Candidates don’t go head to head at ACRA
City Council candidate Jack Johnson took the gloves off yesterday, but his opponent was absent from the ring.Johnson and Dee Malone, both seeking an Aspen City Council seat in a June 7 runoff election, were invited to give brief presentations to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday. The board doesn’t make candidate endorsements, however, and only a handful of its members are eligible to vote in the city.Johnson read from a prepared statement that delivered several jabs at Malone; she was late for her appearance and missed Johnson’s talk entirely, so she did not respond to his attacks and leveled none of her own.”The candidates were very revealing, I thought,” was board member Stan Clauson’s assessment. “I think we saw some distinct differences.”Malone identified the city budget, downtown vitality, growth and integration of Latinos into the community as priority issues.She labeled herself a fiscal conservative and an environmentalist, and she said the latter stance gives her a broad perspective through which to view issues.Johnson touched on – and criticized – various positions he said Malone has taken during the campaign. Johnson suggested Malone was still looking to stall the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing by exploring ways to make it more environmentally friendly and questioned her call to buy more water rights on the Roaring Fork River without a plan to use them.”I agree, if we can put them to use,” he said. “She presented not one single proposal as to how we are to do this, and without a beneficial use to put them to, water rights are practically useless.”But, Johnson said he’d fight further diversions from the Roaring Fork.Burlingame, he said, is already “green” and needs to be built.Malone said she favored creating a favorable environment in which to do business, but questioned government intervention in the local economy along the lines of the hiring of the downtown catalyst (done with ACRA support) and physical downtown improvements in the absence of a long-term vision.”I don’t think the city should be involved in any kind of quick fix,” she said.Johnson called for a downtown vitality that rivals Aspen of the 1970s – “one that people not only want to come to but must come to, if they want to be a part of what’s going on.”Malone questioned the hiring of a global warming project manager by the city for some $70,000 annually. “There’s a lot of things we can do without spending $70,000 on a consultant,” she said, reiterating her call for clean air and water as important local attributes.Malone said Aspen’s population will double in 24 years, based on a 3 percent annual growth rate over the past three years. “We need to be prepared for the impacts of that growth,” she said, advocating “smart growth” over “sprawling growth.”Malone said she supports keeping the door open to a rail system in the future and called the city’s transportation plan inadequate.”I’m realistic about growth,” Johnson said. “My position is to plan and manage change so we get only the very best.”He charged Malone with supporting second-home growth, but trying to shut the door to the rest, and he said remarks she has made about the workings of the county’s transferable development rights program and free-market development display “a profound level of ignorance of Aspen.”Malone reiterated her contention that global warming is slowly creating a longer summer season and that Aspen should do more to bolster its summer economy and the arts.”Why not respond to that ahead of the pack?” she said.”I suppose that’s one way of making lemonade out of lemons, but it also displays a remarkable lack of understanding,” Johnson said. “And where has she been? Aspen already has a vibrant summer economy. Our peak tourist days are in July.”Both candidates said they’d like to accommodate expansion of the arts, though.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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