District 1: Clapper seeks third, final term
October 13, 2006
Patti Clapper said her accessibility and knowledge of the issues qualify her for a third and final four-year term as county commissioner in District 1.”I never saw myself in public service at the political level,” said Clapper, who is running against Tim Mooney. But in 1988, she moved to the trailer court near Smuggler Mountain, which then was a Superfund site because of lead contamination.”I spent the next 10 years of my life fighting the federal government” before the de-listing of the Smuggler area as a Superfund site, she said. In the process, Clapper said, she learned about public service from the “public” side and won a close race against Tom McCabe for commissioner in 1998.And while Clapper won nearly 70 percent of the vote against Mooney when they faced off in the 2002 election, she said she is running this year’s campaign like she was up against any other candidate. Affordable housing, transportation, the environment and the economy are the issues, she said. One of the most important things a commissioner does is to maintain what Pitkin County has.
“It’s about quality of life, the mountains and the healthy living,” she said. “That’s why we came, and that’s why we stayed.” Affordable housing is an important component of that lifestyle, she added.A nurse by trade, Clapper is a full-time commissioner “because I think it’s a full-time job,” said the wife and mother of two.As a new commissioner the learning curve was big, and Clapper had to become a “mini-expert” on many issues: water, conservation, land-use codes, budgets and law. And as a seasoned commissioner, she said, she knows these issues and how to work with staff to get things done.Clapper believes in public participation in government, and said that she is accessible as a public official.”It takes me three hours to go grocery shopping,” she said, because she enjoys talking with her constituents. Commissioners, she said, are an important link for people to have their say on important statewide issues.And while Clapper said that no single member of the council gets things done, she is proud of her work on issues like the completion of the land-use code. She spent more than a year poring over the details of the code. Clapper also worked on the Ryan Bill, a complex land-swap to preserve more acreage in the county that the U.S. Senate passed in September.
Clapper favors a real estate transfer tax, which would divert funds from large real estate projects to support important local programs, such as health and human services, housing and transportation. She said the transfer tax would take the burden off property tax and would allow growth to pay its own way.”I don’t think land use is a matter of making deals,” she said. On the controversial Entrance to Aspen issue, Clapper said the key is to come up with a plan that people agree on and go out and get federal and state funding.Clapper said she doesn’t see how to address the problem through the existing S-curves, which would mean taking land away from people. And, she believes in an expanded bus system as an important component.She is excited about the building of the new Maroon Creek Bridge, what she called a “worthwhile effort” over the past two and a half years.The HOV lane on Highway 82 is confusing to many, Clapper said. She’d like to see a way people could pass during HOV hours, but she said the lane works. She only hopes to find a way to incentivize carpooling from Buttermilk into Aspen.
Clapper is proud of the county’s strict energy use code and efficient building code, but she wants to bring both codes back to the table to see what’s working and what’s not.”That’s how Pitkin County can be part of the Canary Initiative,” she said.The “age-old battle for water rights” will not go away, Clapper said, and it is important for county commissioners to stay on the front line. She is concerned about pine beetles, which threaten to invade Pitkin County as it has in neighboring counties: “If we lose our pine trees, we will have major runoff problems,” she said.Clapper looks at this election as just another chance to get out and talk with people, and she said that she has no party affiliation. “I’m representing the people, not the party,” she said. And she points to her “experience and ability to deal with all levels of communication” as qualifications for the job. Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.