Aspen candidates Torre, Hauenstein uncover differences on Gorsuch Haus, immigration |

Aspen candidates Torre, Hauenstein uncover differences on Gorsuch Haus, immigration

City Council candidates Ward Hauenstein, left, and Torre enjoy a laugh at the runoff Squirm Night held at GrassRoots in Aspen on Wednesday evening.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Aspen City Council candidate Ward Hauenstein on Wednesday night applauded Pitkin County government’s willingness to forfeit federal funds rather than “kowtow” on immigration enforcement.

His opponent, Torre, took a more cautious approach when asked if Aspen should take a position as a sanctuary city. He said he would need to study the county’s actions more thoroughly before he could state a position.

That was one of the biggest differences to emerge during a Squirm Night debate between the two candidates in the June 6 runoff election. Hauenstein and Torre were second and third in the May 2 election, advancing to round two. Incumbent Ann Mullins gathered enough votes May 2 to return to office.

In a response to a Squirm Night question on immigration-related issues, Hauenstein said if a person is in the country illegally but is a productive member of the community and isn’t breaking any laws, then law enforcement shouldn’t be “targeting” them.

He stopped short of advocating Aspen as a sanctuary city because that implies an illegal immigrant would be protected even if they committed a crime. “We should be a welcoming city,” he said.

“We should not profile. We should not go out of our way to arrest. If somebody commits a crime, that’s another story,” Hauenstein said. “There should be no hiding for somebody that commits a crime.”

There are all sorts of jobs in Aspen’s resort economy that American workers shy away from, such as maintenance, landscaping, kitchen work and housekeeping, he said. Deporting all workers who are in the country illegally could have major implications for the local economy, he said.

Torre questioned the accuracy of Hauenstein’s assertion that American citizens wouldn’t take those jobs, but he didn’t dwell on the point. He stressed he isn’t looking for “active deportation” of law-abiding community members. But he also said he couldn’t support a city resolution that follows the county’s lead without more study.

“I’m not going to agree to that,” Torre said. “I want more details before I start saying things like that.”

Some of his questions revolve around understanding the naturalization process better, including its shortcomings.

“Some of the illegals that are in our country, why are they still?” he asked. “From what I’ve seen, there’s been enough issues with people trying to gain citizenship and they can’t. I have too many questions on the other side of the coin, as well.”

Additional differences came out when moderators Rick Carroll of The Aspen Times and Curtis Wackerle of the Aspen Daily News steered the conversation on whether the location of a chairlift was a potential “deal-breaker” in the Gorsuch Haus hotel review before the council.

Hauenstein said the lift location “isn’t a black-and-white issue.” He’s received some input from town residents that the lift must extend farther down the hill than proposed. Others say it’s fine at the proposed location, similar to the existing alignment.

“I don’t think the rubber-tire solution with eight shuttles an hour going up Aspen Street is acceptable,” he said.

He said he supports the city’s direction of tabling the review until an independent study of lift alignment options is completed. Hauenstein noted Aspen Skiing Co. has made clear it won’t replace Lift 1A without a hotel, so the lift alignment is a potential deal-breaker from their perspective.

Torre said his position on the hotel isn’t contingent on bringing the lift lower into town.

“As I’ve said on the Gorsuch Haus, I have many questions,” Torre said, including “whether that’s the right move for the city of Aspen at all at that location.”

“I still have a lot of questions about a base facility over there and what does the community really want,” Torre added. “I don’t like the idea of being held hostage for a new lift contingent on some size or some semblance of a hotel. So when I say, ‘No, approval of the hotel does not have to come with a lift,’ I don’t think that those are linked at all.”

Torre and Hauenstein both criticized the city government for including 3,000 square feet of space in new office proposals that aren’t allocated. They want the city to be more frugal with its planning and not just assume future growth.

“So, dude, we agree on something,” Hauenstein joked.

“There’s one,” Torre countered.

But they had different views on how to arrive at a decision on the right size for city offices.

“I would send it to the electorate,” Hauenstein. A citizens’ group collected enough signatures of registered voters to potentially force an election on the city’s plan. However, the city is still reviewing if the issue is subject to a referendum.

Torre said he supports letting residents have their say, but he said the council should be more responsive to input and adopt a “better plan.”

Both men have been involved in Aspen civics for years, Torre as a councilman for eight years and Hauenstein on various city committees and leading citizens’ initiatives.

Hauenstein said they hold many similar stances.

“Torre has a lot of positions that are hard to argue with,” Hauenstein said. “There’s not a lot I disagree with.”

Torre acknowledged that Hauenstein is a “nice guy,” but he said there are differences in how they would approach governing. Torre claimed Hauenstein has been effective at pointing out problems, but not as quick to propose solutions. Torre said he would work harder to chart the council’s direction.

The one-hour debate can be seen on GrassRoots TV.

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