Invigorating civic involvement |

Invigorating civic involvement

Dear Editor: A community discussion about growth and development in Aspen is exactly that, a community discussion. Contrary to your editorial on June 14, the city has not sent out personal invitations to select residents but rather sent out 300 postcard notices of the event to randomly selected voters. (The postcard is essentially replicating the ad that has been in both The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News the last week). It is true we have sent out some invitations to specific residents, but it was because they either asked City Council to receive one or they have indicated in the past they want to participate in any upcoming community dialogues. All in all right now there are 14 focus groups scheduled which accommodate 140 citizens regardless of their political position, full-time status or participation level in the community. One focus group is dedicated to Les Holst and his fellow White Shirts, and Les has been personally called and invited. Your assumption that the city is not listening to the White Shirts is inaccurate. One focus group is dedicated to seasonal residents because we believe their opinions are important. So far about 50 residents have volunteered to participate in a focus group – these are primarily people who do normally show up at meetings. No one is excluded from these groups. The intention is to be inclusive, to discover what the community thinks, not just those who can make it to City Council meetings. It’s a way for the city to reach out to its tax-paying citizens. The meetings are generally organized by week. The focus groups from June 19-23 are for people who call to volunteer. The focus groups from June 26-30 are for randomly selected voters, but we accommodate any schedule and will fit a volunteer in when it best suits them. Every opinion will have the same weight but it will be interesting to see if people who actively participate are representing views which are very different from those who don’t ordinarily volunteer their opinion. Once we gather all the information from the focus groups it will be used to structure the large group meeting on July 19. It will take some time to organize the data and plan for another huge event. I hope this helps illuminate some of the methods we are using to solicit public opinion. It would certainly be fair to say that America today is not in its heyday of civic engagement. We are hoping that this process will invigorate a wider public debate in Aspen. City Council invites anyone who wants to express their opinion to please sign up for a focus group. To sign up call Mitzi Rapkin at 920-5082 or e-mail Rapkin Director of community relations and communicationsCity of Aspen

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