Aspen council candidates attempt to set themselves apart
ASPEN ” Nine City Council candidates squared off Wednesday during Squirm Night ” attempting to differentiate themselves while answering pointed questions on their ability to serve as an elected official.
The atmosphere was much lighter than the mayoral debate that followed, with council candidates laughing, making jokes, and in some cases, complimenting each other.
Incumbents Jackie Kasabach and Jack Johnson defended themselves on some of their past votes, and whether civility is a campaign issue.
Johnson said while he may wear his emotions on his sleeve, elected officials are human beings and are not immune to displaying a range of feelings.
“I was just accused yesterday of rolling my eyes,” Johnson said, adding he will no doubt roll his eyes again. “I’ve also cried in City Council chambers” he said of members of the public who tell the council their sad stories.
Kasabach said elected officials must treat people with respect and dignity, and dress appropriately. When asked who she was referring to, Kasabach declined to say more.
The proper demeanor of elected officials was first brought up when candidate Mike Wampler was asked whether he had anger management issues, as suggested by some. Wampler said 20 years ago he might have had such issues but he has since grown up since, and has remained calm as a business owner and community volunteer. His experience on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission has proven that, he added.
All candidates except Michael Behrendt and Jason Lasser support City Manager Steve Barwick having an employment contract that has performance-based goals, in an effort to protect his job security and the expectations of the public.
Behrendt, who served on the council from 1973 to 1981, said his board managed two city managers and three city attorneys who didn’t have contracts and it was never an issue. Lasser said if the city manager has a contract, all city employees should have a contract.
All of the candidates were asked when they rode the bus last. All said they have used mass transit in recent days.
Lasser, who was recently laid off as a planner in City Hall, didn’t directly answer the question of where he thinks the inefficiencies are in city government. Instead, he used examples of other industries to suggest management should know its employees’ skills and talents well in order to make educated decisions.
Lasser’s opponent, Torre, said it was a shame that Lasser got laid off and joked that he hopes he doesn’t win a seat so the city government can rehire him.
The candidates were asked their position on ballot question 1, which asks if the city should enter into negotiations to sell the site of the former youth center site to the Aspen Art Museum so art enthusiasts can build a new facility.
The candidates also were asked whether they support an expansion of the Wheeler Opera House. Nearly all of them did. Wampler said it’s too big. Lasser declined to comment because as a Historic Preservation Commission member, he is currently reviewing the proposal and has been advised by the city’s legal department not to opine on it.
All candidates said they would serve if the four-year term was an unpaid position and offered their opinions on whether it was a full- or part-time position. Most agreed a council seat is a part-time job. Johnson disagreed.
The other candidates who participated in Wednesday’s debate were Derek Johnson, Brian Speck and Adam Frisch.
To learn more about the candidates, their positions and how they fared during Squirm Night, check with GrassRoots TV for air times.
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