Aspen City Council calls special meeting Friday for Wheeler money question

Two council members call meeting to convince colleagues to change their minds on sending ballot question to voters this fall

A special meeting has been called for Friday at 3 p.m. by Aspen City Council members Rachel Richards and Ward Hauenstein, who are not pleased with how a majority vote went earlier this week that sends a ballot question to voters asking them to repurpose a portion of tax revenue that’s dedicated to the historic Wheeler Opera House.

Richards and Hauenstein were the two minority votes in a 3-2 vote on Tuesday by council that puts the controversial question on the Nov. 2 election, which 60% of the voters must approve.

The question asks voters to repurpose a portion of real estate transfer tax revenue to fund the Red Brick Center for the Arts and lift a $100,000 annual cap that funds arts and culture organizations, which voters originally approved in 1979.

Richards and Hauenstein called Tuesday’s vote flawed because councilmember Skippy Mesirow joined the meeting virtually an hour and a half after four members of the board ended up deadlocked 2-2 on approving an ordinance that allows the ballot question.

“We are calling a special meeting because my motivation is that I am so disappointed with the process and it leaves such a tainted message on the issue … so convoluted and I think we owe it due process and I don’t think we got it Tuesday night,” Hauenstein said.

He and Richards will use Tuesday afternoon to try to convince one of three council members who voted in favor of the ballot question — Mesirow, Mayor Torre and Councilman John Doyle to change their mind.

“I want one member of the prevailing side to reconsider,” Hauenstein said. “If one member wants to reconsider it opens up the debate again if we have a full discussion, I want it to be continued or to be tabled or to be on the ballot in 2022.”

The deadline to place a question on the ballot is Friday.