Adam Frisch declares his candidacy for Aspen mayor

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Adam Frisch

ASPEN – Adam Frisch – the newest member of the four-man Aspen City Council – said Sunday that he will run for mayor.

In both a statement he emailed to the media and a brief interview at The Aspen Times, Frisch, 45, kept turning to his theme of bringing “common sense” to the job.

The email said Frisch is convinced that a “common-sense approach to planning and problem-solving will make day-to-day living easier and better” for Aspen residents and business owners.

During the interview, he expounded on the sentiment that the city has lacked common sense with some of its regulations and actions over the years.

“I think what’s happened over the years is that a little bit of regulation, a little bit of fee, a little bit of mitigation has turned into the assumption that ‘if a little bit is good for the town, then five or 10 times of that must be really good for the town.’ And I don’t agree with that,” he said.

He cited the recent example of the Nugget Gallery on East Hyman Avenue. The owner, Ross Kribbs, has operated in an unusually shaped hallway off the pedestrian mall for two years under a temporary permit; the city’s regulations require him to pay more than $100,000 worth of affordable-housing mitigation fees to make his gallery permanent.

The city’s planning staffers have recommended that no extensions of the temporary permit be granted after it expires in July. Compromise discussions between Kribbs and officials are said to be under way.

“Filling up the nooks and crannies of our existing building structures in Aspen is a great way to revitalize or encourage some small-business owners, but obviously with these kinds of fees it’s literally impossible to do,” Frisch said. “(Council members) started to look at it, and we all started scratching our heads. Those rules have been on the books for years.”

He said city officials and elected leaders should do a more frequent job of checking in with the community to see if there are any hindrances to progress that ought to be eliminated.

“Are we still asking for things that aren’t going to be beneficial to the community?” Frisch said.

He acknowledged that previous and future municipal code changes based on the direction of the Aspen Area Community Plan advisory document are under way, but he said many outdated regulations such as the one relating to the Nugget Gallery were overlooked.

Frisch is serving his first term as an Aspen council member. He was elected in May 2011 to a four-year term that started in June. Should he fail to win the mayor’s post, he would remain in his council chair for another two years.

Mayor Mick Ireland is barred from seeking a fourth consecutive term because of term limits. He has said that he might run for a council spot.

Councilman Steve Skadron, who is serving his second consecutive term, declared his candidacy for mayor last week. Re-elected in the same election that Frisch won, he also would remain in his seat for two more years should he fail in his bid for city government’s top spot.

Not only are Skadron and Frisch seeking the mayor’s race, but Councilmen Torre and Derek Johnson also have indicated strong interest.

Petitions to qualify for council or mayor can be picked up in the City Clerk’s Office starting March 18. Mayoral candidates must record at least 25 valid voter signatures under the process. The deadline to turn them in is 5 p.m. April 5.

The election will take place May 7; a runoff, if necessary, would be June 4.

Frisch knocked a notion that is sure to arise during campaign season: that he lacks sufficient experience in city government and longevity as an Aspen resident to do the job.

The Minnesota native, a former Wall Street currency trader, moved to Aspen in 2003. He said he first started coming to the area in 1975 and fell in love with the town, “when lift tickets were $15 or $16.”

“I spent a little time here in high school and way too much time here in college when I was going to school in Boulder,” he said. “During my 10 years in Aspen, I’ve been active not just in city government stuff but the nonprofit sector, the small-business sector, the schools.

“It doesn’t take 10 years of sitting on the council to figure out what’s important to the community and what it takes to go forward.”

Frisch touted his involvement in issues pertaining to the local affordable-housing program. For four years, he has served on the Housing Frontiers Group, an advisory board that has examined financial problems faced by homeowners’ associations of housing developments overseen by the program. He also served on Pitkin County’s Financial Advisory Board from 2004 until he ran for council in spring 2011.

“Part of me wishes that I had lived here 30 or 40 years,” he said. “But I did pick up a couple of nuggets of information before I made my path here.”

As for the housing program, Frisch said he is a “big believer” in its intent – to keep a large percentage of the city’s work force as residents of the city – but that it has to be carried out in a fiscally responsible way.

He said, however, that he believes that homeowners and their associations should bear the cost of a development’s widespread repairs resulting from their longtime neglect, not local governments. Still, the city should do what it can to advise and assist the associations without picking up the tab, he said.

Frisch said he enjoys getting along with his fellow council members and added that he believes philosophical disagreements and spirited debates don’t have to include personal animosity.

“I’m not looking to pick a fight just to pick a fight,” Frisch said.