Bert Myrin and Mick Ireland face off in second edition of Squirm Night
The Aspen Times
Bert Myrin and Mick Ireland offered appeals for public support Thursday during election season’s final public forum, a second-round Squirm Night leading up to their June 2 runoff.
Among the highlights was Ireland’s claim that, win or lose, this will be his last bid for public office in Aspen. The former mayor and Pitkin County commissioner has won 10 previous races.
Myrin, who was 10 votes shy of winning outright May 5, said if he secures the final Aspen City Council seat, he would like to sit on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association volunteer board, as well. This would mix him in with many of the people who have opposed his initiative efforts concerning downtown development and land-use code.
“They have been on the other side on a couple of things that seem to divide the community, and I’d like to see if there’s a way to work with them rather than against them,” Myrin said Thursday at the GrassRoots TV studio.
While Myrin garnered 994 votes on May 5, Ireland earned 813. Both were outspoken supporters for Referendum 1, which on May 7 made Aspen’s electorate the final authority for specific land-use variances. Many have asked what the major differences are between the two candidates, and Thursday was no different, as moderators Rick Carroll, managing editor at The Aspen Times, and Curtis Wackerle, managing editor at the Aspen Daily News, touched on this topic to start the conversation.
In discussing Myrin’s Referendum 1 effort as well as his previous initiative that dismantled Ordinance 19, the controversial lodging-incentive program, Ireland claimed he is more proactive, while his opponent has been reactive. Ireland said his effort in the community has been promoting causes — housing, the establishment of public transportation and school issues among them. He also recalled Myrin’s effort in shooting down a 2005 proposal to build a Main Street visitors’ center.
“I think history will judge us not by what we stopped,” Ireland said. “I think we’ll look back and say, ‘We housed people, we built great schools and we worked for the environment.’ I think that’s how we’ll be judged.”
Myrin responded that his push for Referendum 1 was forward-thinking, an attempt to get the council to focus on its long-term vision for the community.
“I think I have been proactive on all those things,” Myrin said, adding that he wishes he would have been proactive concerning approval of the Aspen Art Museum and the Aspen Core Building.
The candidates were both asked how they would address the situation with Centennial affordable housing. Since 2009, city officials and the Centennial homeowners’ association have been in disagreement over an estimated $3.2 million in repairs attributed to water intrusion. Centennial credits the damage to inherent structural flaws from when the complex was built in 1985, but the city argues that the owners haven’t invested properly in routine maintenance.
Myrin said it’s critical that the government take part in fixing the problem and suggested a shared solution where real estate transfer tax funds might help pay the cost of repairs. How the solution applies across the entire housing program is something officials need to figure out, Myrin said.
“We need to shore it up for the future,” Myrin said.
Ireland said he has written a detailed proposal in solving the issue, where Centennial provides a down payment, the city comes up with a small grant and 80 percent of repairs are funded by the city and recovered through increased sale prices. He also suggested the city get going on initial repairs so officials have a better cost estimate.
Among Ireland’s supporters are former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, Councilman Adam Frisch, Councilwoman Ann Mullins and Mayor Steve Skadron. Myrin’s supporters include Maurice Emmer and Elizabeth Milias. Carroll asked the candidates if they are comfortable with support from these individuals.
Myrin noted that none of Aspen’s council members support his campaign, to which Wackerle asked, “Is this a point of pride for you?” Myrin confirmed that it is, as he represents the community and not City Hall.
“It’s interesting that they seem to be two different spaces, corporate Aspen and the community of Aspen,” Myrin said.
Ireland said he’s proud of his endorsements, which are “indicative of an ability to work with a broad range of people.” While he and Frisch don’t agree on everything, he noted that together they helped lower building heights in the downtown core following infill legislation.
The candidates also addressed the Lift 1A side of Aspen, where Aspen Skiing Co. officials have claimed the town is in jeopardy of losing World Cup events if South Aspen Street isn’t developed. Ireland said though he supports the World Cup, Aspen’s land-use code should not be dictated by any threats.
“If there’s a reasonable zoning proposal that could encourage lodging and make World Cup work, that would be fine,” Ireland said.
Myrin said development shouldn’t be driven by a short-term event but rather a decadeslong vision for Aspen. The life cycle of Aspen’s downtown is more important than one event, he said.
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