Do or die? Aspen council could decide vacant seat with a dice roll |

Do or die? Aspen council could decide vacant seat with a dice roll

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times

The vacant seat on the Aspen City Council could be decided today by a roll of the dice — literally.

At a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, council members Ann Mullins, Art Daily and Adam Frisch, along with voting member Mayor Steve Skadron, were deadlocked 2-2 on their choice for the appointment to the seat that opened in early June when Skadron won Aspen’s mayoral election.

Skadron and Mullins wanted Howie Mallory, a retired banker and longtime community volunteer. Frisch and Daily chose Dwayne Romero, a former Aspen councilman and briefly the director of economic development for Gov. John Hickenlooper. Romero also is president of Related Colorado, the development and management company for the Base Village area of Snowmass.

In a ski-resort town where development issues are front-and-center, Mallory is seen as an advocate of slow and cautious growth, while Romero is viewed as being more open to building opportunities, although he has a track record as a moderate on such issues.

After more than an hour of interviews of the four finalists for the seat — pared down on Monday from 11 applicants — the four elected officials tried a secret-ballot vote four times on Tuesday, all with the same result: two for Romero, two for Mallory.

As the council debated whether to schedule another round of interviews with the candidates or discuss the possibility of a “compromise candidate” from the pool of the other nine applicants, City Clerk Kathryn Koch chimed in with a potential solution.

Koch pointed out that the city Election Commission earlier this year officially came up with a way of breaking a tie in an election: Each of the candidates with an equal number of votes rolls a single die, and the highest number wins.

Council members shrugged their shoulders but decided to adopt the unconventional election tiebreaker for their own council appointment in lieu of meeting during the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend. The city charter has no provision for a special election when a council seat is vacated, so asking the voters to decide the matter never was an option.

“We have two good finalists,” Skadron said. “I want to decide this.”

The council will meet at 10:30 a.m. today for another attempt at a vote that would result in a majority for either Mallory or Romero. If they still are deadlocked, then each of the two finalists will get a roll of a single die. The high number wins the seat and holds it until June 2015. If they tie on the first roll, there will be another roll and so on until one of them wins.

“What is this, 1876? Really? A dice roll?” longtime Aspen resident and voter Rodney Hill said when told that a dice roll might decide the vacant City Council seat.

“It’s a bit sad that a day before our country’s celebration of independence, the newly elected council’s first big decision has to be decided literally by chance,” Frisch said. “I am not sure the Founding Fathers, let alone our community, wanted democratic decisions to be ‘die goes to the winner.’ ”

Koch said she would have to look around in her office to find the “official dice.” If not, a city employee might have to head down to Carl’s Pharmacy on Main Street to find some, another city official joked.

“I’m not really sure where they are,” Koch said.

Wednesday’s meeting will take place in the basement of Aspen City Hall at 130 S. Galena St. The council must fill the seat by July 10, and if it doesn’t, the council members legally could be “in dereliction of their duties,” according to City Attorney Jim True.

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