Aspen’s Next Generation board lacks participation
The citizen-based advisory commission hasn’t met for nearly two years due to no quorum
The city of Aspen has several citizen boards and commissions that help elected officials guide policy, but there is a particular one that is struggling to even exist.
The Next Generation Advisory Board, or Nextgen, gained a new member earlier this month, but the addition of Tyler Wilkinson-Ray isn’t enough for the group of four to meet.
The bylaws for Nextgen, established in 2013, require a quorum of five members for the board to meet and that hasn’t happened since July 2020.
There has been waning interest from those who are asked to serve on the board, which is Aspen residents between the ages of 18 and 40 years old.
Aspen City Council conducts interviews for citizen boards twice a year, typically in January and June, but added a special round in May, according to City Clerk Nicole Henning.
Wilkinson-Ray was the only one who applied.
“Of all of the boards and commissions, there’s been the least amount of interest in Nextgen,” Henning said. “We have no other boards that haven’t met for two years.”
It’s beyond frustrating for Leah Fielding, Nextgen’s former board chair who resigned earlier this year.
She said the city’s lack of support and prioritization of the group’s efforts, along with an exodus of younger people moving away from Aspen due to the high cost of living and housing crisis, are the contributors to minimal participation in Nextgen.
She and other board members, some of whom also have resigned, attempted in recent years to tackle issues around transportation, climate change and mental health.
“I felt like we are not a priority, and we are focused on the future of the town,” said Fielding, who served on the board for 2½ years. “It doesn’t feel like we got anything accomplished, so there are other organizations that I felt were better uses of my time.”
Nextgen was established out of a council top 10 goal of getting more young Aspen residents involved in city issues and have agency in the civic process, said Councilman Skippy Mesirow, one of the commission’s founding members.
The Nextgen board at the time focused on affordable housing, access to child care, increasing voter participation and eventually, changing the date of the municipal election from May to March, when more people are here.
“A lot of what we are doing on council right now was based on conversations from Nextgen,” Mesirow said.
He added that the Nextgen commission is necessary to shape policy for Aspen’s future and for the board to meet legally, the bylaws need to be changed to reduce the quorum requirement to three, like it is for council.
Mesirow agreed that Nextgen has not been a priority for city officials.
“It’s often underappreciated and overlooked,” he said. “At some point we have to ask people what they think.”
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