CSA changes its tune on the commish races | AspenTimes.com
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CSA changes its tune on the commish races

Turnabout is apparently fair play at Common Sense Alliance, which has been campaigning against at least two county commission candidates it endorsed in 1996.

Of course, turnabout is fair play at The Aspen Times, too, at least for Shellie Roy Harper and Dorothea Farris.

In 1996, Harper and Farris were the favored candidates of the Common Sense Alliance but faced the editorial opposition of the Times. Now, Harper and Farris are running for re-election with the editorial support of The Aspen Times against candidates who are supported by the Common Sense Alliance.

“Four years ago we made the best choice we could based on what was available to choose from,” explained Common Sense Alliance spokesman Jeffrey Evans. “Although we’re deeply disappointed in the performance of both Shellie and Dorothea during their terms in office, the Common Sense Alliance still doesn’t feel they’ve done nearly the damage that would have been done by their opponents, George Krawzoff and Richard Roth.

“In that respect,” he continued, “we’re still comfortable with the choice we made four years ago, but this year we have better candidates. That’s what the process is all about.”

Not that either of the incumbents are too concerned with the loss of support from the Redstone-based issues committee. In fact, both have seen a lot of changes at the Common Sense Alliance that make the split from their erstwhile supporter a no-brainer.

“Originally, I thought that Jeffrey was a proactive person who was reacting to what he thought was unfairness with the rural and remote zoning,” said Harper. “I’ve come to realize that he is really an anarchist who will always be the loyal opposition, no matter who is running the government. He only spends money to tear things down; he never spends it to build things up.”

Farris said that she was also in line with the original goals of the Common Sense Alliance – to right some of the wrongs that resulted from the controversial implementation of rural and remote zoning on the back side of Aspen Mountain and in the upper Fryingpan River Valley.

“When that group was formed, it was formed almost entirely by people in the Fryingpan Valley who were concerned that their land was being unfairly lumped in with land on the back side of Aspen Mountain with the rural and remote zoning,” Farris said. “I thought they had a good point.”

From Farris’ point of view, the focus of the Common Sense Alliance has changed radically since the mid-1990s. “I disagree with them on disclosure of campaign funding sources. I disagree with them on how development and growth should be managed. I support the RTA [Rural Transportation Authority]; they’re opposed to it,” she said.

The Common Sense Alliance has also flip-flopped on District 4 county commissioner candidate Jack Hatfield. It supported him in his unsuccessful run against Leslie Lamont in 1996, but this year the group is supporting John Young over Hatfield.

Evans said his group could have gone either way but decided to back Young because he would bring a fresh perspective to local politics. “We’re supporting John Young because even though he disagrees with us on major issues, we like to see new blood on the commission,” he said.

Evans said the Common Sense Alliance is supporting Martin Fiala over Farris in District 5 because “we think he’s probably the single most qualified person who has ever run for county commissioner.” As for Harper’s opponent, Michael O’Sullivan, Evans said, “We think he’s a practical, rational, down-to-earth human being who would bring some balance to the board and contribute some new insights and approaches to some of the existing problems we have.”

Andy Stone, editor of the Times, couldn’t disagree more. “Over the years we’ve disagreed with Shellie Harper on a lot of issues, but we think the election of Michael O’Sullivan would be bad for the county,” he said.

As for the Times’ endorsement of Farris, Stone admitted that the paper didn’t make the right call in 1996. “As we noted in our editorial, Dorothea Farris has in fact done a really good job as commissioner. I hate to say it – but it happens sometimes – we were wrong last time,” he said. “She’s thoughtful and intelligent, and she listens to her constituents.”

Hatfield has the support from the Times editorial board this year, even though it opposed his election four years ago, favoring Leslie Lamont instead. Hatfield isn’t so sure he’d accept support from the Common Sense Alliance this time around. “Jeffrey Evans has moved into political stances that I do not support, including non-disclosure of campaign contributors and having no solution for the transportation problem,” he said.


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