Alliance questions Aspen City Charter
August 12, 2002
The Common Sense Alliance appears ready to challenge an Aspen City Charter provision that allows only registered city voters to initiate the process of putting a citizen-sponsored question on a ballot.
The alliance is planning to put a question regarding the Entrance to Aspen before voters next May, according to Jeffrey Evans, the group’s treasurer and spokesman.
Evans is seeking clarification from City Attorney John Worcester on who can organize a citizens’ initiative and who can circulate the petitions.
He notes a recent ruling by the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that struck down an Arvada, Colo., ordinance prohibiting nonresidents from circulating initiative, referendum and recall petitions.
The City Charter doesn’t regulate who may circulate petitions, according to Worcester. It does, however, contain a provision that reads: “Any five electors may commence the initiative or referendum process.”
“I would interpret that to be electors of the city,” Worcester said.
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Evans predicted the alliance would be willing to challenge the constitutionality of that provision.
Anyone ought to be allowed to sign on as a member of the organizing committee that files a referendum or initiative petition with the city clerk’s office, he argued.
The Entrance to Aspen is the ideal issue with which to challenge a charter provision that allows only city electors to commence a citizens’ initiative, since interest in the entrance extends beyond city borders, Evans contends.
“Here’s a case where the entire valley is affected by a choice that Aspen voters seem to think is their own,” he said. “Aspen has always sort of jealously guarded its autonomy as if no one else has a right to comment.”
Evans, who resides in Redstone, said he would like to participate in putting forward the initiative envisioned by the alliance and in circulating the petitions, if only to ensure someone who is committed to completing the task of collecting signatures is involved.
“Before I would start something like this, I would like the ability to participate myself,” he said.
In addition to an opinion on who can serve on a petition committee and as a circulator, Evans has asked Worcester for his input on the proposed ballot initiative the alliance has drafted regarding the entrance.
The alliance, a political-action group that occasionally campaigns on transportation-related ballot issues, is contemplating a petition drive to put a four-lane entrance alternative before voters next spring.
The question would ask voters if the city should take steps to expand the environmental approvals for the entrance to allow a four-lane highway between Buttermilk and the upper end of Main Street, crossing over the Marolt-Thomas Open Space. The highway would include two unrestricted lanes of traffic and two high-occupancy vehicle lanes during peak commuting hours. The question also allows for future construction of a rail component, pending separate voter approval.