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Aspen Times Weekly: ‘The Front Runner’ at the Denver Film Festival

Something changed forever in American culture, media and politics in the spring of 1987, during the three weeks between Colorado Sen. Gary Hart's dramatic presidential campaign announcement at Red Rocks and his ignominious retreat from public life amid a sex scandal.

Those three weeks are the subject of Jason Reitman's new film, "The Front Runner," starring Hugh Jackman as Hart, leading a sprawling ensemble cast. It tracks, from every angle, the candidate's undoing amid allegations of an extra-marital affair and the moment where the media switched how it would cover politicians' personal lives.

"We wanted to make a movie from the point of view of 20 different people — the journalists, the campaign people, Hart's family members — many people trying to understand the scandal as the world shifted underneath their feet," Reitman said before a screening at the Denver Film Festival. "A movie without heroes and without villains, just normal people trying to do the right thing."

With a sweeping style and a true-to-life messiness in dialogue reminiscent of Robert Altman, "The Front Runner" hops from crowded newsrooms in Miami and Washington to the frenzy of Hart's Denver campaign headquarters and the carnival of the campaign trail, back to his wife and daughter home in Troublesome Gulch. At the story's center is Hart's relationship with the 29-year-old Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), but the nature of their relationship is left ambiguous. Instead, Reitman focuses on how his morally ambiguous characters react to it.

(Aspen's small part in the Hart saga is among the details Reitman leaves out of the film. The senator met Rice at a New Year's Eve party at Don Henley's house in Woody Creek. But Reitman ignores that and depicts Rice and Hart's time together months later on the notoriously named "Monkey Business" yacht in Miami as their first encounter.)

Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler (Steve Zissis) acts on an anonymous tip that Hart is having an affair and stakes out Hart's Washington home in the hopes of catching him meeting Rice for a tryst. Fiedler and other reporters eventually confront Hart in the alley behind his house. That dramatic and unprecedented moment in campaign trail history, when Reitman heard about it on the podcast "Radiolab," inspired the filmmaker to tell this story.

"I couldn't believe that the next president of the United Stats wound up in this alleyway in the middle of the night with these journalists and nobody knew what to do because no one had been in their shoes before," Reitman said. "It felt like a movie — like a Western stand-off in the midst of a film noir."

Despite the tawdry scandal his name now evokes, Hart was a cerebral policy wonk. The film deftly communicates some of the senator's prescient ideas. In an early scene where he's being pressed by a reporter about his marriage, for instance, Hart is working on policies to the combat religious extremism and terrorism that he foresees rising after the Cold War. After the Rice scandal has broken and his campaign staff is pressing him to respond publicly, Hart refuses so that he can focus on a speech about the digital economy he knows will emerge in the years to come.

Despite those insights, somehow, he was blind to the way the media was changing, how his personal and family life were fair game in the campaign, and how his sex life might cripple his bid for the presidency.

Mike Littwin, the veteran Colorado reporter and columnist who covered Hart, argued in a panel at the festival that Hart — private and unfaithful — was basically in the wrong campaign at the wrong time.

"He was at the exact wrong moment to be Gary Hart," Littwin said.

In the 1984 campaign, when Hart first ran for president, the press knew he'd been separated from his wife and had other romantic partners, Littwin said. They didn't report it. In 1988, they decided that they would. So four years before the events of "The Front Runner," a candidate's affair didn't matter because the press wouldn't report it. Four years later, an affair didn't matter because — as Bill Clinton proved — you can still win if you're willing to endure the embarrassment of revelations.

Reitman co-wrote the screenplay with veteran political operative Jay Carson and journalist Matt Bai. It's based on Bai's book, "All the Truth is Out." They began working on it in 2015, before Donald Trump's election, before "grab 'em by the …" and before revelations of the Stormy Daniels affair and Playboy model hush payments. However, Bai argued in Denver, the seed of the Trump era circus were planted during Hart's downfall.

"What the film captures is a moment in which entertainment and politics collided — two cultures that had been separate, coming together — and when we began to treat politicians like celebrities," Bai said. "When you create a process that treats politicians like celebrities, I believe, you are bound to get entertainers as your politicians."


Juvenile who shot, killed dog near Carbondale sentenced two years in youth division

A Garfield County district judge sentenced a 14-year-old boy Wednesday to two years in the Colorado Division of Youth Services for shooting a dog to death and transgressions he committed in two unrelated cases.

That's according to prosecutor Tony Hershey, who provided limited details about the proceeding Judge Paul Metzger closed to the public, other than those parties directly involved in the case.

"This is about protecting the community and helping this child," Hershey said after the hearing.

Hershey and public defender Elise Myer had been under the judge's directive not to speak publicly about the case. After his decision to close the hearing, however, Metzger said, "I think it's appropriate for the court for a reporting of the outcome of the sentence as it relates to the case."

Held in the Garfield County Courthouse, the proceeding wrapped up a case stemming from the Jan. 24 arrest of the boy, who was 13 at the time, for gunning down a yellow Labrador retriever in a residential neighborhood near Carbondale.

The judge permitted Kirsten Pamp-Friel, who owned the dog, Otis, with her husband and daughter, to attend the hearing because she was a victim in the case.

"It's been such a long, drawn-out thing, it's hard to feel happy about any of it," she said afterward. "But I'm glad to move on."

Pamp-Friel has been in touch with the juvenile's parents, she said.

"His family reached out to express their sadness about it," she said. "They are lovely people."

The parents previously declined interview requests from The Aspen Times, and they could not be reached by telephone after the hearing. They were in court with their son, who had clean-cut hair and wore a gray sweatshirt hoodie.

The defendant, who has been in juvenile custody since Pitkin County sheriff's deputies arrested him, has not apologized to Pamp-Friel and did not speak at the hearing, Pamp-Friel said.

The judge also allowed the owner of Otis's mother to make an opening statement at the hearing on the condition he leave the proceeding after his remarks. The judge also permitted the owner to have the dog in the courtroom while he made his statement.

Woodland Park resident Richard Metcalf, who made the statement, would not comment afterward about what he said.

"Given the controversy that has existed in regards to publication of the material, I'm declining to make a comment," he said outside the courtroom.

Myer argued that Metcalf and his dog should not have been allowed to attend the hearing because they were not victims. Hershey had given Metcalf permission to attend on the basis that he also was a victim, and the owner and his dog cleared the courthouse security before entering the courtroom.

"Otis's owner, I have zero objections to her being in the courtroom," Myer told Judge Metzger in open court before the hearing began. "I do have an objection to the other interested citizen of being in the courtroom, the gentleman who did bring with him a dog and that dog that did birth Otis. I have an extreme objection to a dog being allowed in the courtroom.

"The dog is not a service animal. The dog is not a therapy animal in any way. I have concerns that the security guards blindly and without consulting the appropriate parties just allowed a dog into a courtroom because Mr. Hershey said it's OK."

The judge's sentence was part of a global disposition in which the three criminal cases were adjudicated with a single punishment. The nature of the other two cases was not discussed in the open hearing.

"I'm dealing with one case involving the killing of the dog, and I'm dealing with another case in which I always close the courtroom," Metzger said.

Colorado's revised statutes do not specify which juvenile hearings a judge can close to the public, but they do provide a judge with leverage on whether to keep a proceeding open or closed.

"The general public shall not be excluded unless the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child or of the community to exclude the general public, and, in such event, the court shall admit only such persons as have an interest in the case or the work of the court, including persons whom the district attorney, the county or city attorney, the child, or the parents, guardian, or other custodian of the child wish to be present," according to the statutes.

That was how Metzger drew his conclusion, saying, "It is in (the juvenile's) best interest to have this proceeding closed to the public."

Hershey argued that the media should be allowed to attend the hearing; Myer opposed it, as did the juvenile's case manager. Myer also was opposed to the judge's allowing the sentence be made public.

"I'm aware that this case has gotten a lot of publicity," Hershey said, "and a very smart lawyer yesterday told me that if it hadn't been a dog involved here, maybe it wouldn't have gotten as much attention. But regardless, it has, your honor. And I think essentially the public has a right to know."

Without media attention, Hershey argued, "Everyone today who is working, who has an interest in this case, even after a year, or may not have interest in this case, is being denied access to the court — not just (the reporter), but every single person who can read The Aspen Times, not just the paper copy, but the online version."

Myer, however, said Hershey is feeling "political pressure" to publicize the case because of community questions about it.

"I understand, and I believe, that there is significant pressure that has been placed on Mr. Hershey," she said. "People have called him over and over and over again every time (the juvenile) has had court. I understand that he feels certain political pressures."

Myer said the defendant and his family, as well as herself, have been subjected to threats of violence and online vitriol.

"When we have people calling for violence to be done to a child, calling a child a monster, he has to hear about these things," she said. "He shouldn't have to hear that this is what is being said of him or about him. He shouldn't have to know that because of certain allegations against him that his parents have suffered community ramifications.

"This has been an incredibly emotional and difficult process for them that they have suffered certain consequences that people look at them differently; people don't talk to them. They've been chastised by the community, and while there is very much an interest of people in the community to know what's going on, there is no regard for really the well-being of the community, because if there were, we wouldn't have certain things printed or allowed in newspapers. We wouldn't condone that."

Hershey countered: "All the problems that Ms. Meyer said can be resolved if the light of the First Amendment shines in this courtroom. There are always going to be crazy, stupid people out there who don't get it. But if you keep it a secret, if you keep this a star chamber, my concern is that it could be worse, so I just ask that court follow the Constitution of the state of Colorado and the United States."

Metzger has kept the hearings closed since the defendant's second court appearance in February.

While Pitkin County deputies arrested the defendant, the case was held in Garfield County because he also faced criminal charges there.

The same day as the teenager's arrest, he allegedly left the Garfield County Courthouse where he was due on other charges. The boy left while his guardian was using the bathroom.

From there, he broke into a home in the Glenwood Springs area and stole at least one firearm before he hitched a ride to the Crystal River Valley area where he purportedly fired two shots near a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever that was on private property.

The boy fired two shots from a trail near the home. The first shot, from a revolver, misfired. The second one, from a rifle with a scope, hit the chest of Otis, which then went inside the home on the property. The dog later died on the living room floor, where one of his owners found him. Another yellow lab on the property, Daisy, was not hurt, family members said.

In association with that incident, Hershey charged the boy with cruelty to animals and burglary, both of which would have been felony counts if he had been charged as an adult.

The Youth Services is a division of the Colorado Department of Human Services. For the time being, the boy will be the custody of its Grand Junction facility, Hershey said. He also will undergo further evaluations.

The killing has taken a toll on her family, Pamp-Friel said.

"I don't get my dog back," she said. "There is a before and now there's an after. And to be honest, it just changes you."


Final Stranahan donation sterilizes upper Lenado

Completing a process that began more than 40 years ago, local icon George Stranahan donated the last piece of property he owns in the upper Lenado area to Pitkin County's open space program Wednesday.

"George has done so much along these lines, something should be named after him," Commissioner Greg Poschman said. "George's legacy is rooted in all these parcels he's put in the public trust."

Stranahan — who lived on a large ranch in Woody Creek about halfway to Lenado for 40 years before moving to Carbondale about a decade ago — first conveyed a conservation easement to the Aspen Valley Land Trust in 1978 on 338 acres of mining claims he owned in the upper Lenado area.

In fact, that easement marked the first time a Colorado land owner placed such an easement on his property after a state law allowing it was passed, said Dale Will, acquisition director for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program. The 1978 easement excluded the 10.4-acre parcel donated Wednesday because Stranahan had selected the area to build a cabin, which occurred in 1982, Will said.

"This is a journey that really began 40 years ago," he said. "George decided to try and protect upper Lenado."

The cabin was removed from the property in 2009, while a transferred development right was issued in 2017 and a deed restriction placed on the property, according to a memo from Will to commissioners.

"This is the last of Mr. Stranahan's properties in this large area," Will said. "Everyone who's been there knows it's a stunning place."

The donation effectively sterilizes the upper Lenado area from development, with only a couple of parcels containing cabins, he said.

"Accepting this parcel would make the county owner of all the mining claims heretofore owned by George Stranahan," Will wrote in the memo. "We appreciate Mr. Stranahan's vision in keeping this area wild."

Will and others hiked to the site in September and found no mining pollution or any other obvious environmental hazards, he said. It will be managed as part of the open space program's "backcountry parcel management policy," which dictates that property bordering federal lands be managed in the same manner, Will said.

Commissioner Rachel Richards thanked Stranahan for the donation Wednesday and suggested creating a "certificate of appreciation" for him as a lasting thank you from the county.

"We really should commemorate and give something substantial to people who donate," she said.

"I think that's a great idea," said Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper.

Stranahan, an heir to the Champion spark plugs fortune, is a longtime supporter of local nonprofits, a benefactor of the Aspen Community School and was long considered the patriarch of Woody Creek.

Stranahan did not attend Wednesday's meeting and did not return a phone message seeking comment.


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."


Father of man accused of starting Lake Christine Fire asks for trial in trespass case

EAGLE — Craig Miller said he is not guilty and will take his chances at trial.

Miller, whose son Richard is accused along with Allison Marcus of sparking the Lake Christine Fire, pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to charges that he stormed to a neighbor's house and confronted them, accusing them of telling police that Richard and Marcus were in his Missouri Heights home.

"Mr. Miller vehemently denies engaging in any criminal behavior. We look forward to clearing his name and telling his side of the story at trial," said Michael Fox, Craig Miller's attorney.

Richard Miller and Marcus, both 23, each face felony arson charges. They are accused of firing incendiary rounds at a Basalt shooting range that started the Lake Christine Fire on July 3.

Craig Miller, Richard's father, was arrested for his alleged behavior when Eagle County deputies received a tip July 14 that his son and Marcus were at his Missouri Heights home.

Craig Miller, 49, allegedly became upset that someone had tipped off law enforcement officials. Police say he angrily charged over to a neighbor's house to confront them, according to his arrest affidavit.

There was reportedly some miscommunication about what date in July that Richard Miller and Marcus would turn themselves in.

District Attorney Bruce Brown said he interpreted it would be July 13.

Craig Miller said he interpreted it to be July 16, a Monday, and had asked that law enforcement stay away from the house that weekend because they were hosting family members.

Police say that when law enforcement officials arrived, Miller went to a neighbor's house, "knocking on the door, screaming and trying to get into the locked home," the incident report said. When law enforcement arrived, the neighbor said Miller had used a crowbar to try to get in.

Shortly after Craig Miller was placed in the back of a patrol car and placed under arrest, Richard Miller and Marcus exited the house with their hands in the air and said they wanted to surrender, police said.

All three remain free on bond.

Craig Miller's three-day trial is scheduled to begin April 8, 2019, before District Court Paul Dunkelman on criminal trespass charges, a felony, and misdemeanor menacing charges. If convicted, he faces between one and three years in jail.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan told Judge Dunkelman that prosecutors had offered Miller a plea deal. Miller rejected it and will go to trial.

Miller is back in court Jan. 11 for a hearing in advance of his April trial.

The Lake Christine Fire burned from July 3 through early October and consumed more than 12,500 acres in the Basalt State Wildlife Area and on Basalt Mountain in the White River National Forest. Firefighting costs are estimated at more than $17 million, part of a $40 million tab to fight four wildfires last summer, according to White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.


Micro-housing and free market river cabins part of new proposal for Basalt’s Pan and Fork

A developer working on a plan for the former Pan and Fork site in Basalt reduced the number of free-market units and created "micro-housing" and rental apartments to try to sweeten the pot for the Town Council.

Basalt River Park LLC, headed by midvalley businessman Tim Belinski, refined its plan to include 14 micro-housing units of about 500 square feet each. The idea is the small size will keep the studio and one-bedroom units affordable.

Another 10 units of rental apartments would be provided in two buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The size would average 1,000 square feet.

A final residential component would be the moneymaker. Belinski and company proposed 12 free-market "river cabins" of as much as 1,600 square feet.

Belinski and his team's architect, Rich Carr, floated the plan by the council to gauge reaction before formally reworking its application. The old plan, which featured 22 free-market sales units of as large as 2,400 square feet, was widely criticized by the council earlier this year.

The council didn't vote because the meeting was intended to be an informal discussion to try to make progress on a process that's been bogged down for years involving different plans by various developers. The meeting was designed as a way for the council to provide input on the direction.

"You started to hit the boxes that I think are important when we address our overall objectives," Councilman Bill Infante said.

Other council members expressed concerns about certain components of the plan.

"I think there's way too much housing still," Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said.

"If we're going to make something happen here, we're all going to have to make compromises," Councilman Auden Schendler said.

"I know not everybody likes the housing, but I really like the idea of micro-housing," he added. Creating vitality depends on placing people on the site, he said.

The plan's two centerpieces remain open space on the eastern end, closest to the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue, along with a community building. The town is pondering the purchase of up to an acre of the 2.3-acre site that Belinski's group has an option to purchase. The town would add the acre to the existing, adjacent Basalt River Park. The town's proposed budget for 2019 includes $1.6 million from various sources to purchase 1 acre for addition to a park.

In addition, the council majority insisted three weeks ago that the developer incorporate the community building into the plan. Town officials will consider buying and operating it as a place that would be rented for weddings and host community events.

The community building would overlook the open space and provide easy interaction with the park.

"It's a spectacular location," Carr said.

The community building would also incorporate a shared food space and bar area.

Infante objected to the concept of the town government buying and operating a community building. The private sector is better at heading such operations, plus such a facility would compete with other established entities, he said.

"The notion of having a town-owned wedding space, I don't see the logic of that," Infante said.

The proposal retains space for the ArtBase, a community arts center, but it is pared down from Belinski's original plan. It would be about 7,000 square feet, with a 5,000-square-foot footprint.

Additional commercial space, probably nonprofit offices, would be mixed in with some of the housing buildings.

Council members warned Belinski and Carr to prevent creating too much development and "walling" off the river or views from the park. Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said the project shouldn't look like "Anywhere, USA."

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer said the apartments and micro-housing must be affordable. She noted that a 38-unit mobile home park used to exist on the site. The town helped relocate the residents for fear of flood danger at the site. The town also spent funds to raise a portion of the site out of the flood plain.

"The backbone of our community that used to live here is not going to be able to live here" in the future, Schwoerer said.

The next step will be for Belinski's team to refine its application and provide details for the council to review. The next meeting will be scheduled in late November or early December, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.

"We fully intend to take public comment. We think that's important," he said.


City of Aspen approves $120M budget for next year

As part of its multimillion-dollar alternative transit experiment next year, Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved paying for more bus service between the Brush Creek Intercept Lot and downtown.

The estimated cost of the supplemental service is $276,000 and will be added to the city's annual local service contract with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

The mobility lab, called Shift, is scheduled to operate during the summer of 2019. One of the main goals in the roughly $2.5 million endeavor is to have between 600 and 800 cars parked daily at the Intercept Lot and have their drivers get in alternative transit into town.

The city plans to incentivize people via an app called "Miles," which will offer mileage redemptions through various vendors, both local and national.

The beefed-up bus service would operate only between the Intercept Lot and Rubey Park, stopping at BRT stations in between.

The extra expenditure is part of the city's 2019 budget, which council approved on first reading Tuesday as part of a continuation of Monday's meeting. Elected officials will formally adopt the budget later this month.

Next year's budget is $120.4 million, which includes appropriations authority for operational, debt service and capital outlay needs. It's a decrease of 6.2 percent from what was originally budgeted, according to City Finance Director Pete Strecker.

New supplemental funding is sought for 2019, much of which is related to public transportation, but also for new oversight of a city operation and other projects.

"This budget includes some items the council has been talking through awhile now," Strecker said. "Things like the Shift mobility lab project, bringing in the Red Brick Arts programming and facilities back into the city, the pedestrian mall project that we have some design money for and obviously getting a start on new city administrative offices."

City officials are revising a funding plan for new city administrative offices between Rio Grande Place and Galena Plaza, as approved by voters last week.

The city anticipates using a combination of available cash and outside financing. The entire project, which includes up to 40,000 square feet of new development and a remodel of the current City Hall, is expected to cost $46.1 million.

Strecker also pointed out some larger capital to council.

"We also have some significant capital items like additional affordable-housing projects, the addition of four electric buses and some things like automated utility metering that we've been talking about," he said. "There's a whole host of items in there that basically benefit the entire community."

To finish out this year's budget, council also agreed to supplemental requests by various city departments — $10 million in asks that have been previously discussed and approved over the past few months.

The largest single increase sought within these previously approved items is the $8.7 million expenditure authority associated with the affordable housing development process that includes the public-private partnership and the city of Aspen acting as the construction lender.

Other notable items include installing concrete at Seventh and Main streets that was added to the Hallam Street/Castle Creek Bridge project, the city's joint conservation easement acquisition for the Soldner property near the Burlingame housing development, and for additional stations and equipment for the bike-sharing program, which were offset largely by a grant and Pitkin County contributions.

Additionally, council on Tuesday signed off on nearly $1 million in new requests to be added to the 2018 budget, including:

Asset Management Plan Fund: $85,000 for additional efforts on the Castle Creek/Hallam Street project. These resources were for greater public outreach and additional flaggers during the construction, as well as further railing improvement costs and additional inspection services.

Asset Management Plan Fund: $104,500 is needed to address boiler issues at the Red Brick Center for the Arts that were discovered when the city took over the space.

Parks and Open Space Fund: $30,000 was requested to assist with the initial design and planning process associated with the Lift 1A corridor and the redevelopment of the base of Aspen Mountain's west side. This will cover improvements and boundary survey of city-owned properties and land-use consultation when discussing development options for the area.

Stormwater: $327,000 for upsizing pipe in a project behind the Red Brick that was previously not identified as insufficient to carry new flow levels. And the city needs to restore the landscape and trail that was affected by this work, at a higher cost than previously budgeted.

General Fund: $132,960 for various departments, including an increase for detox services for the city's share of those services with other entities, as well as resources for the community development department for temporary labor to help with complaints and enforcement issues, among other asks.

Wheeler Opera House: $76,610 for additional expenses tied to a restaurant changeover in the Wheeler Opera House and for water damage within the administrative offices below this space.

Transportation: $11,100 to improve cleaning services in the bathrooms at Rubey Park Transit Station.

Golf course: $62,180 for increased temporary labor costs due to the longer season and added curbside services, as well as staffing to keep up with more sales at the pro shop.

Technical/city policy: $155,760 for items related to grandfathered retirement benefits, net-zero reimbursement items and for items associated with technical accounting variances.


Carbondale tourism collaborative wins state grant

Carbondale and four other mountain towns are proving that it pays to work together when it comes to promoting tourism.

The Colorado Creative Corridor, which includes Carbondale, Paonia, Crested Butte, Ridgway and Salida, received $25,000 in matching grant funds from the Colorado Tourism Office to promote a 331-mile route through the Western Rockies.

Each of the five towns will contribute $5,000 to the marketing effort, bringing the tourism promotion board's budget to $50,000.

"We are delighted to receive a second year of funding from the Colorado Tourism Office to fund this initiative which supports rural destinations," said Andrea Stewart, executive director of Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and Carbondale Tourism. "Tourism is a critical pillar of Carbondale's economy, and we believe this PR and marketing campaign will help many local businesses thrive thanks to more tourism dollars."

The Colorado Creative Corridor launched in July 2018 as a collaboration of the tourism boards and chambers of the five towns. The group received the same amount of matching grants from the state a year ago, and the new funds will be used to continue the promotional efforts. That will include content development, website work, paid advertising, promotion of events and distribution of maps of the region to Colorado welcome centers.

The Colorado Creative Corridor's mission is to invite tourists to visit lesser-known recreational spots and experience mountain towns in a different way. The group developed a map of the area around the five towns, designed by Carbondale artist Laura Stover, and itineraries of suggested activities.

The Colorado Tourism Office awarded matching grants to 23 organizations for 2019, ranging from small awards of around $11,000 to $25,000, the maximum amount.

Carbondale and the other four towns are designated as creative districts by the state, making them eligible for certain grants to help attract greater artistic and entrepreneurial energy. The Creative Corridor is the first collaboration of designated creative districts that have begun working together to promote tourism.

Carbondale Tourism spokesperson Sarah-Jane Johnson said the Colorado Creative Corridor came about as the town was trying to find creative ways to promote tourism.

"The funding for most tourism marketing that we do comes from lodging tax," Johnson said. With relatively few accommodations, Carbondale began looking for ways to tap into funding from the state tourism office.

When Carbondale received the creative district registration, it seemed natural to collaborate with other local mountain communities with the same designation.

"This is the first real collaboration of creative districts to promote tourism offerings," Johnson said.


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.


Aspen Mountain will open Saturday with 130 acres, top-to-bottom terrain

Aspen Mountain will open Saturday with top-to-bottom skiing on 130 acres of terrain, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday.

Skico previously said it would open five days before the scheduled opening, but details weren't available on what terrain would be open. The mountain will debut for the season with 3,200 vertical feet of skiing and riding served by the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts. Trails will include One & Two Leaf, Upper Copper, Deer Park, Silver Bell, Silver Dip and Dipsy along with Spar Gulch and Little Nell.

"Our teams have been working incredibly hard to provide as much terrain as possible for early opening," said Katie Ertl, senior vice president of mountain operations. "As we continue to work hard throughout the week leading up to opening, we will expect flash openings on more advanced terrain as we see fit and safe."

For opening weekend through Wednesday, Nov. 21, lift tickets are $99 per day for adults and $59 for children, teens and seniors. Half-day tickets for adults are $68 and $41 for children, teens and seniors. All pass products are good for the early opening.

At Aspen Mountain, the lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Sundeck restaurant and Ajax Tavern will be open for food and drink. The Ski and Snowboard School will be open, as well.

Skico also confirmed that Snowmass will open as scheduled on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22. Skico estimated Snowmass will open with 475 acres of terrain.

The Snowmass trails for the opening will include Big Burn, Max Park, Lunch Line, Upper Scooper and Lower Hals to the bottom of the Village Express chairlift. The Elk Camp chair will serve the trails of Bull Run, Grey Wolf, Bear Bottom, Gunner's View and the Elk Meadows beginners' area. The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster also will be open.

The Elk Camp Restaurant, Up 4 Pizza and Sam's Smokehouse will be open for food and drink.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk Mountain will open Saturday, Dec. 8.

The ticket offices at the base of Aspen Mountain and at the Snowmass Base Village Gondola are open seven days a week.