Aspen election 2011: The mayoral candidates speak
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – That’s right, Aspenites. If you haven’t already noticed, it’s election season. The mayor’s seat and two posts on the City Council are up for grabs. And since the council consists of just five individuals (including the mayor), the balance of the board is at stake.
For this week’s cover story, we’ve asked each candidate a few questions, and readers can see how each individual handled the issues in his or her own way. The answers reveal not only where the candidates stand on certain issues, but also their general approach to questions of policy and governance.
Obviously there are many other questions left to ask, many other issues to explore. We urge citizens to keep an eye out for more election coverage in upcoming editions of The Aspen Times, and to tune in to GrassRoots TV (Channel 12) for the Squirm Night election forum at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, hosted by The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. Other chances to see and hear all the candidates in a single sitting are 4-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 at the Limelight Lodge, and noon on Friday, April 22 at the Hotel Jerome.
Above all else, get out and vote on Tuesday, May 3.
• Ireland: I would ask that we all step back from what Tennyson called “the dust and steam of town” to consider that we live in a valley quite different from that which he lamented, one with:
• Schools so special students try to sneak in.
• Streets so safe that a peace officer can serve an entire career without drawing a gun.
• Transit so thorough that one doesn’t need a car every day.
• Citizens so involved that they actually watch our boring meetings on TV.
• Volunteers so numerous and donors so generous that it would take hours to list them.
• Snow so soft that one can go months without a ski tune.
• Open space and trails so beautiful and abundant it’s hard to make an excuse not to exercise.
We have real issues like traffic, parking, development, housing and so on. A little perspective on the “98 percent full cup” might enable us to view them with equanimity and less acrimony.
• Kole: I would put a time frame on City Council meetings, which would force those at the table to get on with it, and not waste time with useless rhetoric. Council would eat a late lunch, so the dinner break could be eliminated and the public would not have to wait around as much. (NOTE: If I had a second wish it would be a Powder Weekend for the 4th of July, which would probably improve my voting history.)
• Kruger: I would remove the divisiveness, intimidation and fear of retaliation now existing within our town. I would invite all of the community to a party to celebrate our commonalities and rejoice in the beauty of a spring day in the Rockies. I would encourage all to look at the unique characters of the town: locals, visitors and second homeowners. This could mean a return to the days when lift ops hang out with millionaires as equals – a renaissance revival. I would invite all to participate in an event where solutions would come in a collaborative effort with mutual respect. Unfinished construction projects would be resolved and built into viable environmentally friendly projects that would fit into the character of the neighborhood, creating a gainfully employed workforce with decent housing down the street. For more information on this and other ideas please visit my website, RuthKrugerforMayor.com
• Ireland: Two four-year mayoral terms would make more sense than an election every two years. I would not seek to be eligible for additional years as mayor after this election nor would I seek another term of mayor after this one. The present runoff system is very workable although it does make for at least 60 days of campaigning. Some communities have the mayor elected by council, as does Glenwood Springs. I don’t think I would go in that direction but it is worth thinking about.
As I visit the voters in their homes, many are surprised that it is already time for another election for mayor as the last one seemed to go on for quite awhile.
Ultimately this decision is in the citizens’ hands and I would hear their preferences before acting.
• Kole: Just right. It allows for a change in power every two years. Remember, according to our charter, this is a part-time job. We have a city manager who is suppose to run things. The election should be in April. Therefore the debate would be when everyone is in town – eliminating a lot of early voting.
• Kruger: I think the term of two years for mayor fits well into the council seats that alternate terms. Two years is adequate to evaluate the leadership qualities and results of any individual with terms limited to six years maximum service. After six years, and sometimes well before, it is time for a break to find new and fresh ideas with different leadership styles.
• Ireland: One person’s “governmental intrusion” is another’s “reasonable regulation.” The citizens have the right to regulate on behalf of their environment and Aspen has done so to good effect throughout its history. We prohibit the dumping of toxic waste in the water, smoke into the air, noise into community. We require trash to be kept away from bears. Civilization is impossible in the absence of public obligations.
If one agrees as I do that climate change is a real threat to our future, we must take a leadership role in fighting excess energy use and waste. Petroleum products such as plastic bags and bottles are a small part of that effort, less important than on-site energy production and conservation perhaps, but still a useful step. We can gradually implement limits on such uses with education, small charges and an eventual ban on plastic grocery bags.
• Kole: No. City Hall has a right, after they’ve done their homework (which is not always the case), to suggest environmental solutions, but those should be championed for their value, not regulated. If the cause has value and is promoted, the public will either get on board or reject the proposal. The most important fact here is the public should retain their right to resist if the case being made by local government does not fly with them.
• Kruger: I think it is a great conversation that stimulates the public psyche into evaluating what their values are and how to be better stewards of the environment. This conversation creates an educational platform that is the beginning of more personal responsibility. Even if new rules are not imposed, the chain of events will take a turn for better behavior and hopefully for each to act in more harmonious ways toward conscious choices that will result in less plastic usage in both bags and bottles. I remember growing up in Michigan where you paid a deposit on glass bottles. Glass is not only better for the environment, it is better for the body. Having an incentive to return every bottle minimized litter and was a heck of a way to fill the piggy bank with gas money. This is, of course, a state issue and would require a state initiative. Now is the perfect time to involve ourselves at the state level as leaders in the clean environment movement! I believe the reality is this is not a legislative issue, but a government charge on otherwise private business transactions, otherwise known as a tax, and a violation of TABOR which would require a vote of the public.
• Ireland: I think this question misses the point by oversimplifying the argument. First, some parts of the plan are intended to be aspirational. Other portions are specific recommendations (action items) which are separate from the overall vision; that is, the means of accomplishing the vision. I don’t agree with each and every recommended step but I do believe the AACP embodies our basic values.
Some of those who complain loudly that we ought to follow the recommendations of citizen advisory groups are the first to demand that the two years of work by the county and city planning and zoning recommendations be rejected.
The plan emphasizes a sustainable resort economy, the word “resort” appearing 31 times and “economy” 52 times. I support enacting code changes and creating policies to affect that end. It also seeks to encourage development that encourages a diverse lodging base and more local- and visitor-serving businesses. Both of those goals are not “enforceable” as “regulations” but both are important to our future.
The AACP recommends action items to affect those goals and those items should be considered as a means – not the exclusive means – but a means to reaching our goals. I do not support each and every action item but I believe each should be considered.
Today we have an excellent transit program and housing that has prevented us from becoming a theme park by empowering locals to live here. These results were first envisioned in the 1993 AACP and realized without a lot of heartburn about “regulatory” vs. “aspirational.”
• Kole: I’ll pick “guiding” for half a million dollars. If I had my way it would be a Powerpoint discussion with limited goals two years out so they could be completed. Then new goals could be added. The problem with the AACP is the 10-year tag tied to it. Things change, and so the AACP needs to be flexible, and offer an opportunity to change with the times and the economy.
In its current form, it is at best, confusing, and used improperly at times. By that I mean the AACP has been used to hide behind more often than actually affecting change and the will of the people whom it supposedly represents.
• Kruger: The AACP must be a guiding document that states the mission and vision of the town. It should reflect the guiding principles that define the characteristics and attributes we would like to maintain into the future. It should be organic and flexible as change and flexibility need to be incorporated into the fabric of the times. With so many things in the world in a state of flux, we can be better grounded in what we stand for if we are forward thinking, well balanced and prepared for unpredictable shifts. We are living in a new world order and creative thinking is the only way we can remain on the cutting edge which will keep us competitive in the areas of tourism, environmentalism and economic stability. The AACP must encourage and incentivize creativity in problem-solving so that the community will always be striving to lead by example, determined to be better, as strong visionaries out in front of the competition. I commend and appreciate the great efforts made by both staff and the public, but as a practical matter, the AACP has no financial modeling and omits capital facilities and utility services. The mitigation requirements overburden one of our most important financial engines that keep the community viable and will most certainly put a freeze on construction – even that which could prove to be compatible with our neighbors.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.