Kole can’t keep hat out of ring | AspenTimes.com

Kole can’t keep hat out of ring

Chad Abraham

Andrew Kole says he'll seek the Aspen mayoral seat next spring.

TV talk show host Andrew Kole, running on a campaign of ending employee housing and pushing for a straight-shot entrance, said he will announce his bid for mayor today.It will be the Aspen resident’s second mayoral bid and fifth try for elected office overall. All have been unsuccessful.After Kole lost a race for City Council in May 2005, he said, “Obviously, I’m done running.”On Tuesday, he said, “What I said was, ‘I’m done running unless I change my mind.'”Kole, who hosts a program on Aspen’s GrassRoots TV, is a former member of the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission. He ran in vain for City Council in 2001 and 2005, and mayor in 2003. He also failed in a bid for a seat on the Aspen School Board in 2005.

What changed his mind recently was striking upon an idea he called “huge.” As mayor, Kole would work toward complete deregulation of the city’s affordable-housing program. He called the system and its cap on earned annual interest unfair and unworkable.”Owning housing, primarily, historically, everywhere else in the Western world, is to build a nest egg. That’s what housing’s about,” he said. “The system they have here was put in in order to give people a place to live. But it doesn’t work as a nest egg when you can earn 2, 3, 4 percent a year.”He called for allowing 20-year owners of affordable housing to recoup 100 percent of their residence’s market value; 75 percent for 15-year homeowners; and 50 percent for those who have owned for 10 years.”Whether [the idea is] good or bad, people will argue. But it’s a pretty grand idea, and I think you gotta give the general public enough time to think about how it affects them,” he said. “In other words, if I’ve got an extra $200, $300, $400 or $500,000, how is that going to affect me?”Affordable housing was a great idea 20 years ago but is not so great anymore, Kole said.

“The market’s changed, life’s changed, Aspen’s changed. I don’t see any benefit to it anymore,” he said. “I think managing it [takes] a fortune, people cheat extensively. This way it just cleans the whole system up. And I still don’t think you lose the ability to live in Aspen if you want to rent.”Kole said he didn’t think that ending employee housing in Aspen would result in an exodus of the town’s work force.”People who own their units are going to stay if they want to stay. The rental units would still be rental units,” he said. “There’s nothing to stop the city, who owns them, from still renting whatever number they want.”The percent of market value lost by the homeowners who don’t stay 20 years could go into a housing fund for potential repairs of rental units or to subsidize fire, police and other essential services.He also said Aspen must have a straight shot across the Marolt Open Space west of town.

“The traffic problems, to discuss them anymore is just insane,” Kole said.The land, which Kole referred to as the “Marolt center,” could hold a parking garage and storage center underground where people can pull in and park, then take “a very short shuttle or walk in to town. I’d like to see a huge bike storage area so people could have a bike there.”Roger Marolt, Kole’s campaign manager, said his candidate’s bleak electoral history will be an obstacle. But Marolt, a Snowmass Village resident and Aspen Times columnist, said winning is not always Kole’s sole goal.”In principle, I think he’s on to something. And at the very least, [housing] is an issue that’s worth talking about,” he said. “The thing with Andrew is, he brings a lot of questions to the forefront and he’s got an ability to get people to talk about it. In that sense, he’s accomplished at least a portion of what he’s set out to do.”The election is May 8, 2007.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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