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Letter: Help the Wheeler at the polls

This election, Aspen residents have the opportunity to renew their support for a building and community resource that has been a benefit to us all. The Wheeler Real Estate Transfer Tax (WRETT) has paid for the ongoing renovation of the Wheeler Opera House, one of the most iconic and well loved buildings in our town. In just the past five years, the upstairs balcony has been completely rebuilt, issues with the upstairs bar have been fixed, the area has been expanded and updated, and the downstairs entry lobby has been opened up and improved. There also have been countless other repairs behind the scenes, from new electrical systems to structural reinforcement to safety improvements.

The WRETT also has helped pay a portion of annual Wheeler operating costs This money allows the Wheeler to book level national musical, theater, film, comedy, family and other acts at affordable prices for locals and visitors. It also helps local schools and other arts groups rent the Wheeler at significantly discounted rental rates. In addition, every single year around $350,000 of money is given to local arts groups such as Anderson Ranch, Aspen Choral Society, Aspen Community Theater, Aspen Film, Aspen Ballet, Aspen Writers Foundation, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Music Festival, Red Brick Center for the Arts, Theater Masters and Theater Aspen.

Due to increases in real estate prices, the WRETT has also built up a significant reserve fund. This fund is protected and separate from the City of Aspen's budget and can only used to support the Wheeler and local arts. If voters want to change that, they will have the opportunity to vote on uses of the fund in future elections.

The WRETT is a tax that many voters never pay, or only pay once when they buy a home in Aspen, at a rate of half a percent of the home purchase price. Renters do not pay the WRETT. Homebuyers in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority program do not pay the WRETT. It's not an annual tax or a sales tax paid on goods bought in Aspen. This type of real estate transfer tax is rare in Colorado and due to changes in state laws, if they don't get renewed then they are gone forever. If the rates are reduced, then they can never be raised. This is important because amount of money that the WRETT brings in every year is dependent on real estate sales, which we all know can be very volatile.

If the WRETT isn't renewed, then reserve fund would be able sustain current operations for a few years, but after that the Wheeler would have to rely on the city budget, private donations or corporate sponsorships to raise additional money for renovations. Ticket prices would likely go up, rental rates for schools and local groups would likely increase and there would be less money available to local nonprofit arts organizations.

Please vote "yes" on 2E and support the Wheeler Opera House, local arts groups in Aspen and your community.

Chip Fuller


Letter: Think clean energy when you vote

I am writing on behalf of The American Renewable Energy Institute and that of the AREI board to express our endorsement and full support of national, state and local candidates and initiatives that are proactive on climate-change solutions and have strong platforms and implementation strategies for the transition from fossil to clean energy in addressing the climate crisis. It is our opinion and that of the world's leading scientific community that the window is rapidly shrinking to make the transition from a worldwide economy based on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels to a worldwide economy based on the rapid implementation of renewable, sustainable and energy-efficient technologies at the speed and scale necessary to solve the problem.

We now know that renewable energy, along with utility-scale battery storage, can provide the base load necessary to serve civilization's needs for all of its electrical generating capacity. Coupled with the rapid decrease in the price of solar and wind technologies, along with the emerging electric vehicle market and the retrofit of the built environment, we now have the opportunity to move into a new energy-efficient and sustainable world. Therefore, I urge you, when going to the polls on Nov. 8 or when you mail in your ballot, that you vote for all candidates and initiatives that support a new, clean-energy economy for the sake of our children and all future generations to come.

Chip Comins

Chairman and CEO, American Renewable Energy Institute

Letter: Vote “no” on Eagle County 1A

If you live in the mid valley part of Eagle County, hopefully you are aware of what will happen if 1A passes. Eagle County has proposed 4,500 units of "affordable housing," 20 percent of that slated for our side of the county.

That would be 900 units being put where? This does not include the developments on hold, i.e. the tree farm, the fields, the Crawfords, Forest Service land at Crown Mountain, the two projects by Basalt High School, and two or three others I can't remember right now. This could mean at least 2,000 new units in the mid-valley area, and Willits has not been built out yet.

I would like to know what "affordable" means when it is in this valley. I also would like to know, as a taxpayer, why I should be paying for other people to live here. I and many others have a hard enough time taking care of ourselves. I believe the service industry and other businesses should be picking up the bill. If that means their prices go up, so be it. At least I have the option to choose where I want to buy things or eat.

We all know in the future our property taxes will go up to pay for the already inept infrastructure i.e. roads that can't deal with the gridlock now, water, sewer, electricity, fire and police. There is a reason that Aspen wants to dam up Maroon and Castle creeks for future water use. I also ask why people who don't live in midvalley and are not part of Eagle County are encouraging us to vote "yes" on 1A. What agenda do they have

For those of us who live in mid valley, we have to think of why we moved here. If quality of life means something to all of us and not wanting to live in a mini Denver or L.A., then we should stand up against greedy developers and people who want to push their own agendas. There is only so much land and natural resources available. One should be able to recognize that midvalley is already being stretched beyond its limits.

The catch phrase "affordable housing" is used to silence voters who would otherwise vote against mass development. If you love the midvalley and your quality of life, vote "no" on Prop 1A.

Kathy Nilsen


Letter: Re-elect Rep. Hamner

I will say that economically it is clear the presidential nod goes to Clinton, who will keep our national and local prosperity on an even keel. But for the moment, forget the big tent with all its distractions, accusations, attacks and name-calling. Let's focus on the campaign for our state representative, Millie Hamner, who has worked and will continue to work tirelessly in the trenches on our behalf.

She is one of those incumbents who has dedicated her life to public service in the field of education for 35 years and in the state House to fund our public schools adequately and equitably. Her experience as a Western Slope school superintendent gave her the recognition and boost to become chairwoman of the State House Education Committee.

It is in our day in and out lives where we truly feel the effect of government the most tangibly. In the Roaring Fork Valley we care about the health of our forests, and Rep. Hamner supported continued funding for our forest programs, particularly the Forest Health Act. She has joined the growing chorus to oppose mineral extraction in the Thompson Divide. She is an environmentalist par excellence. She sees the relationship between protecting the wild habitat and the economics of tourism.

In the face of so much rancor and partisanship, she is a master at working across the aisle. Every bill she carried last year had a Republican co-sponsor.

She has been ubiquitous throughout our sprawling district, constantly holding town and neighborhood meetings. Please, mark your ballot boldly for Millie Hamner for another term as our state representative.

Bill Stirling


Letter: Aspen schools depend on your vote

The Aspen School District is at a financial crossroad. Please vote for the passage of ballot measures 2A in Snowmass Village and 2D in Aspen.

Three years ago, it became apparent to the Board of Education that for the foreseeable future the state of Colorado would be unable to fully fund its monetary obligation to the school districts of the state. That realization led the board and the administrative staff of the district to develop a budget-reduction task force and a three-pronged funding approach to offset the $2.1 million and growing annual state funding shortfall.

The three-pronged approach relies on local funding. Its success ensures the continuance of those educational programs and attributes that our community has stated it most values college counseling, International Baccalaureate, outdoor and experiential education, gifted and talented programs, robotics and coding classes, highly qualified staff, up-to-date technology and exemplary special education.

We are extremely grateful to our voters that the first prong of the plan was accomplished with the passage of the 2015 mill-levy ballot measure. To ensure the continued ability of the district to provide the excellence in education, we have come to expect and to protect those programs and attributes we most value; however, the passage of 2A in Snowmass Village and 2D in Aspen is critical. Ballot measure 2A in Snowmass Village provides for a mill-levy increase of $8 per $100,000 of valuation and over the next five years will raise $500,000 each year for our schools. Ballot measure 2D in Aspen will extend the existing 0.03 percent sales tax for an additional five years. Over the past four years the Aspen sales tax has raised an average of $1.7 million annually.

The voters of the Aspen School District have long recognized the benefits that excellence in education brings to our valley, and for their support we, as parents, community members and board members, cannot thank you sufficiently. Now is the time, however, to ensure that our children continue to receive a quality education with diverse offerings that address the needs of the whole child. Now is the time to implement a local solution to a state created problem. Now is the time to vote "yes" for ballot measures 2A and 2D.

Sheila Kennedy Wills and Margeaux Johansson

Aspen Board of Education

Letter: Vote Poschman for BOCC

Vote Poschman for BOCC

I support Greg Poschman for Pitkin County commissioner. He grew up here and knows the valley well. I have enjoyed working with Greg on the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies board and on river projects that he participated in as a member of the Pitkin County Healthy Streams Board. He is concerned that we not over-recreate in the back country, a concern I also share. Greg has the right touch of humility and concern for Pitkin County. He also has a killer sense of humor and is always helpful in contentious times. Let's vote him in.

Ken Ransford


Letter: The bigger picture of Amendment 70

The bigger picture of Amendment 70

I encourage everyone to vote "yes" on Amendment 70 to raise Colorado's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

True, this might not affect many people in this valley, where wages are higher. But believe me, it will make a world of difference to folks in the economically struggling parts of the state — like Grand Junction, where I work during the week.

Dave Reed


Letter: Schwartz is one of us

Gail Schwartz represents all our economic interests and she will protect our public lands from privatization. She is a consensus builder and represents our recreation industry: hunters, anglers, bikers, hikers, skiers, ranchers, wildlife viewers and conservationists.

Colorado annually earns about $35 billion from our outdoor recreation industry and supports more than 350,000 jobs. We need to protect our water, land and wildlife here in Colorado for we value these public lands. We need to keep them for future generations. Scott Tipton wants to sell them off to the oil and gas industry. Don't let this happen. Vote for Gail Schwartz for Congress!

Junee Kirk


Letter: Re-elect incumbents for EagleCo commission

Eagle County faces the challenge of being a large, geographically split region with population in both the Vail and Roaring Fork valleys. Two candidates for Eagle County commissioner have shown that they understand and actively address the issues of both areas of the county. Kathy Chandler-Henry and Jill Ryan continually seek out their constituents, listen carefully to their concerns and issues and work tirelessly to implement equitable and financially responsible solutions.

I urge all residents of Eagle County to re-elect Jill and Kathy.

Marjorie MacDonald


Letter: A case for Jeff Cheney

I have personally known Jeff Cheney for over 15 years, six of those in the District Attorney's Office as his legal assistant. He started as a lower level prosecutor and after I left the office, he became the assistant district attorney.

The first time I sat in on one of his many jury trials, I was immediately amazed at his professionalism, his ease in the courtroom and his grasp of the law. By the end of voir dire and the jury was seated, he had memorized every juror's name. I have been in the field of law for over 21 years and have never witnessed an attorney in trial that was as prepared, dedicated and determined and in total command of the trial and courtroom. Jeff always treated staff with the same respect he showed his fellow prosecutors; this made all of us respect him. This makes him the perfect and only true leader for the District Attorney's office.

I would now like to discuss the Jeff I know as a personal friend. After 9/11, as a military reservist, Jeff was tormented; he was not serving his country. Despite being a devoted husband and father, Jeff made the agonizing decision to not only leave his job but also leave his wife, daughter and toddler son to serve our country overseas. While in Iraq, Jeff insisted on being in the enemy line of fire and went on a number of dangerous patrols with his Army comrades. He put his life on hold, as well as in danger, for well over a year to serve the country that he so dearly loved and does still love to this day.

Also, I was involved along with Sherry Caloia on the Committee to Recall Colleen Truden. One of our concerns with regard to Truden was her expenditures. In particular, we learned she wanted to unnecessarily remodel the office. When I left the office in 2006, Garfield County had allocated other offices in the building and remodeled this space so that all the legal assistants had their own area. It was a big undertaking but left us with plenty of space. With Sherry expressing the most outrage in the news media regarding Truden's plan to remodel, I was shocked that Sherry found it necessary to "remodel" offices that were already remodeled at a cost of over $1 million. This money could have been better spent disbursing pay increases to those in the office.

I relocated to Florida in 2006 but have kept in touch with Jeff. He stills remains my closest friend and I cannot think of anyone with more compassion, integrity and knowledge of the law than Jeff Cheney for district attorney. If you have not had the chance to meet Jeff and discuss his qualifications for district attorney, please visit his website at http://www.cheney4da.com and vote for him!

Carol Koris