Aspen City Council candidates outline platforms
The Aspen Times
Candidates have kicked off campaigns for Aspen’s May 5 election, and on Wednesday, three residents vying for two open Aspen City Council seats spoke with The Aspen Times on issues ranging from downtown development to fiscal responsibility.
The Times has talked with four of the seven candidates previously: Adam Frisch, Keith Goode, Marcia Goshorn and Mick Ireland. The following are brief excerpts from interviews with the remaining candidates.
Political newcomer, Aspen blogger and former financial consultant
Israel said Wednesday that he will run on three major platform items: putting an end to excessively long council meetings, simplifying the land-use code so it’s consistent for all developers and promoting financial responsibility at City Hall. In particular, he said there’s a “culture of excess” at City Hall that needs to be changed. As an example, he cited the $616,000 pedestrian-improvement project at Gondola Plaza, which saw a nearby intersection reconstructed.
“Just because we have a $100 million budget doesn’t mean we need to waste money,” Israel said, adding that city departments should be rewarded for coming in under budget.
A certified public accountant and financial consultant, Israel is a licensed real estate broker in Colorado and Michigan. He also holds a masters of business administration from the Wharton School. Israel said it doesn’t appear that there’s a fiduciary responsibility to Aspen’s residents. Over time, a culture has developed that lacks accountability, he said, adding frustration that officials let Aspen’s recent parking scheme fester for a number of years.
“That to me indicates a lack of institutional control,” he said.
Israel said he also has lost trust in the process and is leaning toward supporting attorney Bert Myrin’s “Keep Aspen, Aspen” ballot question, which seeks to strip the council of its ability to grant development variances without a public vote.
Seven-year Planning and Zoning member, attorney and activist
In recent years, Myrin has either led or been a major part of three political movements: the push for an advisory vote that shot down the Castle Creek Energy Center, the petition drive that dismantled Ordinance 19 and, most recently, “Keep Aspen, Aspen.” If elected, he said one of his priorities will be reworking the city’s land-use code so it’s in line with the Aspen Area Community Plan.
“When the code reflects the community’s values, you will not have a citizen’s petition overturning a decision at council,” he said.
On Wednesday, Myrin responded to opponents of “Keep Aspen, Aspen,” who claim it will weaken representative democracy or that the public already has the option to refer council decisions. To the latter claim, Myrin said residents shouldn’t have to “babysit” officials on every decision.
Myrin also took issue with the communication between the council, the City Manager’s Office and city planners. In recent years, he said the latter two have been cheerleaders for development.
“If the city manager ran City Hall with the message of community-first, we wouldn’t have to rely on the community members to come in and say, ‘What’s going on?’” he said.
Former council member and former housing director
McCabe said Wednesday that he offers a unique perspective having served as a public official and as Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority director. He also noted his experience as a volunteer and business owner in his 40-plus years as an Aspen resident. Now retired, McCabe said whatever the public decides on Myrin’s proposed Home Rule Charter amendment, he will stand by.
On one hand, he said he’s been disappointed about how often the council offers affordable-housing mitigation as a negotiating tactic with developers.
“It seemed as if that were the first chip to be put on the table,” McCabe said. “The housing mitigation was frequently given away.”
While he likes the idea of eliminating endless negotiations at the council table, he said he understands that officials must find a balance between community values and development needs. Ultimately, he said it’s up to the voters.
“The voters set the standard on that,” McCabe said.
Along with affordable housing, McCabe said he will advocate for environmental causes, progression with Parks and Open Space and transportation.
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