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Explain, please …

Dear Editor:

The Red Ant would like to challenge Andrew and Mick, two of my opponents in the mayoral race, on their support of the ballot question for the potential sale of city property to the Aspen Art Museum.

I love the new museum design, and will spend many an hour crawling through that stunning architectural gem when built. But voters must decide, without any supporting details, whether to authorize council to negotiate the sale of the property. I call on Andrew and Mick each to explain:

– How was it determined that the museum would gain the exclusive option to acquire this land?

– Was there a public process that concluded that citizens wanted to sell this public land?

– Did public process identify the highest and best use compatible with the area, even if rezoning were required?

– Is the museum considered the best use, from which the city receives the greatest tangible or intangible value? How was that value determined, and compared to other uses, such as affordable housing, or a moderately priced hotel?

– Does the value being determined by the appraisers assume that the property could be rezoned for other uses?

– The BMC property was appraised on its hypothetical future value. This appraisal assumed a city-initiated zoning change. Will a similar zoning/restriction change be assumed here? If so, The Ant thinks that the property is surely worth at least $15 million.

– The Ant believes it is vital that public officials not only act fairly, but demonstrate the appearance of fairness, to maintain trust with the community. Should Mayor Ireland have recused himself from the museum negotiations and council discussions after his niece was granted a college scholarship by the museum?

– Why the rush to put this item on the ballot, with no details, given that the intent of the law requiring a public vote, is to fully inform voters before selling city property. Why not get the appraisal and significant terms known before asking for voter approval?

– How is the city assuring that adequate confirmed financing is in place? Is collection of the pledges necessary for a fully financed plan?

The Ant is confused … Mayor Ireland insisted on having all of the details on the Lift 1A project known before its public vote (since withdrawn), but now wants the public to “trust council” to negotiate a fair deal after the fact? The track record on city real estate transactions under this council is abysmal. Has council earned the voters’ trust for an open-ended approval?

My final question is for the generous supporters of the museum. Does your passion for this exceptional project overshadow your sense of responsibility to good governance? Will you consider allowing fellow citizens enough time to know details of the “gives and gets” of this proposed development before asking for our support? Many of us want to enthusiastically support the museum, but believe that the community needs complete information first. Please give us that opportunity.

Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias

Creators of The Red Ant

Aspen


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