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Aspen Times Editorial: Clinton for President

Lest we've forgotten, the presidential race, for all of its reality-television drama, is serious business.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been knocked silly by the right, and even the Bernie Sanders-supporting left, in her run for the White House.

She's still standing tall but bruised in the wake of the rhetorical pile-ons, mystery emails and unrivaled attacks on her, many of which are because of her gender.

Is she charismatic or a great orator? That's debatable, but one thing is clear: Hillary Clinton is an astute and savvy a politician as they come and won't let America's image go spiraling into the waste bin of modern history. As for opponent Donald Trump, his explosive, freewheeling rhetoric for the past 18 months should not only give Americans pause, it should make us frightened.

For sure, Clinton is hardly perfect — can you name one president who was? — but we are confident she has the chops and mettle as leader of the free world.

It is indisputable that Clinton's experience in domestic and foreign policy, from her time both as the first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, make her primed to take the next step. She has taken progressive stances on civil rights and educational policy, and her career in public service spans 40 years, including co-founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

And unlike Trump, she views America as an inclusive country comprised of many cultures, religions and values. Also, unlike Trump, you won't see her blow a gasket when she's criticized. She is thick-skinned and reasonable under pressure.

The stakes are too high and the polls are too close in this presidential race to vote for a third-party candidate or not vote at all. Hillary Clinton has shown us that she is superior to the Republican nominee, and the entire field of Democrats and Republicans, for that matter. This is not a game; it is serious stuff.

The Aspen Times endorses Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States. It should come as no shocker that this newspaper takes this position, but as far as we are concerned, she is the only choice.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

-Aspen Times Editorial: Schwartz for Congress

In the race for the 3rd Congressional District, we think former Aspen and Snowmass resident Gail Schwartz has proven herself as an effective legislator while serving in the state Senate from 2007 to 2015.

The Crested Butte resident often worked across to aisle to get things done. As a self-described centrist, we think her bipartisan efforts would be a refreshing addition to a Congress that has a track record of failing to work together. Scott Tipton, the incumbent seeking a fourth term, has passed just four bills in six years. We think Schwartz's criticism of his record holds water, and we agree that he's part of the so-called "do-nothing" Congress.

When Schwartz discusses the issues facing the district, specifically job losses on the Western Slope due to coal production declines, she talks about innovation. She doesn't think it's fair to give coal workers false hope that their jobs are coming back — instead, she has ideas for ways to train them for new opportunities in broadband and clean energy.

She blames free-market forces for the loss of coal-industry jobs across the Western Slope, while Tipton points to renewable energy legislation she helped pass as a state senator as one of the driving forces behind the declines. We think Schwartz's position that the free market is entirely responsible is a bit disingenuous, but we like her ideas on how to bring jobs back to those regions. Tipton has led innovative ideas in the district, too. His hydropower bill in 2011, for example, reduced government red tape in order to create jobs and expand clean energy projects such as a hydroelectric plant near Montrose.

In The Denver Post's endorsement of Tipton last month, the editorial board noted his "enlightened conservative balance between preserving the environment and public lands and also recognizing the importance of opening up some lands for oil and gas extraction."

Oil and gas extraction is something important to the constituents in the Roaring Fork Valley, specifically relating to Thompson Divide. Tipton has said he doesn't want oil and gas resources in the region to be locked up in perpetuity, and that the approach to swap Thompson Divide leases could create opportunities in other parts of the 3rd District where energy development is welcomed.

Schwartz takes more of an environmentalist approach, which might not represent the rest of the 3rd District as well as it represents constituents from Carbondale to Aspen. While she claims there's an achievable balance of preservation and natural resource extraction, she stands firm in her position that wildlife impacts and other environmental concerns are extremely important, which is in line with the beliefs of many constituents in this valley.

We agree with the Grand Junction Sentinel, which endorsed Schwartz, that Schwartz's portrayal of Tipton as an enemy of public lands is unfair and exaggerated. She maintains that she's the better choice when it comes to recreation and conservation on public lands, but that remains to be seen.

In a diverse district that encompasses 29 counties and more than 54,000 square miles, it's hard to find a candidate that represents all constituents equally. We feel Tipton has done a better job representing other parts of the district, while Schwartz's moderate approach would better represent this part of the district.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

Aspen Times Editorial: Support Basalt river park, library and Eagle County’s affordable housing initiative

Basalt voters are being asked in this election whether to buy the remaining private land at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.

Question 2F is a complicated, controversial issue with loads of history but the choice can be condensed down to vision.

Basalt residents who believe a legacy park along the Roaring Fork River would establish a unique and lasting identity for the town should vote to purchase the 2.3 acres from the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The ballot language calls for 1.3 acres of the land to be added to land the town already owns along the river. That additional 1.3 acres would enlarge the park and make it more accessible. The remaining 1 acre closest to the Rocky Mountain Institute building would be designated for commercial or "public purpose" development.

Basalt residents who believe the Community Development Corp. property along Two Rivers Road is better suited for broader development to revitalize downtown should vote against the measure.

We urge a "yes" vote. The ballot question authorizes the town to spend as much as $3.1 million for the purchase, but since the language was finalized, the town signed a contract to buy the 2.3 acres for $2.9 million. That's a smart community investment.

The icing on the cake is that the open space programs of Eagle and Pitkin counties have conceptually agreed to provide $400,000 each, a total of $800,000, toward the purchase. The open space advisory boards and county commissioners of both counties must formally approve the expenditures.

A legacy park would enhance the quality of life for Basalt residents and be a draw for tourists, just as Salida has evolved into an inviting and intriguing destination, in large part because of its awesome downtown park along the Arkansas River.

Basalt can have its cake and eat it, too. The 1 acre reserved for development could be an attractive location for uses that the council and community would negotiate with a developer.

The town's financial consultant made a convincing case some months back that Basalt can absorb this purchase and development of the park within its bonding capacity without hamstringing the community. Existing bonds are currently scheduled to be paid off in 2020. The property tax used to pay them off would be extended for another six years if questions 2F and 2G are approved. The property tax needed to pay for a legacy park purchase and development would expire in 2026.

Question 2G is a companion piece of the vision proposed in 2F. Basalt is seeking permission to issue $4.12 million in bonds for the park improvements. The bonds wouldn't be issued if 2F fails. Complete the whole deal and vote "yes" on 2G.

Approving 2F allows Basalt to control the destiny of its signature property. Approving 2G ensures the legacy park is built quicker.

On other ballot issues in Basalt, Question 2H seeks approval to use as much as 20 percent of the revenue from an existing 1 percent sales tax dedicated to open space, parks and trails for maintenance. That's sound planning. We recommend a "yes" vote on 2H.

Question 2I gives Basalt the ability to pursue new and improved options on bandwidth services. Numerous other municipalities and counties in Colorado have gone this route. Basalt should, too.

In a separate measure than those posed by the town government, Question 4A by the Basalt Regional Library District seeks an additional $350,000 in property taxes annually for operations. The funding would sunset after seven years.

Library district officials have made a convincing case that the funds are needed to maintain existing services and operations. The library administration and board run a tight ship. The library district says its expenses have increased only 5.6 percent between 2010 and 2016. However, the district lost $3 million in revenue from 2011 to 2016 because of lower property valuation in the district. The library district has been dipping into reserves in recent years to maintain hours and programs at existing levels.

The library has become a critical asset to Basalt. The community should protect its asset by providing the money needed to maintain the operations.

Other ballot issues affecting Eagle County residents in the El Jebel and Basalt area are 1A and 1B.

Question 1A relates to workforce housing. Eagle County is facing a significant housing shortage and estimates that 4,466 units are currently needed. By 2025, the estimate soars to 11,960 units. Ballot issue 1A asks for a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to raise money for an affordable-housing program that would include down payment assistance for loans, land purchases for future affordable-housing units and other partnerships and programs that would provide affordable housing.

Roughly 18 to 20 percent of Eagle County's population lives in the Roaring Fork Valley. An intergovernmental agreement would ensure that the representative portion of the money collected in the valley would remain here, said Chris Romer of the Vail Valley Partnership, which is backing the initiative.

While The Aspen Times doesn't like the fact that specific projects aren't outlined in this initiative, we think the organizers have the right ideas for the money raised. New construction of deed-restricted housing for both owners and renters, the purchasing of land for future development and of deed restrictions for existing properties, down payment assistance loans, incentives for developers and other private-public partnerships are the right approach to meeting the county's housing needs. There's no silver bullet approach, but a combination of smart growth and innovative options are what the county needs in order to tackle this problem. Given that Eagle County faces much of the same affordable housing needs as Pitkin County and has never had a funding mechanism in place to run such a program, we think it's time for voters to support an initiative that could make an important dent in the housing crisis.

Question 1B would extend a property tax for the open space program. If approved, the sunset provision would be extended from 2025 to 2040.

Eagle County has proven that it is willing to spend funds on this side of the hill, where 20 percent of the population lives. It has helped with several purchases of land or easements in the Emma area. That helps preserve rapidly disappearing agricultural land. Vote "yes" on Eagle County ballot question 1B.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

The Aspen Times Editorial: The Aspen School District needs voters’ support

Voters in the city of Aspen and the town of Snowmass Village are being asked to kick a little extra to the Aspen School District, which, along with schools across the state, is facing a funding shortage.

Challenged by a $2.1 million shortfall over the next five years, much of which is due to lower state funding, the Aspen School District is looking to the community for help. In Aspen, voters will decide whether to extend the existing 0.3 percent sales tax — set to expire in December — through Dec. 31, 2021. In Snowmass, where approximately 20 percent of Aspen School District students live, voters will decide whether they'll contribute to the school funding shortfall via a property tax that would cost each homeowner about $40 for every $500,000 in property value.

It is critical — whether you have children in Aspen schools, are an empty-nester or have no kids at all — that Aspen schools continue to meet the high expectations set by the community.

Some working-class Aspen residents continue to live here — despite it having a significantly higher cost of living than other downvalley towns and communities — because of the exceptional curriculum offered at the schools and the teachers who administer them. Other people move here because of the strong reputation of Aspen's schools.

A successful school district translates to a strong community — properties maintain their values, students are afforded countless opportunities they aren't necessarily afforded elsewhere (ExEd classes, the IB program and the Sister Cities exchange program are prime examples), while many of the students make positive impacts on the community both now and when they settle down here.

The Aspen Times editorial board can't find any reasons compelling enough to not support both of these ballot questions. The shortfall in funding isn't due to poor budgeting or stewardship by the school board; it's due in large part to the state's inability to meet its financial obligations to local school districts.

The Education Week Research Center gave Colorado a D+ in school finance in its 2016 Quality Counts report. Colorado spends roughly $2,500 less per pupil than the national average. Voting to approve these additional funding sources would minimize those impacts going forward.

We urge Aspen and Snowmass voters to support these two taxes in the November elections.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

Aspen Times Editorial: Vote for Butler, Shenk and Goode for Snowmass council

With so many important issues on the horizon for Snowmass Village, selecting the right members to serve on the Town Council is as important as ever.

The next council will be involved in approvals for the completion of Base Village under its new ownership, the future of Snowmass Discovery and an updating of the Comprehensive Plan, which the town refers to as its "most influential and significant planning document of the community."

There are three candidates — Jamie Knowlton and incumbents Alyssa Shenk and Tom Goode — running for two council seats, and two candidates — Richard Goodwin and incumbent Markey Butler — running for mayor. The Snowmass Sun is endorsing all incumbents because the ship is being steered in the right direction and we think this council deserves to stay intact.

Goodwin is too focused on representing the interests of Base Village homeowners rather than all constituents. He has made that single issue the focus of his campaign, and given the fact that he has sued the town of Snowmass Village twice — including an appeal he filed just weeks ago that could take years to come to a conclusion — we don't think it makes sense to support a candidate who's in the midst of suing the town for which he's running to serve.

Butler has proven during her time as mayor that she's a thoughtful leader and knows how to run meetings. She does her homework and guides consensus on a council that doesn't always see eye to eye. She takes a hard look at complicated issues, such as Base Village and most recently the town's ongoing support of Snowmass Discovery, and is a good steward of taxpayer dollars.

Challenger Jamie Knowlton has proven he has a passion for Snowmass, and we think he's a good candidate who could be a positive addition to the council; however, the Snowmass Sun wants to see Shenk and Goode finish the good work they've started. Shenk was appointed to the board two years ago when Butler won the mayoral seat. Shenk has added important representation for families living in Snowmass, a key perspective for a town that prides itself on its family-friendliness. She prepares for meetings and adds thoughtful insight to the issue. She works well with the other council members and keeps the best intentions for Snowmass at heart.

Goode deserves more time because he's a true public servant with a love for his town. He won a special election for former Councilman Chris Jacobson's seat just one year ago and has proven himself as an important voice on the council. Even as he faced a tough health obstacle this past year while battling cancer, he only missed one meeting. He feels up for the job and is enthusiastic about where Snowmass is heading.

As Butler put it in an interview with The Aspen Times, "This council has established a working relationship, we know when we disagree and how to move the needle."

We think these incumbents will continue to move the needle in the right direction for Snowmass.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

Aspen Times Editorial: Poschman for commissioner

Pitkin County voters will elect three county commissioners next month. Greg Poschman and Scott Writer are running for the only contested seat on the board — the District 3 seat currently held by term-limited Michael Owsley.

Poschman, a Democrat, has proven throughout the campaign that he has the chops to tackle county business. As an outspoken preservationist, Poschman would bring a smart approach to county land-use decisions, which often dominate the board's workload. He has the demeanor to work with diverse personalities and appears to be a good listener.

His opponent, Scott Writer, an independent, has centered much of his campaign around issues that are more Aspen-centric. The Aspen Times thinks Writer might be better suited to run for a City Council seat. Writer also appeared defensive and at times combative in last week's Squirm Night debate. It wasn't a good preview of how he might behave while working with other board members.

Both candidates are graduates of Aspen High School and have spent the majority of their lives here. They share a passion for the community and the drive to make it a better place for all who live here.

Poschman seems more cut out for the type of work the commissioners tackle such as open space and public works. His consideration for the environment and the general direction of the county would be a welcomed addition to the board. We think he'd be a good collaborator and would do his homework to make the right decisions for the betterment of the county.

Writer's development background and expertise could provide an added level of insight to land-use decisions, but the flipside is that his background might not be suited for a county that has been heading down a path toward slower growth. When so much of a commissioner's role involves zoning and land use, we think there's an inherent conflict in seating a developer on the board.

While it seems both candidates could benefit from doing a bit more studying of county-specific issues, The Aspen Times is endorsing Poschman as the man for the job.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.

Aspen Times endorsement: Vote ‘yes’ on three of four city questions

The city of Aspen has four ballot measures — mostly housekeeping-type issues ­— before voters this fall. The Aspen Times takes the following positions on each measure:

• Ballot question 2B relates to the city's broadband authority. A vote for this measure would give the city local control on whether it wants to bring in other internet service providers, opting out of a 2005 state Senate bill that forbids governments from competing with the private sector over broadband service. It's essentially the same measure that Pitkin County voters approved last November by a landslide 5,013 to 427 votes. The Aspen Times supports a "yes" vote on question 2B.

• Ballot question 2C is an amendment to the city's charter, granting the City Council the authority to approve the hiring of both the city's chief of police and community development director. We think this is a knee-jerk reaction to last year's drama in the Community Development Department. It politicizes two positions more than they have been traditionally, and we don't think that's a good thing. Also, amending the city's charter means it would require another vote to change it back. The City Council should be involved in policymaking — that's what the people have elected them to do.

The city shouldn't amend its charter as a reaction to one specific problem. The Aspen Times asks residents to vote "no" on question 2C.

• Ballot issue 2D extends the city's existing 0.3 percent sales tax for educational purposes. We think the Aspen School District is a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and, especially for that reason, we'd be hard-pressed to find a reason not to support local education. Vote "yes" on 2D.

• Ballot issue 2E, an extension of the Wheeler Real Estate Transfer Tax of 0.5 percent through 2039, would continue to raise revenue that is essential to the operations of the city's historic Wheeler Opera House. The venue is a valuable community asset, and those who operate it have been good stewards of the property and the Wheeler's budget. Without the real estate transfer tax for the Wheeler, which generated $5.4 million, the historic venue wouldn't be financially equipped to make upgrades or remodels to this community treasure. We urge residents to vote "yes" on issue 2E.

The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll, and Aspen residents Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.