Carbondale trustee seeks to lead dialogue from mayor’s seat
Dan Richardson views the job he was elected to in April differently than the one he aspires to fill in his bid to become Carbondale mayor.
“I do think it’s important to differentiate the job of trustee from the job of mayor,” said Richardson, who was elected to a four-year term as one of six trustees on the Carbondale town board in the April municipal election.
Soon afterward, he was appointed acting mayor for the interim when former Mayor Stacey Bernot unexpectedly resigned due to moving outside town limits.
“During that time, I’ve found that my opinion is less important and that it’s more important that I foster a good dialogue on the board,” Richardson said. “I think I bring a skill set that allows me to thrive in that position.”
Richardson desires to retain the mayor’s seat in a special election to determine who will fill out Bernot’s mayoral term until April 2018. Also running are current Trustee Katrina Byars and Ed Cortez, a former member of the town board from 2002 to 2010.
A consultant for SGM Engineering, Consulting and Surveying, Richardson is a native of Glenwood Springs who has lived the past 10 years in Carbondale. He served for four years on the Glenwood Springs City Council from 2001 to 2005.
“The No. 1 job of the mayor is to listen and to understand different perspectives,” Richardson said. “The last thing you want to do is jump to any conclusions.”
Rather, “your job is to guide thoughtful responses from the whole board,” he said.
That said, Richardson cites affordable housing, maintaining economic diversity and generally maintaining a productive community dialogue as key issues in the town.
“Affordable housing is and will remain an important issue for a long time to come, and I’m optimistic about what’s happened so far,” Richardson said, pointing to recent revisions to the town’s development code that he said should promote smaller, more affordable rental units.
The town should support businesses that already exist, he said, while also fostering and welcoming new enterprise.
“What I don’t see is us trying to compete as a regional marketplace, like Glenwood is,” Richardson said. “That’s not what Carbondale is.”
A big part of what makes Carbondale unique is the arts and the various nonprofit organizations that promote the arts, he said.
“The town board’s role is just to keep all of the things that are working in Carbondale working,” he said. “Carbondale has this balance of young artists who want to be here, and are willing to scrape by to do it, along with people who really appreciate and value art and are willing to invest in a community that is so artistic.”
Richardson was a leading supporter of a failed attempt in the spring election to pass a carbon tax to promote environmental efforts in Carbondale. The measure was soundly defeated, as was a proposed mill levy to pay for a long list of capital improvements.
Going forward, Richardson said that finding ways to pay for needed infrastructure and diversifying the town’s revenue are a higher priority than repackaging the carbon tax proposal.
The new City Market store that’s now on track for construction next year may bring in more sales tax revenue, but the town can’t rely on sales taxes alone, he said.
“One of the reasons I supported the capital tax was to diversify our revenue sources,” Richardson said, adding that sales taxes are more vulnerable in economic downturns than are property taxes.
Regarding recent concerns about safety around Carbondale after a pair of assaults on young women over the summer, Richardson said he believes the town is taking a measured approach.
“It is a huge deal for the victims and the people associated with them, and I don’t want to make light of that,” he said, adding that the town is doing what it can to address nighttime lighting and completing sidewalk links around town.
Richardson also addressed his job with SGM and a potential conflict with his firm’s occasional contract work for the town of Carbondale in reviewing development applications and other projects. When that contract comes up for renewal, he said he would recuse himself, as he would if there were ever a direct financial conflict.
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The field for three open seats on Aspen City Council in this spring’s election is set at 10 people, most of who are newcomers to Aspen’s political scene. Eight are going for the two council seats and two candidates are vying for mayor.