Editorial: Support Rob Ittner for Pitkin County commissioner
October 30, 2014
We believe Pitkin County voters should re-elect Rob Ittner for the District 1 seat on the Board of County Commissioners.
Ittner, an Aspen restaurateur who was elected in 2010, provides a much-needed moderate tone to local government. While we don't always agree with his decisions, we find that he brings well-researched and reasoned arguments to the table. His demeanor is an asset to the board, as is his experience with business and community affairs.
He is an advocate for responsible growth and points out that despite the emotional outcries that seek to affect many building decisions, projects in the county usually are finalized after a series of compromises between public officials and private interests. Through his votes, he has advocated a slow approach to allowing marijuana businesses in rural communities of the county that don't want commercial pot operations. He takes input from rural caucuses but doesn't kowtow to their demands, and recently he has stated support for the caucuses' limited advisory role.
His grasp of the issues surrounding mandated upgrades at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport has been impressive, as demonstrated through his statements and writings throughout the current campaign. He does not propose quick fixes and appears to value solutions that follow careful, long-term, analytical thinking. For instance, while the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring a second fixed-based operator to service private jets — along with a new taxiway on the airport's west side — Ittner has emphasized the more immediate need for a wider runway to service the new commercial jets that will be flying into Aspen in the near future (since most of the current jet models will be phased out soon). With that consideration, he is seeking to protect the area's tourism economy, which is totally dependent on uninterrupted commercial air service.
Ittner is a balanced voice on fiscal issues. While recognizing the need to improve county facilities, infrastructure and services, he also says he wants to keep on eye on overspending. Ever the voice of compromise, he also understands that county operations are on the grow and workers need the right environment to do their jobs. We believe he is better-suited than his opponent, Patti Clapper, to weigh government concerns alongside the rights of taxpayers.
Clapper held the seat from 1999 to 2010. She is somewhat of a local folk hero for her efforts in getting the Smuggler Mobile Home Park and surrounding area delisted from the roster of federal Superfund projects. As a registered nurse, she understands the county's health and human services operations and their present shortcomings. She's forthright with the public and the media and maintains a seemingly ubiquitous presence in the community thanks to her boundless energy and strong family and social ties. She holds three jobs, and there is no question she is a hard worker.
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Should Clapper win back the seat after leaving it when she was term-limited four years ago, it wouldn't necessarily be detrimental to the future of the district or the county at large. She is capable and certainly has a lot of support, both personally and professionally.
We are, however, a bit disturbed by Clapper's unprofessional reaction to her husband's loss in the 2010 commissioner's race when she stated that she didn't want to live in Pitkin County anymore. We also can't abide by the explanation about her family's failure to pay property taxes on the land where her home sits while serving as commissioner from 2002 to 2005. We also wonder if she feels entitled to public office and whether she is eying the $72,500 annual salary. We find it refreshing that Ittner doesn't need to depend on his commissioner's salary to make a living.
The race for District 1 is not a popularity contest. In the short and long term, answers to serious questions surrounding airport expansion, courthouse (and courthouse annex) renovations and land-use issues will require complex study and logical thought. During four years in the seat, Ittner has demonstrated the ability to tackle such matters with an open mind and attention to detail.
The commissioner's seat is not a mere prop in a game of musical chairs; there are no good reasons why Ittner shouldn't be allowed to continue down the path that county voters placed him on four years ago.