Kirshen enters council race |

Kirshen enters council race

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Vitashka Kirshen, an environmentalist and active senior citizen, has become the 10th candidate in a crowded field of contenders seeking election to the Aspen City Council.

Kirshen, 75, announced her bid for public office Wednesday, offering to bring the voice of Aspen’s senior community to city government.

Her interests and concerns, however, range far beyond strictly senior issues. Kirshen offered thoughts on everything from worker housing to transportation, and the environment to Aspen’s proposed infill legislation.

She said she is studying the issues before the city, eliciting citizen viewpoints and planning a door-to-door campaign rather than advertisements to reach voters. Kirshen said she won’t accept any campaign contributions.

Kirshen said she began contemplating a bid for a council seat when the field of candidates looked like it would be dominated by men.

“I think I have something to say. I think it’s important for older people to get involved,” she said, acknowledging her efforts will be directed at benefiting future generations. “I want to see the young children here have as beautiful a town as I had when I came here.”

Active on environmental issues, Kirshen made headlines in the 1990s when she took pains to make her deed-restricted Lone Pine condominium more energy efficient via several measures, including the installation of a solar panel above her back door.

Complaints from her own homeowners’ association and neighbors forced her to take the panel down, but she ultimately won the battle. In 1997, the council adopted an ordinance prohibiting homeowners’ association boards from banning solar panels after discovering a state law that makes it illegal for associations to prohibit solar panels for strictly aesthetic reasons.

Kirshen’s panel was damaged during reinstallation, so she removed the system, but said she’s planning on giving it another try.

“If each one of us does a little something, maybe we can make a difference,” she said.

Her environmental ethic also led her to serve as vice president/co-director of the Energy 2000 Forum for 11 years. Its programs focused on fostering an environmentally sustainable economy. Energy 2000 also helped establish the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, she said. CORE promotes energy conservation in Aspen and the valley.

Kirshen said she’d like to see the city replace diesel buses with cleaner-emission vehicles and explore incentives to encourage a cleaner alternative to the diesel trucks that do business here.

She identifies herself as “an S-curver” who favors the existing alignment of Highway 82 into Aspen as a good transition to slow down highway traffic as it comes into town, though she said a different route for outbound traffic is worth studying.

Kirshen said she’d like to bring forward ideas to help the resort better attract the young generation of skiers and boarders. She also wonders if local employers can’t play a bigger role in providing worker housing; she said she believes deed-restricted housing is often too expensive for the people it’s supposed to help.

She voiced concerns about the proposed infill legislation, which would allow denser development in town, suggesting infill be considered on a site-by-site basis.

“I’m not against infill – I’m against blanket infill,” she said. “We certainly have spots in town that are perfect for it.”

A native of Connecticut, Kirshen said she moved to Aspen as a full-time resident in 1989 after spending time here regularly since 1968.

She formerly lived and worked in Manhattan, including a 12-year stint as a medical assistant for New York University Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics, according to her resume. She was also the coordinator for a two-year brain research project conducted by the NYU Medical Center and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

She has run several businesses in her lifetime and, after moving to Aspen, worked in retail sales, did freelance design work for the city transportation department and worked in guest services for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

She is also active at the Pitkin County Senior Center and her resume details various local volunteer pursuits.

Kirshen’s long-time companion, Jim Pitt, is assisting with her campaign. He resides in New York, but spends six to eight months a year in Aspen.

Two City Council seats are up for election in May. Anticipated contenders include incumbents Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe, along with Cliff Weiss, Torre, Rachel Richards, Tom Peirce, Bert Myrin, Lisa Markalunas, Pepper Gomes and Kirshen.

Mayor Helen Klanderud, meanwhile, is facing a challenge from Councilman Terry Paulson.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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