Leading by example is a city priority
December 19, 2011
Although the city of Aspen appreciated receiving acknowledgment of our good intentions, it was with disappointment that city officials read Charlie Leonard’s column in The Aspen Times called “City has good intentions but lacks priorities” (Dec. 15).
In fact, every year council spends two full days in a retreat with senior staff and facilitators designating 10 top goals, which also could be called priorities, for the year ahead. We’ve done that for the past six years. In addition, the council targets a major focus for the year, which for this year is environmental leadership. While the council’s major goals may not be in line with every residents’ hopes for the city, they are the priorities that your elected officials chose to guide their policy agenda.
The most public project under this agenda is the Castle Creek Energy Center. It’s true the neighbors don’t want it, and they’ve put a lot of money into lawsuits and a public relations firm to organize their message. They’ve also solicited the support of American Rivers.
Ironically, at the meeting last week the representative from American Rivers said not one word about the health of the river but attacked the project’s financial merits with a report that contained several fundamental errors. In contrast, two of the valley’s leading environmental leaders, Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Co., and Nathan Ratledge, executive director of CORE, both spoke out in favor of the integrity and goals of the project and want to see the hydro plant come online.
Leonard’s claim that the city “tried to subvert the federal application process” is incorrect. There are a variety of ways to pursue a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, and the city initially chose one that was legal, appropriate and designed exactly for a project like the Castle Creek Energy Center. After getting feedback from residents that it wanted one of the different FERC application processes, the City Council agreed. There was nothing “subversive” about it.
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Leonard was in error when he stated that when this project is online “there is no evidence that it will have any impact on carbon emissions in Aspen or anywhere else.” This project will reduce Aspen’s carbon emissions by 5,200 tons a year and will increase the city’s utility’s portfolio of renewable by 8 percent.
Leonard talks about limits on government, and one of those is that we only control our utility, not others’. Sure, some other customers may come along and gobble up the coal we are not using, but we have to lead by example, not some existential fatalism that makes the perfect the enemy of the good.
For the city, taking a leadership role is both good intentioned and a priority.
Director of community relations, city of Aspen