Aspen council candidates’ views on meetings |

Aspen council candidates’ views on meetings

ASPEN – With the May 7 municipal election two weeks away, this week The Aspen Times is running a series of questions for the four candidates for the two open seats on Aspen City Council. Next week, The Aspen Times will pose the same questions to the six candidates for mayor.

The four candidates for City Council are Jonny Carlson, Art Daily, Ann Mullins and Dwayne Romero.

Check The Aspen Times this week, Monday through Friday, to see where the candidates stand on a variety of issues.

Today’s question: In your estimation, what is the biggest problem with city of Aspen government? Where does it fail its citizens – or is it perfect the way it is? And are the meetings too long?

In my involvement dealing with the city as a commissioner and chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, as a member of various city task forces and as a citizen using city services, my experience has been quite good. I find the staff well informed, accessible and easy to deal with.

While no one issue rises to the top as “the biggest” problem, the city suffers at times from what many city governments suffer from: overlapping regulations, lack of clarification of job roles and responsibilities inability to adapt quickly to change. These are issues that can and should be looked at, and resolution of any or all of them would result in a more cost-effective operation.

That said, Aspen continues to be looked at as a model for other cities for its programs, its relationship with local businesses and support of its population.

City Council meetings are, many times, too long. Many factors contribute to this, all of which could be better controlled. Public comment can extend meetings beyond reasonable limits, but this comment can be handled in ways other than standing in front of council for three minutes. There are other less intimidating and more equitable methods for accepting public comment that would result in time savings for the council meetings.

While each council member needs to state their opinion and foundation for that opinion, these statements could perhaps be shortened to avoid repetition. And finally, while each council member has some accountability for how the meetings are run, it is the mayor’s role to run meetings effectively, efficiently and within the time allotted.

We are so fortunate in that we have so many good things occurring in our community. In the public-policy realm, many of the decisions and actions taken by our community forefathers (housing, transit, conservation and open space, etc.) have created an amazingly strong foundation from which much public good can occur.

Having said that, we still suffer from inconsistent leadership performances from City Council, including my own time on council. Oftentimes, council fails to inspire, to inform and to steadfastly role-model the community values and ideals that we have long since agreed to in our vision statements.

We are an idyllic community with an abundance of natural beauty, populated by a well-informed and engaged citizenry, and blessed with an amazing array of cultural offerings the rest of the world is left to envy. Yet we still stumble towards mediocrity when it comes to setting good vision and clear direction at the council table.

We can achieve a greater level of public trust in city government by improving the collective performance of council as a leadership body. We can move away from behaving as a poorly organized and disjointed group of individuals into becoming a more cohesive and coordinated team of decision-makers and policy setters.

We can improve:

• How council sets direction through the establishment of clear policies and priorities.

• How council gives and gets feedback from the general public.

• How council shapes and optimizes the performance of government (by unleashing the potential of a professional and well-equipped staff, by listening to and taking appropriate direction from a cadre of engaged, citizen-led commissions and by defining and requiring more measurables in our budgets and plans).

And, for the record, I’m strongly in favor of shorter, more effective meetings.

I definitely don’t think it’s perfect the way it is. It’s the same people running for the same seats. We need some newer faces and newer ideas. A lot of the things that the city does could be done for a lot less money.

From what I’ve studied – and it isn’t much – I see we have a huge budget for such a small town, and I think that a lot of that money has been wasted.

From what I can understand, the City Council meetings are awfully long and tedious. And I think that with shorter answers and a little bit of common sense, we can keep them to a minimum. We have other things to worry about besides trivial issues.

I’m not aware of major problems with the operation of city government. If there are such, the new council will need to deal with them. Certainly the affordable-housing system requires some attention, but it’s a pretty large and complex operation, and I’m not surprised that it needs updating and adjustment.

Length of meetings? I haven’t been to many of them, but I do have the general impression that there are too many meetings and that some of them last too long. Whenever possible, I will support more efficient decision-making.

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