Cordial commissioner candidates discuss Entrance, environment |

Cordial commissioner candidates discuss Entrance, environment

Charles Agar

Candidates for county commissioner converged on the Woody Creek caucus Thursday night for a casual forum and a chance to size one another up for the November election.

Patti Clapper is the incumbent in District 1, defending her job against candidate Tim Mooney, an Aspen businessman. District 2 pits Rachel Richards, a former mayor and current city councilwoman, against Jim True, who was a county commissioner from 1989-97.

Environmental issues topped the agenda at Thursday’s forum. And candidates painted broad strokes of the county’s challenges and their respective opinions. Mudslinging got only about as far as Richards’ disagreement with True over their choice of brand of hybrid car.

After introductions, candidates discussed Aspen’s controversial bottleneck entryway.

Clapper said the real mark of longtime Aspen residents was not how many years they’ve lived in town but how many times they’ve voted on the Entrance to Aspen issue. Clapper hopes for a four-lane solution but said nothing could happen without finding a decision that everyone agrees on ” and, most importantly, funding.

Mooney said the bottleneck entrance to the city was like a drawbridge over a moat to the unique Aspen community.

“I’m not a four-lane guy,” he said. Mooney wants to find an alternative solution and said Aspen residents can learn to factor in a 15-minute commute through the slow-going S-curves.

True believes in a four-lane entry to Aspen. During his tenure as commissioner in the ’90s, he said, he was part of building the four lanes all the way to Buttermilk.

“I believe it’s got to be four lanes all the way,” he said, adding, “It can be done.”

Richards said she has a deep working knowledge of the entry issue and wants to “work through the solutions we have on the table,” rather than start over from scratch. She said the decision is about the what the community wants and that mass transit is a vital component.

And what will candidates do to fight global warming?

True said he wants to strengthen existing building codes to make them more energy-efficient and reduce the county’s dependency on oil. Richards’ mantra is, “We can do more” on energy and conservation issues that she said are more urgent now than ever.

And Clapper joked that Aspen should close the airport, the county’s biggest polluter. She does support the new (and quieter) jets flying to Aspen and believes in the county’s new efficient building codes represent the “toughest energy code in the country.”

Mooney believes Aspen plays a unique role as a campus of ideas for the likes of the Forstmann Little convention. In closing, he said he is excited to be running, and as a former ski instructor and big fan of the Aspen lifestyle, he hopes to keep life in Aspen affordable and sustainable, not “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Clapper said she is proud to represent the community and has a strong track record on environmental issues. The key to being a leader, she said, is listening.

Richards said, “I think you know from experience that I’m going to just work really hard for you.” She cited her work for the city, with the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, and her support for community programs like the Yellow Brick School and affordable housing at Burlingame.

True said he brings a lot of experience and expertise to a job he wants because he loves Pitkin County. He called himself a “reasonable voice” for the county and said his asset is that he “thinks and considers and get things done.”

Candidates will have more chances to debate before the elections Nov. 9. GrassRoots TV will air Thursday’s debate.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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