Aspen residents to vote in June?
ASPEN ” The City Council on Tuesday could make decisions that alter many Aspenites’ lives ” either through changing the municipal election to late June, or preventing the demolition and alteration of any building over 30 years old that’s deemed to have historic value.
The council is scheduled to adopt an emergency ordinance that would delay demo permits until city officials can evaluate whether a commercial or residential building is eligible for designation. The evaluation would be conducted in a public hearing with the property owner, parties of interest and citizens.
City officials consider the issue an emergency because, given the development pressures in Aspen, many historic structures from the post-World War II era are being demolished at a rapid rate, particularly those that were part of shaping the skiing industry.
Also on the agenda is changing the election date to late June, when more people are in town and could head for the polls. And in order to eliminate runoff elections, instant runoff voting also might be a plausible concept in Aspen government.
The idea of moving the municipal election is not a new one, but it was most recently brought up by Mayor Mick Ireland during his bid for the seat in May.
“Instant voting is worth looking at and so is having the election at the end of June,” Ireland told the Times in May.
Many candidates have complained over the years that low voter turnout hurt their chances because the elections take place in the height of offseason, when people leave town for extended vacations.
A citizen initiative posed a ballot question in 1989 asking to move the municipal election to the general election in November. It passed, 1,041 to 932. But a little more than a year later, another citizen initiative prompted a special election in July 1990 asking to repeal the earlier vote. It was approved, 342-175, moving the municipal election back to May. City residents never had a chance to vote for council members in November, another offseason month when fewer people are in town.
City Councilman Jack Johnson in July 2006 convinced his colleagues to pursue possible changes to the election system, which ultimately would require voter approval.
City Clerk Kathryn Koch did some initial research on instant runoff voting, finally determining that it would be nearly impossible with multiple candidates vying for more than one seat up for election on a single ballot, as is the case in the council race. As a result, the effort lost momentum.
But now it appears that the issue is back. The City Council is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the basement of City Hall.
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