Aspen City Council applicants quizzed on issues
The Aspen Times
In what was billed as a “Squirm Night-style event” to give the public a look at who might fill the vacant Aspen City Council seat, 10 of 11 applicants for the position answered questions on a variety of community issues during a live broadcast on Community Government TV on Thursday evening.
The event was moderated by Grassroots TV personality Erik Skarvan. The 10 applicants were separated into two separate flights for interviewing purposes. The only applicant who did not attend was Jay Maytin, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Resident Scott Writer touted his knowledge of the city’s affordable-housing program and other issues. A prolific letter writer to the city’s two newspapers, Writer said he would seek to support Aspen’s “messy vitality” and promote fun in a town that’s become too serious-minded.
“There’s a lot of nuts and bolts to do on the council that isn’t fun,” he said, “but it should just be a big ol’ party. I mean, that’s our industry. … It’s recreation. It’s mind, body, spirit, (and) people come here to have a good time. If we’re having a good time, they are, too.”
Hyatt Grand Aspen concierge Wendle Whiting said he wanted to give Aspen’s young adults a voice in city government. He said there’s a reason why a low percentage of Aspen residents between ages 18 and 39 vote in municipal elections: The elections are unfairly scheduled during the spring offseason, when the service-industry crowd tends to go on vacation after a long winter tourist season.
Young adults in Aspen are extremely involved in the community, yet they are left out of the process, Whiting said.
“My specific niche here is a perspective on the council that would be different than everyone else’s and I think would represent a very large portion of the community that’s not represented, and that’s hospitality, service industry and tourism,” he said. “My professional career has been involved with them day in and day out.”
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Cliff Weiss said he has many years of experience in dealing with the city’s zoning laws.
“I think I bring a perspective about balancing the resort and the community,” he said. “And I’m willing to stand up for what the community wants. I’m not afraid to say no.”
Former Councilman Dwayne Romero, who ran third in his recent election bid to return to the council, mentioned his long record of public service and said he would provide a balanced approach to issues that often divide the community.
On a question about whether the city should bail out the Centennial affordable-housing development, where homeowners face much-needed and expensive repairs, Romero said he’s not in favor of creating a special taxing district for their properties alone. He said the tax wouldn’t raise enough revenue to help them and that a better solution might be providing the homeowners’ association there with a low-interest loan through the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Bert Myrin said with new leadership in city government — former Councilman Steve Skadron is the new mayor, and there are two new faces on the council, Ann Mullins and Art Daily — he would be a supportive presence in the seat, not antagonistic.
Regarding the Centennial question, he said it’s also important to recognize that many private developments received city assistance for their renovations over the past decade through incentives such as the municipal “infill” codes that sparked rapid development. In recent years, some council members have worked to reverse the “infill” legislation that Myrin vehemently opposes, but that work is not considered complete.
Community activist Lee Mulcahy, a self-described “Libertarian tea partier,” said he would promote the concepts of reduced government.
He said he believes it’s shameful that the Roaring Fork Valley has a full-time homeless shelter for pets but not people. He also described the controversial Aspen Art Museum project as “Darth Vader’s Mountain of Doom” and said city development regulations and sign codes should be simplified.
Retired banker Howie Mallory said he brings nearly four decades of baggage-free business and civic involvement to the table.
Regarding the Aspen Area Community Plan’s goal of having 60 percent of the city’s work force housed within the city, he said he likes the concept but doesn’t believe that 60 percent is the “magic number” that will make things right.
Election Commissioner Ward Hauenstein said he is “all about balance” when presented with a question about Aspen’s motto of “mind, body and spirit.”
He said he seeks to look at all sides of an issue before making a decision, but on the Centennial repairs question he said that he generally doesn’t believe government should bail out strapped homeowners.
Marcia Goshorn, a member of the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority board, said Aspen’s leaders should take steps to protect what the city has.
View-plane restrictions were set up for a reason, she suggested, and without such development restrictions, Aspen wouldn’t be the place it’s revered for, and the community will suffer as a result.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner L.J. Erspamer said the city is right to tackle the issue of pedestrian and bicyclist safety on Main Street and downtown.
“Main Street needs work,” he said, reiterating his longtime battle cry for improved safety along Highway 82 as it winds through Aspen.
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Vaccinations for the first group of Aspen-area kids to include 12-to-15-year-olds will take place Thursday at Aspen High School.