Gyles Thornley.

She said she plans on walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors in the next three months.

The majority of Aspen voters earlier this month changed the date of the municipal election from the first Tuesday in May to the first Tuesday in March in the hopes more people are in town and will vote.

Candidates can pick up their nomination petitions starting Dec. 4 and they must be returned by Dec. 26.

The election will be held March 5.


Aspen candidates gearing up for spring 2019 election

Election 2019 is on the minds of some Aspenites now that the majority of voters chose to change the date of picking who serves on City Council to March instead of May.

Candidates are emerging for three open seats on council this spring, with nomination petitions being available beginning in less than three weeks.

Councilman Adam Frisch confirmed Wednesday that he will be running for mayor.

"I'm the do-nothing mayor," he joked, saying the city and its residents need a break from all the initiatives coming out of City Hall. "Let's have a chill year and take a break."

Beyond that, however, Frisch said he is running because he still has work to do on the local affordable-housing program, among other issues facing the town, including the city's perceived problems in effectively communicating with its residents.

"I want to ensure that (affordable housing) stays the most important thing in our community," he said, adding how the program is governed and dealing with deficits in homeowner association capital reserves remain at the forefront.

He said he'd also like fewer construction projects impeding residents' quality of life in the offseasons.

"Housing, humility and no cones," he said of his early campaign.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she is considering a mayoral bid but said she wants to talk it over with family first and will make an announcement after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Frisch's seat will be open in June. He is finishing his second term and is term-limited after eight years as a councilman.

Mullins has two years left on her term and would be term-limited after that.

Councilman Bert Myrin, who is serving his last year of a four-year term, has begun campaigning for his seat based on the buttons he wears at public events that read, "Bert Myrin for council."

Skippy Mesirow — who championed moving the election date from the first Tuesday in May to the first Tuesday in March based on the argument that more people are in town during the high season — said Wednesday he is considering a run for council but isn't sure yet. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in the spring of 2017.

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, who has served three consecutive two-year terms, is term-limited this spring.

He, along with his fellow council members whose terms are up next year, will serve until June, despite that council members will be elected in March.

City Attorney Jim True explained that those elected next year will serve shorter four-year and two-year terms — by two months — because of the election date change.

He also said it is very likely city voters will be deciding during the March 5 election the future development of Aspen Mountain's west side.

A public vote will be triggered because two developers are proposing variances to the land-use code and a portion of the new chairlift corridor will be on city land currently designated as open space.

Aspen City Council is in the middle of reviewing land-use applications by developers behind the Lift One Lodge and the Gorsuch Haus.

If council approves them by mid-January, it will go to the voters in March.

"We are looking at two ordinances in one question," True said.

The deadline for council to put a question on the ballot is Jan. 14. Referendums and citizen-led initiatives are due by Dec. 12.

Candidates can pick up their nomination petitions starting Dec. 4 and they must be returned by Dec. 26.

Frisch said while he supported changing the election date in an effort to get more participation and prop up the local democratic process, campaigning during the dead of winter and the height of season will pose challenges that spring offseason stumping did not.

"But I'm planning on running with gusto and a smile on my face," he said, adding a main strategy for him is knocking on doors. "It will be cold and dark, but I have a warm coat."

He said he expects fewer candidates to turn out for council because they will be busy working during ski and tourism season.

"Campaigning takes 100 hours a week," Frisch said. "Serving on council takes 20 hours a week."


A one-on-one with Governor-elect Jared Polis

Governor-elect Jared Polis took some time this week to answer a few questions from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about some regional issues, as he looks ahead to being the voice for Colorado, including the Western Slope, which was key in his election.

Though Polis edged out Republican candidate Walker Stapleton by just over 300 votes in Garfield County, the governor's race was among the first called on Election Night. He ultimately received over 53 percent of the vote compared with Stapleton's 43 percent.

He's the first Democratic governor candidate to win in Garfield County since Hickenlooper's inaugural win in 2010.

While Polis addressed some of the big issues facing voters throughout the campaign, on Monday he spoke specifically to what's on the mind of many Western Slope residents. Those issues include rural economic development, the future of oil and gas development after the failure of Proposition 112, broadband access and more.

Proposition 112, in particular, was a contentious one.

It had sought to increase the minimum setback requirements for new oil and gas developments to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas. The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

While the statewide initiative was shot down by voters 55 percent to 45 percent, it fared slightly better in Garfield County, with 54 percent opposed to 46 percent in favor.

Garfield County currently ranks second in the state behind only Weld County in terms of gas production and sales for 2018, according to data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Following are the soon-to-be new governor's thoughts on that and other economics-related issues.

How do you expect the issue regarding setbacks for the oil and gas industry to move forward?

Jared Polis: We're looking forward to working with the industry and local communities to help set the parameters of local control. I am excited to work with every industry to create good jobs in Colorado. We want to make sure we empower communities to address certain conflicts on the ground, as well.

Do you think there is a possible compromise on the distance requirement?

Polis: I think there needs to be. I think there is a growing recognition in the oil and gas industry that they are tired of this instability and gambling their entire industry at the ballot box at great expense and risk. We are looking forward to including them in discussions with our county commissioners and city councils, as well as the environmental community, about how we can move forward together.

What are your plans to drive economic interests in rural and western Colorado communities?

Polis: I am passionate about economic development and jobs. … I am excited about empowering entrepreneurs in Western Colorado, as well as attracting big and large-scale employers to help provide good jobs in our communities that complement the amazing quality of life in Western Colorado.

How will broadband high-speed internet play into those plans?

Polis: High-speed internet is critical for location-independent employment. We look forward to working with the Legislature and through the state to expand high-speed internet connectivity options for many of our rural communities.

transportation funding

Two statewide transportation initiatives, Proposition 109 and 110, sought to increase funding for roads and multimodal projects through a statewide sales tax increase and/or billions in bonds. Both measures were shot down by voters by significant margins. However, each question fared slightly better in Garfield County, as local projects along the Interstate 70 corridor and State Highway 13 would have received funding.

How do you plan on addressing Colorado's aging transportation infrastructure?

Polis: I think the voters were clear that they don't want to bond with no revenue, and they don't want to use a sales tax mechanism. We will be looking forward to working with Republicans and Democrats from across Colorado to figure out how people do want to pay for roads.

Are there any infrastructure projects on the Western Slope or I-70 corridor that you are looking to prioritize?

Polis: There is a big backlog not only in western Colorado but statewide, and we look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to find the funding mechanisms to do it. Our critical artery of Highway 70 and the speed capacity, we want to continue to work on alternatives for. We want to work on increased tourism from the west instead of the east.

area trails

The LoVa, or Lower Valley Trail, was named among Gov. John Hickenlooper's 16 in 2016, which listed 16 trail projects he wanted to prioritize for trail planning and construction, at least from New Castle to Glenwood Springs. It is now looking to be completed by the end of next year.

The trail, which has been discussed by officials throughout Garfield County for nearly two decades, will be designed to provide non-motorized access as I-70 remains the only way to get west from Glenwood Springs.

How important will trail connections such as this be for you, especially on the Western Slope?

Polis: We look forward to continuing to build on Hickenlooper's legacy. We will certainly look at every project with a fresh set of eyes. We are certainly committed to improving the quality of life, as well as the tourism infrastructure, in western Colorado.

I ran on not only protecting our public lands, but improving access through hiking and biking and all of the great things we enjoy in our great outdoors. I look forward to continuing to work with nonprofits and our counties across western Colorado to improve access and safety on our trails.


State funding issues tied to Colorado tax laws continue to hinder school districts across Colorado. The Garfield School District Re-2 passed a mill levy override last week to ensure its teachers and staff are paid a competitive wage.

How will you attempt to address this as governor?

Polis: Congrats to Garfield Re-2 voters to step up, and a number of other districts across the state. Jefferson and Thompson counties' voters passed mill levies to help make teacher pay more competitive. Of course, I look forward to working with teachers as well as Republicans and Democrats on a statewide funding solution to improve our schools.