Emmer makes good case at mayoral forum
The Aspen mayoral candidate forum on April 2, an event organized by Aspen Health and Human Services and POD, a network of local nonprofits, provided the attendees with a clear insight into the differing candidate perspectives on the central question under discussion: the city of Aspen’s role in funding Health and Human Services.
Attendees and candidates agreed that the amount of money allocated to funding Health and Human Services has been generous when compared with other Colorado cities; that Aspen had been a leader in the number of dollars provided.
There was also agreement among the gathered organizations that the amount was insufficient to provide for the needs of the population they exist to serve.
The City Council members in attendance, Torre, Steve Skadron and Derek Johnson, were in general agreement on two perspectives: that the amount allocated reflected the high-priority status they gave to Health and Human Services funding and that their decision was made in light of the many other priorities they must take into consideration.
Maurice Emmer, a highly regarded former international tax attorney with a degree in economics, the only mayoral candidate who has never held or previously run for public office, offered up a perspective that the human-services attendees found more insightful and telling. He stated that the amount contributed accounted for only 0.35 of 1 percent of the budget and that by eliminating some unwise spending, a considerably larger commitment could and should be made available to Health and Human Services and local nonprofits.
The current council members continued to stress the efficacy of their process in reaching a determination of how much to contribute. I asked that if elected, would the sitting current council members agree to rethink their position and look at reprioritizing to allow for at least a tripling of their Health and Human Services allocation to 1 percent of the budget?
Lindsay Lofaro, of the Buddy Program, added that the council could not be sufficiently aware of human-services needs since no council person or staff had attended any of their meetings in more than two years. Elizabeth Milias, of The Red Ant newsletter, referred to the current level of Health and Human Services funding as “unconscionable.” Emmer suggested that, if elected, he would pursue an effort to significantly increase Health and Human Services funding entirely though a process of improved governance and without raising taxes. He further stated that he would ask council to begin such an effort by making a moral commitment to achieving that goal.
Those of us who serve the public through our work at Health and Human Services or local nonprofits felt that the meeting adequately highlighted our concerns and, encouraged by the observations and suggestions voiced by Emmer, are hopeful steps might be taken to elevate funding to the “high priority” we have been told it is.
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