Basalt’s election: The Times endorsements |

Basalt’s election: The Times endorsements

The Aspen Times Editorial

Basalt residents will go to the polls Tuesday, April 4, to select a substantial majority of their Town Council: four trustees and the mayor. Seven candidates are vying for the four trustee seats in at-large races, while three well-known community residents are competing for the mayor’s spot. Following are our picks.

For trustee seats, we endorse Leroy Duroux, Jonathan Fox-Rubin, Jacque Whitsitt and Anne Freedman.

The race has been portrayed by some observers as pro-growth challengers versus anti-growth incumbents. Of course, it’s not that simple.

Incumbent Leroy Duroux can hardly be painted as anti-growth. In almost six years on the council, the first two as an appointed member, Duroux has taken a much friendlier stance on growth than we believe he should.

Nevertheless, we endorse Duroux because what he lacks in skepticism while reviewing developers’ plans, he more than offsets with other attributes.

Duroux’s strengths are his knowledge of the area as a valley native and a resident of the midvalley most of his life; the rare qualities of being interested and knowledgeable on water issues; and his commitment to seniors’ issues. He also has the intangible quality of providing a voice for a constituency of longtime locals who might otherwise feel alienated by their local government.

Also belying the stereotype of the race is the candidacy of Jonathan Fox-Rubin. He doesn’t fit the mold of a pro-growth challenger.

We believe Fox-Rubin is the most qualified candidate in the trustee race. He has proven himself, through personal actions and his career with Rocky Mountain Institute and now a company called Hypercar, to be a genuine environmentalist. He currently serves on the Basalt planning commission and is well-versed in the issues the town is facing.

Fox-Rubin played a major role in creating a new town master plan and he will champion well-planned but slow growth.

Incumbent Jacque Whitsitt fits the mold of a slow-growther, though not a no-growther as some of her foes maintain. She tirelessly champions the cause of urban growth boundaries – defining an area of growth for Basalt and sticking to it. She’s the best hope for that progressive concept catching on valleywide.

Whitsitt has also proved to be the conscience of the board, such as when she alone claimed the town had an obligation to compensate mobile home owners who were evicted to make way for the extension of Midland Avenue.

Whitsitt could use a dose of political maturity over the next four years. She should not take every issue personally and cannot leave meetings at a late hour when she deems them unproductive.

Incumbent Anne Freedman was appointed to her current term and she has never been elected, but she deserves to be in this race. She takes a well-thought approach to issues, articulates clear positions and fearlessly defends what she believes is right.

However, Freedman must strive to look at issues beyond the view of a recent retiree to town.

Challenger Tiffany Gildred, we believe, could also make a valuable contribution to the town government, but not yet at the council level. Gildred is well-educated and clearly wants to contribute to the community. We suggest she do so by applying to fill the next opening on the planning commission.

The mayor’s race is a much tougher call. All three candidates – incumbent Rick Stevens, current Councilman Steve Solomon, and former Councilman Glenn Rappaport – clearly have the best interests of Basalt in mind. Their methods of nurturing those interests are different.

Stevens and Solomon both possess tremendous potential to be very good mayors.

Stevens has shown at times during his six years in office – the first two years as an appointee – that he can be an effective leader. He realizes that being a community leader means more than just reviewing and managing growth.

Unfortunately, he often appears to get bored or frustrated with the very governmental processes he is supposed to be presiding over and, when he does, he disengages from the meetings. Also, Stevens at times seems to blow with the political winds – whether it’s from an eagerness to please everyone or genuine struggles that he feels.

Solomon has served as the de facto mayor for the last two years. He doesn’t run the meetings, but he often articulates the positions of the board majority and influences the directions of the board.

He is a hard-working councilman who has a clear vision of what Basalt could become and a path he would like to see it take to get there.

Sometimes in his efforts to reach that vision, Solomon micro-manages issues and treats adversaries with something just short of disdain. Both qualities must be tempered immediately if he is to become Basalt’s leader.

Solomon has a very slight edge over Stevens in our book because Solomon has followed a more consistent path on issues like growth management and affordable housing over the years.

We endorse Steve Solomon for mayor.

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