Commissioners split on directing Aspen chamber withdrawal |

Commissioners split on directing Aspen chamber withdrawal

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County isn’t ready to take formal action directing the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to withdraw from the U.S Chamber of Commerce over the latter organization’s position on climate change.

Four county commissioners were at an impasse Tuesday on whether to adopt a resolution urging the action, but one commissioner suggested that the county’s continued membership in the Aspen chamber should be discussed if the local group does nothing.

Commissioner George Newman had suggested that a resolution be approved urging the Aspen chamber to challenge the national group’s position on climate change and to withdraw, joining other former U.S. chamber members that have withdrawn over the issue. Commissioner Rachel Richards sided with Newman, but Jack Hatfield called the move premature, and Michael Owsley, the county’s representative on the Aspen chamber’s board of directors, declined to support the resolution. Commissioners also could not agree to send a letter to the Aspen chamber board, though they all appeared to disagree with the national chamber’s opposition to action on climate change.

The commissioners’ stalemate ended the discussion, though the topic is expected to resurface when all five commissioners are present. Commissioner Rob Ittner is currently away for his wedding.

Whether all five commissioners will have a chance to meet and discuss the issue before the Aspen chamber board’s April 19 retreat, however, is uncertain. That’s when the chamber is expected to take up what its course of action regarding the national group will be.

“Clearly, the (Aspen chamber) board does not agree with the stated position of the U.S. chamber,” Owsley said. “Does withdrawal actually do anything, or does continued engagement do more? That will be a topic of conversation.”

Owsley suggested that the Aspen chamber’s withdrawal, pulling out its $800 annual membership, would have little impact.

“I just think we’re getting worked up, quite frankly, over not very much,” he said.

But Richards questioned whether the county should remain a chamber member if the local group doesn’t either withdraw or somehow work from within to change the group’s position. Local chamber membership gives a member’s employees access to discounted ski passes.

The Aspen Skiing Co., also a member of the Aspen chamber, has called repeatedly for the local chamber to break its affiliation with the national chamber over the climate disagreement. Skico executives said they considered, but dismissed, leaving the Aspen chamber over the issue.

“I still believe we should take a very strong, proactive stance, … knowing our whole economy, our whole lifestyle … comes down to our ability to address climate change,” Newman said, pressing for passage of the resolution.

Hatfield advocated waiting for the outcome of the Aspen chamber board retreat. By then it will be too late, Newman countered.

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