City Council shoots down Next Gen board on voting power
A volunteer board that represents the 40-and-younger demographic earlier this month was met with resistance from Aspen City Council when it asked to have voting rights on development proposals and other issues.
Members of the Next Generation Advisory Commission, which was formed in 2012, met with council July 2 as a check-in.
The board requested a few tweaks to the current structure, including having council and city departments pass ideas, plans and documents by it before they go through the public process. Board members cited the Castle Creek Bridge or the city’s pending mobility lab experiment.
The board also suggested that Next Gen should formally vote on developments or issues as a step in the approval process — or render advisory votes.
In a memo to council, the board said it is interested in payment-in-lieu housing fees for developers and density as it relates to transportation and housing.
Councilman Adam Frisch said out of 15 citizen boards, only three have voting power — the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission and Open Space and Trails. They make recommendations to council on land-use applications and policy issues.
“I’m not sure about anyone voting on development issues outside of the normal process,” Frisch said.
He asked if the board feels out of the loop based on its requests of council.
“We feel like we are out of the loop basically on everything, to be honest,” board member Kimbo Brown-Schirato said.
She added that the board is challenged with time constraints in staying current with city issues and projects. She also told council that in a recent survey conducted by the board, the 18- to 40-year-old demographic in Aspen doesn’t feel council is adequately representing it.
Mayor Steve Skadron said having the nontraditional board is a “grand experiment” and the city is still trying to figure out its role.
He took exception, however, to board member Skippy Mesirow’s comment that the younger generation in Aspen has the foresight and a different perspective that sometimes fall on deaf ears.
“At times I feel you are really aggressive in your comments,” Skadron said. “To suggest for one minute that (we) are disconnected from the realities you face and that my experience in Aspen is different than yours is really off-putting. I want to rein that in.”
Skadron said when he arrived in Aspen in 1995, he had to work three jobs and couch surfed in Glenwood Springs, explaining that affordability and the lack of housing are long-standing issues here.
“A generation has laid a foundation and we are building upon it,” he said. “To disrespect in some way the work that went into create the very place that attracted you here originally has consequences.”
Mesirow said that was never the board’s intention, but “you need to understand that we feel as though we are not being heard and often we are being told to be quiet when we have a contribution to make, so that respect goes both ways and we expect that, as well.”
Skadron responded that the city does listen to the younger generation and establishing the board six years ago is proof of that.
Earlier in the meeting, Skadron said he doesn’t think the Next Gen board should have a role in land-use issues. He would prefer that it tackle community issues like compulsory voting, vetting the proposed property tax increase for mass transit and getting familiar with the Aspen Area Community Plan in advance of its update in two years.
Council members commended the work of the board in recent years like getting more young people to vote, tackling housing issues and developing a nonprofit geared toward empowering startup businesses and professionals in the Aspen market.
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