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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jeez, this is confusing.

I’ve lived in three counties since moving to the Roaring Fork Valley, starting out in Gunnison County (Marble) where I shacked on a couch and commuted through the glorious Crystal River Valley each morning; then to Garfield County, where I split my time between town bustle (Carbondale) and country solitude (a small cabin on a Spring Valley ranch); and then on to Pitkin County, spending 17 years in Aspen before returning to Carbondale and the warped politics of Garfield County.

I’ve voted in all three of those jurisdictions, often not on the winning side as my politics clashed with the majority of those around me.

And now I find myself in the schizophrenic position of writing vast amounts of copy about Pitkin County races in which I cannot vote, while depending on the reportage of others to choose between protagonists hoping to run a county, Garfield, that I have long considered bereft of competent leadership.

It’s enough to drive a man to drink.

But in the quintessentially American gamesmanship that makes up the political search for leaders, time is the ultimate critical factor. Sooner or later, you have to choose, both in the national contests and locally.

Here in Garfield County, to take my own choices in hand, we have out-of-control growth up and down the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys; we sit at the epicenter of a nationally tinged oil and gas boom that has turned the western part of the county into a forest of gas-well towers that threatens to overwhelm the landscape; we have an explosion of social ills fueled by rampant immigration (legal and illegal) from other countries and other states; we have a housing crisis that is confusingly warped by an overabundance of homes priced beyond the reach of most of us; the list goes on.

I’ve read about the candidates and, as far as I can see, it comes down to a choice of more of the same from incumbent Republican John Martin, who talks a good fight but whose performance has been dismally pro-growth, pro-sprawl and anti-progressive; or taking a flier with some untried newcomers ” Democrats Steve Bershenyi and Steve Carter, and Republican Mike Samson.

One choice is simple ” toss John Martin out on his ear, whatever else happens. He’s had 12 years on the job, and the proof is in the pudding. We are where we are thanks to his leadership, or lack thereof, and we deserve and need better. His partner in political crime, outgoing incumbent Larry McCown, read the writing on the wall and wisely opted not to run, so he’s not a concern.

To replace the Martin-McCown slate ” and it has been a slate, as the two of them have routinely outvoted and ignored Tresi Houpt, the most progressive commissioner ever to sit at Garfield County’s table ” I’m going for Bershenyi and Carter.

Both men seem to understand that the issues facing this county cannot continue in a business-as-usual framework. Both have made affordable housing a central aspect of their public remarks. Both seem willing to stand up to the oil and gas lobbies and corporate juggernauts, and seek agreements and policies that demand just treatment of the local population and environment.

Over and above what the two have said in articles and at candidate forums, I’ve known Carter for years. And while our beliefs and politics may not always have meshed entirely (which probably should be seen as to his credit), I’ve always found him to be a thoughtful, realistic and clear-thinking guy who will not yield to bluster and bombast.

As a former judge, his time on the bench has been characterized by humor and clear-eyed adherence to principle, which should stand him in good stead when faced by crafty developers and thuggish corporate attorneys.

Bershenyi I do not know, but I like the fact that he’s a craftsman (blacksmith) and a working class hero (bus driver), and I like the endorsements he’s gotten, from the local Sierra Club, among others.

So, for me, it’s pretty much a case of throw out the old (Republican hegemony) and bring in some new blood with fresh ideas.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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