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Aspen City Council corrects address on ballot

The Aspen City Council held a brief meeting Thursday to correct ballot language for November so it accurately reflects the address of property voters may or may not approve for future city offices.

The council adopted language earlier this week identifying a portion of the 27,000 square feet of turnkey office space it might buy from developer Mark Hunt as 517 Hopkins St., said Jim True, Aspen city attorney. Hopkins is an "avenue" not a "street" and True said that while confusion was unlikely and the typo was probably irrelevant, he wanted the error fixed because there was time to do so.

The other part of that office space is located in the building next door at 204 S. Galena St.

Voters will decide in November if the city will build offices at that location across from the current City Hall or another location between Rio Grande Park and Galena Plaza.

Pitkin County voters mirror statewide results; Polis, Stapleton lead in county

While local races will have to wait until the November general election, about 25 percent of the registered Pitkin County voters nonetheless chimed in on statewide races during Tuesday's primary election.

The Colorado governor's race was, by far, the most contested race this election, with four Republicans and four Democrats vying for the chance to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper.

With 3,438 Pitkin County ballots counted as of 10:36 p.m. Tuesday night, the Democratic race was proving a bit more competitive than the Republican side, where Walker Stapleton was way out ahead with more than 63 percent of the vote. For the Democrats, Jared Polis held a solid lead of 48.7 percent. After that, Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston were a distant second each with 23 percent of Pitkin County voters.

Republican Scott Tipton's 3rd Congressional District seat attracted three Democratic challengers, including attorney Karl Hanlon of Carbondale.

Hanlon, however, trailed three-term state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs 58.7 percent to 36.4 percent in Pitkin County for the right to run against Tipton in November. Tipton did not have a Republican challenger.

The most competitive race of the night — in Pitkin County anyway — was the fight for the Republican nomination to run for state treasurer. Justin Everett was leading Polly Lawrence 38.3 percent to 31.4 percent in that contest, with Brian Watson a close third with about 30.3 percent of the vote.

Dave Young was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to run for state treasurer.

Finally, Phil Weiser (58.5 percent) was ahead of Joe Salazar (41.5 percent) for the Democratic nomination to run for attorney general. The Republican in that race, George Brauchler, had no challengers.

According to the Secretary of State's office, there were 12,241 active voters register in May in Pitkin County.

Pitkin County will feature several competitive races for county offices in November.

The District 1 commissioner seat will feature incumbent Patti Clapper against the man she beat in 2014, Rob Ittner. Just one person, Kelly McNicholas Kury, filed to run for the District 2 seat, currently held by Commissioner Rachel Richards, who is term-limited.

Sheriff Joe DiSalvo will face longtime Aspen Police Officer Walter Chi in a bid for his third term in office, while former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland will run against Deb Bamesberger, a longtime member of the county assessor's staff, for county assessor. Longtime Assessor Tom Isaac is retiring.

Clerk Janice Vos Caudill will run unopposed for her third term.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Some Colorado primary ballots turned in for both parties, nullifying votes

DENVER (AP) — Hundreds of ballots for this year’s primary elections in Colorado won’t be counted because some unaffiliated voters have not followed the rules.

The Denver Post reports that unaffiliated voters can only send back a Republican or Democratic primary ballot — not both.

As of Friday, the Denver Elections Division says that of the 6,185 unaffiliated voter ballots received so far, 3.4 percent — or 214 — have been rejected because voters tried to cast ballots in both primaries.

In Larimer County, the percent of rejected ballots for the same reason is 3.15 percent, while it’s 4.3 percent in Arapahoe County. In El Paso County, 7 percent of unaffiliated voter ballots have been rejected.

Elections officials have been trying for weeks to get the word out about the rules for Colorado’s first open primary.

Scott Bayens: The trouble with Trulia and its friends

I have trouble with Trulia. I have a beef with Zillow, which bought Trulia back in 2014 for $3.5 billion. Realtor.com also stinks. The same goes for any other of the dozens of similar online services.

Yes, I realize the average consumer absolutely loves these tools and is hooked on their power and convenience. They literally put the MLS in the hands of buyers and sellers, which is not necessarily a bad thing. And I agree, the data these programs provide are amazing and very useful. Nonetheless, my opinion of sites like these and their related apps is lukewarm at best.

Full disclosure, my wife and I use Zillow often when browsing through neighborhoods both here at home and while traveling. It's as fun as it is informative and allows us to see the price, many of the details and interior photos, all while parked at the curb after a few clicks and swipes. The real genius is the immediacy of it all and the ability to take action or move on down the block to the next for sale sign.

In the "old days" one had to call a broker or brokers, set up appointments, ask for photos and so on. It certainly seems like an archine system in light of what's possible now, and in many ways, a welcome improvement.

But like any of the revolutionary, disruptive innovations of our age, there's always a price to be paid. Certainly this technology has become invaluable, is here to stay and will only evolve over time. But I would argue there's a significant downside for those of us on the other side of the sign, and in turn, unwitting consumers, as well.

It might be surprising to know Zillow characterizes itself as a media company. In fact, thanks to its numerous online channel partners, it is one of the largest advertising networks on the web. Bottom line, it generates enormous revenue by selling advertising — not by selling real estate.

Who buys those ads? It's real estate brokers, mortgage professionals and others looking to connect with new buyers and sellers. The subscriptions they purchase result in their names appearing as "experts" or "preferred agents" associated with properties within a specific area or zip code. The higher the price of the average home in those areas, the more Zillow and similar sites charge. Here in our valley that can easily be in excess of $1,000 a month for placement on just one of the many available platforms. The enticement is the potential leads to those that pay to play.

But here's the rub and the inherent problem: The listing agent is shown below those that pay to be "featured" with the bolder and colored type and hype. There are no personal photos or enticing client reviews for the broker of record for the seller, which effectively separates the real expert from those who choose to subscribe for the elevated ranking.

This artificial hierarchy has two significant effects. It algorithmically alienates those with the most knowledge of the subject property from those who might be interested in buying it. Second, it essentially "blackmails" brokers with the real expertise in a given neighborhood to compete financially with an agent that could be in, well, Timbuktu.

In my view, this new system does not serve the public good. Despite their popularity and proliferation, something gets lost with the use of these new technologies. Certainly, the personal touch, knowledge and service aspect of the broker client relationship are a few of the causalities. — not to mention the phenomenon of what I would describe as an overload of "impersonal information."

Info on these platforms also can prove to be inaccurate. Take the "zestimate" for example, Zillow's artificial intelligence's guess of market value, frustrating to sellers and delightful to buyers. It certainly does not accurately reflect what the market will bear.

I was reminded this week after talking with the wife of a fellow veteran broker just how much the business of realty has changed in the past 20 years. Back in the day your broker likely lived in the same neighborhood as you, their kids went to the same school, you likely saw each other on the street walking the dog and might have seen each other at church or the weekly scout meeting. He or she was able to maintain a personal and business relationship as a result of friends, family, marriages, births and birthdays, new neighbors and departures and, yes, even deaths and divorce. The point is brokers like me used to operate in the center of their communities, were trusted advisers and friends and stayed face to face and belly to belly throughout it all.

That's still the goal today and the secret of success for top producers. The genie is out of bottle on this issue and we all need to adapt to and adopt emerging trends and technologies.

But it is the experienced broker with his or her feet on the ground who can put the data in perspective and even sometimes dismiss them. How does the property make them feel? Does it fulfill a life-long dream? How many memories will be born with family and friends here? Real estate is a tangible asset but it can be the intangible that can be the most salient. So the next time you click, take a second to scroll down and find the real pro who actually secured the listing and who might know something your hand-held device might not.

Scott Bayens is a broker with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International Real Estate in Aspen-Snowmass with more than a decade of experience with buyers and sellers. He's been a renter, a homeowner, a landlord and investor through every kind of market. Scott can be reached at scott.bayens@sir.com

Five candidates run for Carbondale Board of Trustees

Five candidates are running for the Carbondale Board of Trustees, and the mayor is running unopposed.

The deadline for nomination petitions closed at 5 p.m. on Monday, and the town had just enough candidates for an election.

Four out of the six trustee seats are up for election on April 3, and all of the incumbent members are appointed trustees who are running to keep their seats.

Mayor Dan Richardson is running unopposed for re-election. Trustee Frosty Merriott is the only trustee who is term-limited.

Three sitting trustees’ seats will be up for grabs, including Erica Sparhawk, Heather Henry and Luis Yllanes. All three were appointed in recent years, serving the terms of former trustees who had resigned.

Additionally, April Spaulding and Lani Kitching have declared as trustee candidates.

Of those five candidates, the four who get the highest number of votes will be elected to the board.

Rather than running to represent a particular district of Carbondale, all candidates run in a single race. The three candidates who receive the highest number of votes will serve four-year terms, while the fourth highest vote-getter will serve a two-year term.

Trustee Heather Henry said she, and the other appointed trustees, have the benefit of having already gotten their feet wet and engaged in the town’s issues. First on her mind leading into the election is affordable housing and the town’s environmental board. Henry said she wants the board to continue its responsible and controlled proactive thinking on growth, and how that fits into jobs, affordable housing and transportation.

Trustee Erica Sparhawk, too, said that a benefit of being first appointed to the board is the chance to get a taste for the job.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, and I like listening to all sides of the issues,” Sparhawk said. “Through that experience I have also come to realize how important it is for people to be engaged and come talk to us.

“It’s also important for women to be on our board, and I think I bring a good perspective, being born and raised here, and now raising my own kids here,” said Sparhawk.

Trustee Luis Yllanes, who was appointed to the board only four months ago, said one of the most important issues to him is how Carbondale can maintain its local businesses and encourage new business not only to relocate to town but also invest in the town.

“There’s so much that can be done, you can bring any idea to the table,” Yllanes said of the board.

April Spaulding said she wants to ensure that the town keeps its forward momentum and doesn’t lose the perspective of the working people.

“That’s why I’m running,” she said. “I’m afraid of Carbondale losing affordable housing, and afraid for some small business owners who are getting pushed out of their leases, leaving stores sitting empty.

“The working man and woman is really my perspective, and that’s what I want to bring to the board,” Spaulding said.

Richardson said he’s happy with the interest in the town board election this year.

“I feel fortunate that we got to hand pick three trustees, and I’m excited that all like it well enough to pull petitions and run,” Richardson said. “And that we have additional people out there running shows we have a lot of engaged people in Carbondale. There are always more people running than there are open seats.”

Carbondale trustee candidate deadline is approaching

The deadline for Carbondale trustee candidates to submit their nomination petitions is Jan. 22. And, the majority of the seats on the seven-member board are up for election on April 3.

All eligible incumbent trustees have pulled nomination petitions and plan to run for re-election. Some of them have relatively recently joined the board.

Five of the seven sitting trustees have terms that expire in April. Of those five, Frosty Merriott is the only trustee who is term limited.

Dan Richardson’s term as mayor, as well as the terms of Trustees Heather Henry, Luis Yllanes and Erica Sparhawk, will be up in April.

Some early resignations over the last couple of years, usually due to a trustee moving out of Carbondale, led to a few mid-term appointments to the board, with some those new trustees being appointed to serve partial terms. Over that period the Carbondale Board of Trustees has often functioned without a whole board.

In Carbondale’s April election, the three trustees who receive the highest number of votes will serve four-year terms, and the candidate with the fourth-highest number of votes will serve a two-year term, said Town Clerk Cathy Derby.

Trustees do not represent any particular districts or wards.

Prospective candidates will need to collect at least 25 signatures from registered voters and submit their petitions to the town clerk by 5 p.m. Jan. 22. The town clerk’s office is in the Carbondale Town Hall at 511 Colorado Avenue. Candidates must be U.S. citizens 18 years and older, and must have lived in Carbondale for at least one consecutive year.

BASALT PETITIONS ALSO AVAILABLE

Meanwhile, three more people have shown possible interest in joining the Basalt Town Council races by picking up nomination petitions, according to Town Clerk Pam Schilling.

Incumbent Bernie Grauer picked up a petition Friday, as did former mayor and councilman Rick Stevens. On Monday, William Infante picked up a petition. Earlier last week, Carol Hawk and Todd Hartley picked up petitions.

People have until Jan. 22 to return the petitions and make their candidacy official. Picking up a petition doesn’t necessarily mean a person will run.

There are three council seats up for election on April 3. Incumbent Mark Kittle said he will not run. Incumbent Gary Tennenbaum hasn’t announced his intention.

All three terms are for four years.

Colorado Mountain College’s attempt to hold onto future tax revenues fails

Colorado Mountain College's ballot question asking to retain tax revenues otherwise lost due to mandatory adjustments in the statewide residential property assessment rate was defeated by voters in the six-county special college district.

Votes counted Tuesday in the off-year mail ballot election had Ballot Issue 4B going down, with 53 percent of voters saying no to CMC's attempt to get out from under state Gallagher Amendment restrictions. Voters in Pitkin and Routt counties favored the measure, while voters in Garfield, Eagle, Summit and Lake counties were against it by varying margins.

Meanwhile, in the only contested race for a CMC board seat, Peg Portscheller of Battlement Mesa was the voters' choice over Rifle businessman and former Mayor Randy Winkler. With most of the votes counted Tuesday night, Portscheller was leading with 59 percent of the districtwide vote to Winkler's 41 percent.

"CMC could not have lost in this board election," Portscheller said. "Randy and I are both very passionate supporters of the college.

"I look forward to making contributions to the college that will set it on the path for the next 50 years," she said in reference to CMC's 50th anniversary celebrations this year.

Portscheller has worked in education for 47 years, including stints as superintendent of schools in Lake County and as a school administrator in Eagle County. She now owns an education consulting company, Pathways to Results.

As for the failed tax question, Portscheller said the college clearly has some work ahead to make the necessary adjustments amid a likely continued loss in revenues due to the Gallagher Amendment, and to possibly consider going to voters again in the future.

"I do think the ballot question was a brilliantly created approach to this challenge that we face, and I'm sad to see it go down," Portscheller said.

"The fact that we are legally obligated to put forward ballot language with such technical terms, it's just a hard message to put into simplistic terms," she said. "I hope the board can look at what happened, and see if it's something worth putting back before voters and do a better job of educating people to what it means."

The Gallagher question wasn't a tax increase, per se. It sought to give CMC trustees the ability to adjust the district's mill levy in given years and avoid a reduction in property tax revenues. That happened this year with the first Gallagher adjustment to the residential assessment rate in a decade, resulting in a $3 million hit to the college budget.

Passed by state voters in 1982, Gallagher set the state property tax ratio at 55 percent for commercial property and 45 percent for residential. To maintain that ratio, the commercial assessment rate was set at a fixed 29 percent, and the residential rate is flexible, adjusting downward as property valuations increase.

Due to the population explosion on the Front Range and resulting inflation in residential valuations, the statewide residential assessment rate went from 7.96 percent to 7.2 percent this year. At the current rate, it's expected to drop again in two years to around 6.2 percent.

"I'm proud that our trustees showed leadership, and got out in front of this," CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser said. "I am disappointed that it didn't pass. Part of what we do as a higher education institution is bring awareness to these issues.

"For now, we will try to look internally at everything we can do to make adjustments, but there is a real challenge for the college going forward," she said.

In addition to the CMC board seat won by Portscheller, incumbent Charles Cunniffe of Pitkin County and former trustee Doris Dewton of Eagle County were elected to the board in uncontested races.

Eagle County voters approve marijuana tax to fund mental health programs

EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle County has its own marijuana tax, following months of proponents jonesing for it.

Ballot Issue 1A won in a landslide, with support from more than 73 percent of voters.

“Eagle County voted to save lives. It was a bipartisan effort to put this over the top,” said Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

The tax on recreational marijuana could generate an estimated $2 million annually for county coffers. Of that, the first $1.2 million is supposed to be spent on mental health and substance abuse programs in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys.

“We are extremely excited and grateful with the results,” Chris Lindley, Eagle County’s human services director said. “This is a clear message from the residents that we all need to do better as it relates to mental health. I look forward to working with all partners in the community and the commissioners to ensure we have the biggest impact possible. Eagle County will be the healthiest place to live, work and play.

OTHERS ARE WATCHING

Many Colorado counties were watching what Eagle County did Tuesday, Romanoff said.

“They might want to do something similar. It could be a model for the whole state,” Romanoff said. “The community was following this argument through the newspapers and other means. At the end of the day, the argument in favor of mental health is overwhelming.”

36-MEMBER COMMITTEE

A 36-member oversight committee will make recommendations to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners about how that $1.2 million in recreational marijuana tax money will be spent. The commissioners will not spend the money without a recommendation from this committee of stakeholders, ranging from mental and behavioral health specialists to local law enforcement.

So far, the big three needs for the community that they’ll be assessing for funding:

• Working with the school district to bring in school-based clinicians who will work with kids who have mental health challenges.

• Bringing in mental health counselors to the Eagle County jail, where currently 70 percent of the inmates are on psychotropic drugs.

• Providing funds to the Hope Center in Basalt to help transition that facility to a licensed crisis stabilization unit.

“It’s a lot less expensive and a lot more humane and smarter to treat mental illness than to ignore it or criminalize it. Turning our jails into mental hospitals is indefensible, immoral and idiotic,” Romanoff said.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Before Tuesday, Eagle County did not have its own marijuana tax. Right now, the state returns $250,000 annually to Eagle County from its 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax, which doesn’t cover much more than the administrative costs associated with licensing local dispensaries.

Eagle County’s sales and excise taxes will be levied on recreational marijuana sales and will be phased in. Each is scheduled to start at 2.5 percent and cap at 5 percent. These taxes will be layered on top of the county’s existing 4 percent sales tax on all retail products and the state’s above-mentioned taxes.

Election results: Updated numbers for Aspen, Pitkin County questions

Here is a look at the unofficial results from Tuesday night’s elections (the results will be certified in the coming days):

School board: In the Aspen School District board race, the top three vote-getters were Susan Zimet (1,909 votes), Susan Marolt (1,692) and Dwayne Romero (1,649). Marolt and Romero are incumbents.

Cigarette tax: The cost of a pack of cigarettes and other tobacco products will increase in the new year after Aspen voters overwhelmingly passed a new tax in Tuesday's election. In the early results, 74.5 percent (1,128 votes) were in favor of the tax and 25.5 percent (386) were against.

CMC proposal: Colorado Mountain College's proposal to adjust its property tax levy to offset losses from the state's Gallagher Amendment was headed to defeat, winning just above 45 percent approval. The Colorado Secretary of State had the tally from Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake, Routt and Summit counties at 17,296 against and 15,038 in favor. In Pitkin County early results, it was 57.4 percent (1,850) for and 42.6 percent against (1,376).

Land purchase bond: Aspen voters were against the city using $5.5 million in general obligation bonds to buy a piece of land in Woody Creek that would potentially be converted into a reservoir for future water storage. The results had 53.4 percent against (881) and 46.6 percent for (770). The city has said if the bond measure did not pass they would find another way to fund the purchase.

Eagle County pot tax: It looks like Eagle County has its own marijuana tax. The updated results show Ballot Issue 1A winning in a landslide, 73.67 percent to 26.33 percent. “Eagle County voted to save lives. It was a bipartisan effort to put this over the top,” said Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado. The tax on recreational marijuana could generate an estimated $2 million annually for county coffers. Of that, the first $1.2 million is supposed to be spent on mental health and substance abuse programs in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys.

Snowmass internet: Snowmass Village voters approved Question 2A (524 yes, 58 against) that says without raising taxes the Town of Snowmass Village will be authorized to provide, either directly or indirectly with public or private sector participation or partners, all services restricted since 2005 by Title 29, Article 27 of the Colorado Revised Statutes described as highspeed internet services (advanced service), telecommunications services and/or cable television services. It also allows the town to promote and encourage the expansion of such services, including improved high bandwidth service(s) based on new or future technologies, to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, nonprofit entities and other users of such services, without limiting its home rule authority.

Carbondale fire: Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District's property tax levy continuation plan was winning easily in Garfield and Pitkin counties' early tallies, 1,421-796.

Marolt, Romero and Zimet top vote-getters for Aspen school board

The Aspen school board will see the return of two incumbents and the addition of a newcomer.

With 26.2 percent of the ballots cast in her favor — 1,909 votes in all — challenger Susan Zimet was the top vote-getter in Tuesday's contest for three open seats on the Board of Education, according to unofficial results released at 10:29 p.m. by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder's Office. She will join Susan Marolt, who reeled in 1,692 votes, or 23.2 percent, and Dwayne Romero, 1,649 votes, or 22.7 percent, for the next four years.

With 759 votes, or 10.4 percent of the ballots cast, Margeaux Johansson lost her bid to return to the board, while challenger Jonathan Nickell, 1,271 votes, or 17.5 percent, also fell short in his first campaign for a board seat.

"I think the Aspen Board of Education is in very good hands going forward," Johansson said in an email to the victors.

Zimet and Nickell, both members of the District Accountability Committee, had campaigned on the platform that the school district is under performing academically against the backdrop of high teacher turnover and low staff morale.

"I think that my message of raising the bar really resonated with this community," said Zimet, who is an internist. "And I really hope and have confidence that the board will address those issues for the betterment of our students' education."

Marolt, who is a CPA, said that making herself available to voters by listening to their concerns was a big part of her re-election.

"I've heard two sides," she said. "There are definitely people who are concerned and want to make sure we are performing well on statewide testing compared to other districts. But there's definitely another voice that wants to make sure that we're looking at the whole child and all different measures of success."

The election brought out a number of differences and debates over what residents and parents expect from the school board.

"I don't want the district to suffer because of an election," Marolt said. "The election should be the way to have a conversation and move forward from there. We need to make sure we address all the things that were brought up during the election, and that's something we will focus on."

Leadership on the board also needs to be a priority, Romero said.

"We need to exercise a broader and more collaborative-based leadership model that is more receptive and inviting," he said. "It's more about building better solutions together and really mobilizing pieces and parts of the community."

Despite having differences on the campaign trail, Zimet said she feels good about working with Marolt and Romero in the future.

"I'm so confident that Dwayne and Susan Marolt and I will work in harmony," she said. "I've seen them move to the data side (during the campaign) and we have work to be done and we could be serving our students better."

The trio will be sworn in by roughly Dec. 4, or no more than 10 days after the election is certified.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com