Commissioner hopefuls discuss the issues at Aspen event
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – One might call Wednesday’s panel of candidates for county commissioner at the Aspen Business Luncheon a civil affair.
There was no finger-pointing, baiting or criticizing among the four men running for the District 4 seat on the Pitkin County board – at least not toward one another. Lined up atop a platform in front of a moderately sized local audience at the Hotel Jerome, they simply stated their positions and sometimes spoke of their understanding of an issue without providing a position.
During the period for audience questions, Aspen Times columnist Melanie Sturm asked the candidates if they disagreed with any recent commission decisions.
Darryl Grob mentioned that Pitkin County commissioners recently were approached with the question of how to spend $10 million in an employee-housing fund.
“What came out of that was a direction to engage an individual to explore what sort of development opportunities might exist, … and hopefully out of that they might be able to develop a methodology,” he said. “I tend to be pragmatic. I want to know, if we have that kind of money being directed at a program, precisely what our objective is and, once we clearly understand that, how it translates into a program that could be objectively measured and objectively evaluated in terms of its success or not.”
John Young said he didn’t have any problems with recent decisions on a specific matter, but he suggested that commissioners failed to act proactively during the recent recession.
“When this recession hit, we all watched our neighbors and friends slowly dying on the vine,” he said. “We had tremendous contraction on the construction side of our economy. I think the commissioners had, at their discretion, the ability to stimulate it, and I believe that they failed to do so.”
Steve Child said the recent purchase of 145 acres in the Emma area of Eagle County for open space was a mistake.
“We are now the proud owners of a 145-acre farm in the Emma area, located in Eagle County,” he said. “This was purchased, as far as I can tell, mainly because it was for sale, not because it had any great qualities that would make it valuable for open space land.”
Though the property has been touted as suitable for a community garden, Child said it’s not located in an area where people could use it. He said Basalt and Eagle County also contributed toward the purchase.
“I think Pitkin County should try to exit from ownership of this land as soon as possible by putting a conservation easement on it … and then turn around and sell it to somebody who would continue owning it privately and running it as a farm or a ranch,” Child said.
John Wilkinson, like Young, also talked not of a poor recent decision but of “missed opportunities.” He said the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan, completed and released in March, should have been tackled a decade ago.
“It spells out what we need to do to conserve water resources and protect the water environment,” he said.
He also mentioned a lack of attention to roads and bridges.
“They’ve been kicking the can down the road, literally and figuratively, for many years because of budgetary issues,” he said. “We need to keep our roads and infrastructure up to speed.”
Young added that the county could do a better job of maintaining historic sites.
None of the candidates are incumbents. They are running for the District 4 seat being vacated by Jack Hatfield, who is term limited.
The primary election will be held June 26. The top two vote-getters will face off in a Nov. 6 runoff. Voters throughout the county are eligible to cast a single vote. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November election.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.