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Aspen mayoral race: Ruth Kruger is running

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Ruth Kruger
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ASPEN – Saying Aspen government ought to be run more like a business, interim Councilwoman Ruth Kruger has declared herself a candidate for mayor in the May 3 election.Kruger said she had not been planning a bid for mayor for very long. She said she finally came to the decision about midday Tuesday, a few hours after skiing Aspen Mountain. “What struck me after thinking about it all morning was that I couldn’t not run,” Kruger said.The commercial real estate broker and former member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission was sworn in as a temporary council member just 17 days ago. She was appointed by the other three councilmen and Mayor Mick Ireland following the departure of Dwayne Romero, who resigned last month to join Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet.Several other Aspenites also sought the interim council position, a term that ends shortly after the May 3 election. Kruger told the other three councilmen and Ireland that if given the position, she would not run for City Council – a statement that helped her to win the appointment.Kruger said she is sticking to her word. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t run for mayor,” she said.She explained that she likes Ireland and the other councilmen. “I feel bad because the guys who appointed me didn’t expect me to run for mayor. But I would feel worse if I waved goodbye at the end of this term. … The two weeks I’ve been on the council [confirmed for me] that the city is big business and it should be run more like a business.”Councilman Torre, who asked Kruger during her interview if she was planning to run for council, said he has mixed feelings about Kruger’s bid for mayor. “To me, there was no distinction about it,” Torre said. “I didn’t want to vote for somebody who would be embroiled in a campaign. The mayor serves on the City Council.”However, he said he understands that if someone feels that compelled to serve in public office, he wouldn’t hold anything against them for running.A registered Republican, Kruger said her party affiliation is nominal. She said she has always considered herself a Democrat, but joined the Republican Party a few years ago in order to vote in a judicial election primary. She didn’t switch after the election was over, but said she would consider doing it this week.”I’m not really a Republican,” she said. “I’m bottom line-oriented and pragmatic.”Kruger said she has stayed out of the political fray for the last four years while building her business, Kruger and Co. But serving on the council has reminded her of some of the problems she and others encountered while on the P&Z, a volunteer board that makes suggestions on development-related issues based on city regulations and zoning laws. At that time, some commissioners complained that the City Council didn’t take their suggestions seriously.She said in the last few weeks she has witnessed “a lack of communication” between local elected officials and the business community, even the community at large.Kruger said as mayor, she would streamline the council meetings, which often feature lengthy discussions about minor matters. She said she would show “better sensitivity toward the business community to promote the health of the Aspen commercial core.””Government and business have a lot to learn from each other,” Kruger said.She added that she was “disappointed” with the process involving the Wheeler Opera House lease, which came to a conclusion at Monday’s council meeting. Kruger had to recuse herself from the decision because she served as a consultant to Craig Cordts-Pearce of CP Restaurant Group, one of two finalists for the lease. CP Restaurant Group was not chosen. Instead, the city will enter negotiations with Specialty Foods of Aspen, operators of The Cheese Shop on East Hopkins Avenue. Kruger said she is not upset over the fact that her client was rejected; her problem is that the council appointed a committee to provide a recommendation on the lease and then ignored the group’s input.”If you’re going to create a process then you should respect the process and the people involved in it,” she said. “When you don’t abide by a process you’ve created, it discourages the public from participating in civic affairs.”Kruger also was critical of the city’s plan to raise certain fees for developers and others who file applications with the city’s engineering and community development departments, saying that such measures stifle growth.Ireland said it’s “a little strange” that Kruger has decided to run against him, but that it’s her prerogative. Instead of discussing recent council and mayoral decisions that have occurred since Kruger joined the council, he preferred to discuss their general philosophical differences.”We get that a lot, that government should be run like a business,” he said. “My response is that government and business have different missions.”Businesses put stockholders first. It may, but isn’t obliged to comply with any particular ethical code, although many businesses do. One thing that businesses commonly do is they dissolve for the benefit of the ownership – selling themselves to some other entity or liquidating assets – and that’s a function of business, to maximize the return to investors or whoever’s in control.”But governments have an obligation to everybody, Ireland said. “Governments have to take into account values that may not be monetizable in any way. The value of environment, quality of life, traffic congestion, public safety: Those are issues government has to deal with, and it’s quite a different mission,” he said.Andrew Kole, a movie marketing specialist who in the recent past has mounted unsuccessful bids for mayor, council and school board, also is running for mayor. The deadline for filing petitions to qualify for the election is Friday. asalvail@aspentimes.com


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