Candidates for Aspen City Council prioritize community’s issues

Eight candidates talk about what they’d like to get done if elected for the four-year term

Staff reports
Collage of the Aspen City Council candidates 2021. Top row from left: Sam Rose, Erin Smiddy, Casey Endsley, John Doyle; second row from left: Ward Hauenstein, Jimbo Stockton, Mark Reece, Kimbo Brown-Schirato.

Editor’s note: The Aspen Times has posed five questions of each of the eight Aspen City Council candidates running for two open seats in the March 2 election. We have been running answers (200-word limit) to one question each day this week. To read their previous responses and to get their background, go to Coming Friday: What other methods are there to achieve more affordable housing other than building new housing?


Day 4 question: If you get elected, what are your top three priorities during the four-year term?


Erin Smiddy

If elected, I will prioritize affordable housing, responsible use of budget and making the local workforce and their needs priority No. 1.

I think we are blessed to have a program like APCHA, and I only want to see more employee housing in the future.

If possible, I would allocate the money that has been spent on sidewalks and studies to further support the workforce in town that have not had regular salaries for the last year and foreseeable future.

Jimbo Stockton

Affordable housing and health care for more people. Mental health issues.

Economic recovery from the pandemic.

Sam Rose

If elected, my top three priorities are helping us through and out of the pandemic, boosting the affordable housing inventory, and better supporting working families with child care.

These are all priorities in need of laser focus. At the same time they’re related to a myriad of community issues that are tied together to many of the other problems facing our community. It will take hard work, intense listening, research and cooperation to help work on these priorities.

These are priorities that the city of Aspen policy agenda consider existential crises. Not only that, these are priorities to improve quality of life here in Aspen. If we had more affordable housing inventory, along with better child care affordability, we would see happier citizens, a sustainable community and more peace of mind for our average citizen’s finances.

My No. 1 priority is improving the quality of life of the citizens of Aspen, and I believe these are the issues, which will help get that done most tangibly.

Protection of the environment and open space are also a top priority of mine.

Mark Reece

Mental health within our community is my top priority; let’s look out for our locals.

Smart common sense development; lets keep Aspen, Aspen.

Promote upward movement through APCHA for those who have done better and also incentivize those who are able to move out of the system to happily do so. I am one of them.

Ward Hauenstein

My top priorities are workforce housing, COVID-19 and affordable health care.

Workforce housing includes completing Burlingame Ranch phase three, moving the Lumberyard project forward, preserving expiring deed restrictions, encouraging partnerships and maintaining existing units.

Workforce housing continues to be a community priority that the City Council must constantly attend to.

Recovering from the pandemic will continue to be a focus of the council. At the March 10, 2020, meeting I initiated the public discussion of entering a local state of emergency. I did this so the community would be aware of the benefits and need for being in an emergency state. We entered an emergency state two days later and are still in it.

I advocated the mask and mask mandatory zone ordinances. I supported the $6 million aid program that Rachael Richards initially conceived.

Public safety has been my priority while always being sensitive to and mitigating the financial impacts of the council’s actions.

The City Council can act as a convening party of a valley-wide taskforce to find a way to make available affordable health care. The Valley Health Alliance benefits the six largest employers. Can we create a group for individuals to leverage the ability to deliver affordable health care for all?

Casey Endsley

When I started this campaign, I knew what was needed — a voice for small businesses and the working class to make productive outcomes better.

I want to see more choices and options for prosperity in our middle class. Are there some regulations we can reduce? Are there some hoops that have made it way too difficult for regular people to get ahead in Aspen? Let’s look at those and see where changes need to happen.

I also believe some measurable goals need to be in place for APCHA to be sure the intentions of this generous program are realized.

Something else that needs to be talked about in this community is mental health. We have lost far more to suicide in this past year than to COVID. Yet no one wants to talk about it. I get it, it’s not easy, but neither is the result. There is absolutely no excuse for our community not to put this at the top of our to-do list.

John Doyle

The first priority should be maintaining and enhancing our affordable housing inventory as more and more free market houses and condos are converted into second-home and quasi-lodge uses.

We will never house everyone who wants to live here, but we must maintain a core of families, new arrivals and older citizens.

We must look beyond the lumberyard development for future housing needs. The SCI zone north of Clark’s Market could serve as in-town housing with local serving businesses on the ground floor. The recycling center could be another option, as curbside pick up is established, and would be a good pedestrian-oriented location for housing.

Much of the growth in traffic and construction is being driven by the conversion of the residential sector into vacation rentals. I don’t believe our community would support 1,000 new lodge units that do not pay taxes or house the people working the jobs generated. Vacation rentals have an unfair advantage on lodges and hotels, and we need to mitigate their growth impacts.

Our building codes can continue to evolve to require reuse and recycling of demolition materials from redevelopment of existing structures. Materials that emit less carbon and improve insulation can reduce our carbon footprint.

Kimbo Brown-Schirato

Housing. We need to agree as a community on what percentage of the workforce we aim to house and aggressively pursue a set timeframe to achieve this goal.

Child care. I will lead an effort to ensure we increase infant child care capacity. For roughly 160 annual births at AVH, there are about 27 infant spots for day care that jumps to roughly 80 spots once a child reaches 18 months old. I will also push for us to explore universal child care solutions that provide assistance on a sliding scale and that will assist a broader swath of our working families.

Foster a culture of possibility. Yes, this sounds airy-fairy, but my perception is that local government is stuck in a place of no. Any real solutions come from embracing a “culture of possibility,” where we focus on manifesting the future we want and leave behind a mindset of why we can’t do things.