Hershey, Torre square off before next week’s vote
In a cordial, round-table-style debate Thursday, City Council candidates Torre and Tony Hershey outlined their differences on such issues as time-share hotels, economic stimulation and whether Aspen ought to demand the return of a highway easement.The live broadcast from the GrassRoots TV studio gave the incumbent Hershey a chance to explain his controversial conduct and defend some of the council’s actions, while Torre tried to put to rest voter concerns about his relative inexperience and refuted a suggestion that his campaign is steeped in generalities.The Squirm Night debate, hosted by GrassRoots and Aspen’s two newspapers, will be rebroadcast several times on Channel 12 before Tuesday’s runoff election.Both candidates were quizzed on their standards for civil behavior. Hershey said respect and a willingness to listen define his standards of civility, but quickly admitted he doesn’t always live up to them.”I’m very passionate about the issues. I really care about things. Sometimes those passions get the better of me,” he conceded.”For me, the primary goal is respect for everybody, no matter what point of view they’re coming from,” Torre said.Pressed for specific ideas he could bring to the council table, Torre said he is working to organize a mentorship program involving city government for local youths and events this summer geared to local teens and families. He also called for a citywide, curbside recycling program.”It’s incorrect to say I’ve spoken only in generalities,” Torre said.Since his failed mayoral bid two years ago, he said he’s been busy working and being involved in the community, gaining experience and insight, though he hasn’t sought experience on a city board or commission.On a council of veterans, Torre said he’ll bring “new ideas and a fresh perspective.””I don’t think Torre’s at a horrible disadvantage because he didn’t spend two years on the P&Z,” Hershey added.Revitalizing Aspen’s economy is the toughest issue facing the resort, Torre said. “Do I have all the answers to this? No,” he said, though he said he’d like to see more “hot beds” for tourists and questioned the city’s paid parking.”I don’t know why it’s enforced in the off-season. We’re trying to keep even locals out of the downtown core?” Torre said.The parking fees fund the city’s free bus system, Hershey countered.The councilman suggested Aspen needs to be open to change in order to remain competitive and vibrant.”Aspen needs to change – and I know that’s a terrible word and we don’t say that here – to keep up,” he said. “One thing government definitely can do is get the hell out of the way,” he added, blaming onerous regulations for stifling change.Hershey also suggested Aspen should be more open to requests for things like the display of Lexus autos on the mall during a convention here, though he voted against the proposal along with the rest of the council.Questioned on how many time-share or fractional-ownership hotels Aspen needs, Hershey said it’s not city government’s role to decide, but suggested the hotels may boost occupancies. Once buyers have paid for a unit, they’ll come, he reasoned.”How much is too much? Let’s let the market determine it,” he said.But Torre expressed concern about the recent proliferation of time-share proposals and the loss of moderately priced hotel rooms where visitors can stay for a weekend in Aspen.”I see it as the fractional selling of Aspen,” he said. “I don’t see it as locking people into coming to Aspen, I see it as locking people out of coming to Aspen.”Torre, who fought the city’s transfer of an easement across the Marolt Open Space to the Colorado Department of Transportation, vowed to fight to get it back.”The land is not going anywhere, and our ability to give it isn’t going anywhere,” he said.Hershey defended the transfer as the city’s legal responsibility in following through on the terms of a contract between Aspen, CDOT and Pitkin County that was signed before he was elected to office.Yesterday’s debate will be rebroadcast today at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday at 12:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.; and Monday at 4, 8 and 11 p.m.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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