City sets goals, has some fun at retreat |

City sets goals, has some fun at retreat

Kimberly Nicoletti
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen plans to have its best year yet. And though it’s approaching goal-setting seriously, its retreat Tuesday included elements from “The Late Show with David Letterman” “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Survivor.”City Council members and a leadership team consisting of city department heads met at the Mountain Chalet to review last year’s accomplishments and disappointments and develop goals for 2006. Tim Ditzler facilitated the process, based on a model his wife, Jinny, created called “Best Year Yet.” The leadership team began the “Best Year Yet” process last year with Ditzler and decided to bring the City Council on board this year to encourage better collaboration.Before the retreat, the leadership team thought about its biggest challenge. The issue: Aspenites expect their town to be the best and think the city should pursue every good idea people present because “We’re Aspen.” And, of course, it should be done “now.” The pressure creates too many priorities, as well as conflicting priorities.”We are less resource constrained than any other city in the nation – maybe in the world – not only in dollars, but also in staff, intellect, capital and energy,” City Manager Steve Barwick said. “This community’s got it all, but that also has a downside. There’s not a day where some grand and new idea walks through the door, and that takes time.”In order to prioritize goals, the leadership team wrote something of a mission statement before the retreat. It read: “We are focused on the priorities that nurture Aspen as the world’s premier resort and community.”

It spent an hour on the last three words, but it was the word “premier” that bothered Councilman Jack Johnson. He said it is a loaded word that could lead the city down the road of thinking it can be No. 1 at everything. Councilwoman Rachel Richards agreed, preferring the word “excellent,” and after much verbiage, participants lightened up the conversation by suggesting “most excellent,” inspired by the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”The leadership team also decided the city’s major focus for 2006 would be advancing community excellence – in other words, making Aspen most excellent, dude.Before deciding on the city’s top 10 goals, participants talked about the successes and challenges of 2005. Highlights included the Canary Initiative, the reclaimed-water program, Burlingame construction, a decrease in staff turnover, golf course improvements, Smuggler Mountain and other open space purchases, completing the animal shelter, passing the recycling ordinance, bringing in healthy revenues and more – the list filled more than a page. Disappointments included the failure to solve traffic congestion, delays in adding city employing housing, physical space limitations at City Hall, inability to slow the growth rate and a general feeling of distrust between some staff and council members.Then came the David Letterman portion of the evening: the top-10 list. But in order to get to the top 10, council members had to vote for only seven of 21 goals the retreat participants had outlined. Police Chief Loren Ryerson added levity, asking “Who’s going to get voted off the island?”The majority of council members agreed that growth management, re-examination of the infill lodge code amendments, housing and traffic problems were priorities.”I think [traffic] is the biggest issue the city faces this year,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, adding that the city needs to dedicate as much mental and creative resources as it can to the problem.

The city of Aspen’s top 10 goals Examine the infill lodge code amendment in light of recent development proposals. Examine growth and ways to regulate it. Identify possible land purchases and buydowns for housing throughout the year. By the end of the year, complete a re-evaluation of the Entrance to Aspen environmental impact study (this includes community input and guidance from the City Council and the Elected Officials Transportation Committee in reviewing alternatives and impacts and getting community support). Improve the productivity of City Council meetings.

Adopt a plan to mitigate construction impacts by spring. Present the City Council with sufficient information for it to determine if Aspen will move forward on a stormwater program. Develop a detailed long-term pay and housing plan for city employees by Aug. 15. Involve the community in more problem-solving dialogues by April (rather than waiting for residents to come to meetings when they’re mad and only have three minutes to state their opinions). Work with the county to find a new facility to share.Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is