Malone joins City Council race
Local biologist/environmentalist Dee Malone has joined the field of candidates seeking election to the Aspen City Council in May.
Malone, 50, (the former Dee Bellina) is the third candidate to announce her intentions for one of two open seats on the council, joining Jack Johnson and Marcia Goshorn in the race. More contenders are likely; candidates can’t even begin circulating petitions for the May 3 election until Monday.
An Aspen resident since 1989, Malone is making her first bid for public office, though she previously served as a citizen member of the now-defunct Clean Air Advisory Board.
It is Malone’s current work on a Stream Health Initiative that spurred her political aspirations, she said.
A biologist with a master’s degree in science education and environmental science, Malone is in the third year of work on the initiative, which is focusing on the health of the Roaring Fork River watershed, including some of its tributaries that are considered at risk from development pressure. Various nonprofit agencies are funding the study ” The Nature Conservancy is a major sponsor, but the city and Pitkin County have also contributed financially.
As Malone worked her way down the watershed from the Roaring Fork’s headwaters on Independence Pass, she said she noticed a marked decline in the river’s condition after it entered the city limits, in terms of water quantity, quality and the condition of the riverbanks.
“I just realized how bad a condition the stream is in. It’s a reflection on the amount of care we’ve taken with the rest of the community,” she said. “I started thinking, well, these decisions about transportation, these decisions about housing ” the stream is representative of all that decision-making.”
The inadequate treatment of runoff from streets and other urban surfaces before it enters the river (though a stormwater treatment plan is in the works) is but one example of the city’s failure to take proper care of its environment, Malone said.
On another front, Malone said she advocates a coalition among valley governments and environmental organizations to fight for local water rights. Currently, the region is doing little to counter powerful Front Range interests that want more water from local rivers, she said. The Roaring Fork Valley needs to form a coalition with “as much political muscle as we can muster,” she said.
She considers herself an environmentalist ” “and proud of it” ” who hopes the valley doesn’t close the door to the possibility of commuter rail at some point in its future. She also hopes voters reject the city’s Burlingame Ranch housing project in the May election.
“That will give us the opportunity to make decisions based on quality, not quantity,” Malone said of pulling back on Burlingame.
Smaller, in-town projects will do more to add to the community’s vitality and environmental sustainability, she said.
“There are certainly opportunities in town to buy properties for affordable housing,” Malone said. “I just think there’s a better way to do it.”
The controversial Burlingame, though it’s likely to garner a great deal of attention as election campaigning heats up, isn’t behind Malone’s council bid, she said.
“I really think it’s the tail wagging the dog … I think it’s symptomatic of a larger problem,” she said. “We are not making decisions that will sustain a healthy environment.”
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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