District 2: Richards would leave council for county seat | AspenTimes.com

District 2: Richards would leave council for county seat

Charles Agar
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

If she wins the Nov. 7 election in District 2, Rachel Richards will give up her City Council seat and take on the job of county commissioner full time.Richards is vying with former commissioner and local lawyer Jim True for the county commissioner’s seat Mick Ireland is vacating because of term limits.Though Richards wants to follow through on city issues like Aspen’s moratorium on development, she said the City Council would appoint someone to finish her term. Richards arrived in Aspen from Maryland in 1978. She keeps a flexible day job with a brochure publishing company to maintain her life in public service, and she is proud of her 15-year record in civic life.

When she was Aspen mayor (1999 to 2001), the city passed a number of important ballot questions, including the initial approval of the Burlingame affordable housing project, and the initial funding and master plan for the recreation center. Her passion for public service, Richards said, grew in part from her Catholic upbringing, but she said she was inspired by the social revolution of the 1960s.”It felt very appropriate as I was growing up to be involved,” she said. She looks at elected office as a chance to do more good for more people. Her bid for commissioner is at once a continuation of her work in the community and a step up to next level.”I have always worked on the regional issues,” Richards said, and being a commissioner is a chance to work for change throughout the region. Housing, transportation, open spaces, containing growth, maintaining public lands are intertwined, she said, and need to be taken as a whole.”I’ve worked really hard on housing issues,” Richards said. Just as she stood up to powerful and influential opponents of Burlingame, she promised continued efforts to encourage affordable housing and make up for the loss of free-market units to second-home ownership.

“How much do you get involved if you are not going to stay?” Richards asked of young people whom high housing costs have forced out of the community. “That’s to the detriment of the community.”And on the controversial Entrance to Aspen, Richards said, “I want to get things done.”She said that the plan to widen the road along the current alignment, through the S-curves really will “never fly.””You cannot run an articulated bus and a Suburban through without doubling the size of those curve,” she said.

Richards said she favors the “modified direct” alignment, which would partially cut across the protected Marolt Open Space. And she criticized her opponent for his opposition to the 2002 ballot issue.”We had a viable alternative on the table, with clearance ready to build,” Richards said, and True came out against it. The plan had the approval of Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority and both local newspapers, but failed to find funding at the polls. Richards wants to work with the current record of decision and get something done. She said CDOT is already underfunded and is not going to ram an Entrance to Aspen solution down the city’s throat when its efforts are needed – and wanted – elsewhere. Any plan, she said, needs city and county approval.”I am going to commit all of my time and effort for the good of Pitkin County in the next four years,” Richards said. “I have a solid ability to work with others and get things done.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.

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