City kicks ?propaganda? off trolley | AspenTimes.com

City kicks ?propaganda? off trolley

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The election ?propaganda? that has been made available at the trolley car now on display at Rubey Park will have to go, the City Council agreed at a work session Wednesday.

Council members took exception to brochures that are available for the taking inside the refurbished trolley. The literature is a little too pro-trolley for their liking.

The city allowed the Aspen Street Railway Co. to put the car on display on public property in order to give citizens a chance to see what the trolleys look like before they go to the polls in November to vote on a proposed trolley system in town.

But council members were adamant they didn?t want campaign signs or anything else aimed at swaying voters displayed along with the car.

?We specifically asked them not to use this as a propaganda site,? said Councilman Tim Semrau. ?I would say this falls into the domain of campaign persuasion.?

?It certainly advocates approving the trolleys,? said Councilman Tony Hershey, who brought the brochures to the council?s attention. ?It only says good things about the trolleys.?

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Only Councilman Terry Paulson, an unabashed trolley advocate, favored allowing distribution of the brochures from the car. ?I look at that and I see it as information,? he said.

Paulson accused his fellow council members of trying to derail the trolley effort at every turn.

?If you want to kill this thing ? it?s just one thing after another,? he said.

Trolley supporters created the brochures to ?present the facts? and outline the ballot issue, said Kip Wheeler, registered agent for the Trolleys for Aspen Committee.

Hershey is the registered agent for the People Against Silly Trolleys.

Both groups have registered with the city clerk?s office as campaign committees.

?Can I put a brochure in there, too?? Hershey mused yesterday.

Wheeler said trolley backers would appear before the council Monday in hopes of settling on acceptable, neutral wording in a brochure that explains to the public why the trolley is on display.

The first iteration of the brochure offers some information about the history of the cars, describes the proposal outlined in the ballot measure and the route of the trolley line, and answers some ?frequently asked? questions about trolleys (What will it cost taxpayers? Will trolleys make a lot of noise? Will it be fun to ride? Will businesses benefit?).

The brochure also implies the trolley line could help revitalize the downtown core under the heading ?Why Trolleys??

Hershey, a trolley skeptic, said he registered the People Against Silly Trolleys committee so there?d be a vehicle to counter the trolley backers? campaign.

?I think if they run an ad saying this is what?s good about a trolley system, somebody should have the ability to run ads saying this is why it?s not a good idea,? he said.

So far, Hershey said he?s the only member of the committee and has raised no money.

The councilman voted to put the trolley question on the ballot, but has frequently questioned the feasibility of putting antique cars to use as a component of the city?s transit system.

?I think we don?t need a 19th-century solution for a 21st-century problem,? he said. ?I?m just really concerned about operating and maintenance costs ? it could cost a fortune because it?s an antique system.?

The Trolleys for Aspen Committee, which essentially mirrors the membership of the railway company, et al, plans to run some campaign ads and get the word out to the public and the business community about why it feels a trolley line would be good for Aspen, according to Wheeler. The group is also working to dispel some myths about the trolleys.

?We still run into a lot of people who don?t realize the trolleys will run on batteries and not overhead wires,? he said.

The group?s brochure indicates the cars would be upgraded with modern motors and rechargeable batteries, making them ?efficient, non-pouting and maintainable.? (We suspect they mean ?non-polluting.)

The ballot measure outlines the Aspen Street Railway Co.?s responsibility to raise $5.5 million to build a system that would replace the Galena Street Shuttle?s downtown run. A trolley line from the post office area to Rubey Park is proposed.

The question sets forth three dates by which the group must meet various thresholds. The system must be complete by Oct. 31, 2008.

The railway company purchased six trolleys in 1978 and later gave them to the city. The cars were manufactured by the J.G. Brill Co. of Philadelphia and were in use in Lisbon, Portugal, before they were imported to Aspen. The group plans to restore four of them to operate on the planned line, according to its brochure.

The more heated issue on the Nov. 5 ballot, the Entrance to Aspen, has produced just one campaign committee thus far. The Citizens for a Small Town Entrance, which opposes the realignment of Highway 82 at the western entrance to town, has registered as an issue committee with Bert Myrin as its agent.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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