Mayoral candidates get fired up |

Mayoral candidates get fired up

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN Three of Aspen’s mayoral candidates got fired up Monday night, and not just about the hot-button topics like the Entrance to Aspen and preserving the community’s character.”The hearth is a symbol of the kind of waste that we don’t need to advertise,” candidate Mick Ireland said in response to a question about Aspen’s controversial downtown fire pit. “We can’t have everything. … We have to make choices.”Fellow mayoral candidates Torre and Tim Semrau disagreed. “I don’t think [the fire pit is] going to make or break global warming,” Semrau said of the “hysterical” nature of election season. He suggested the city purchase carbon credits to offset the fire pit’s use.Torre called the hearth a “great asset to the community,” in that it brings together locals and tourists. He then took Ireland, a former county commissioner, to task for the area’s “biggest leak” – the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which does not use carbon credits to offset its affects on the environment.

The hearth question was one of myriad issues addressed when Ireland, Torre and Semrau fielded questions from the media and community at City Hall.Candidate Bonnie Behrend did not attend. She wrote on her website that while she will “do some other media … I’m not likely to do what’s locally called Squirm Night … Sponsored by local newspapers on the local cable access channel, it appears to be a chance for small town newspaper reporters to take rude public shots at candidates and try to make as many headlines as they can. I’m not in the business of moving newspapers, I don’t like politics, debates or election coverage in the media. Never have. Not even when I was producing election night coverage or reporting on returns. I think it’s mostly denigrating and unnecessarily negative.”In opening the debate, the three candidates in attendance summarized their qualifications and motivations for seeking the mayor’s seat. They then said what differentiated them from their opponents.”I have an open ear to the community,” said Torre, a current city councilman. “I listen to what you say, and I want to bring the community together, to face challenges together.”Semrau, a former city councilman, touted not only his political experience, but his “life experience.” “I’ve been through the Aspen wringer,” said the 20-year resident, local business owner and family man. “I have a simple, common-sense approach.”

Ireland likewise told of his history in Aspen, as well as his experience in transportation, housing and environmental issues locally and beyond, saying he “took the heat” many times.One such heated issue is the Entrance to Aspen. The three addressed the issue throughout the debate, each pushing his own agenda and firing back at one another over nuances in their proposals. “The No. 1 issue is the Entrance to Aspen,” said Torre, whose platform includes several “near-term solutions” to the problem that still keep the door open to other, future resolutions.Semrau also suggested short-term remedies but took Torre to task about a long-term solution like a reversible third lane of traffic. Semrau believes a final vote on the “preferred alternative” is in order, and if defeated, a new solution could be revisited.Ireland is against another vote, saying “people don’t trust you when you keep asking them the same question.” He believes any change in the voters’ current mandate should come from residents themselves.Other times, there was consensus: All three candidates pledged support for the Aspen Police Department and Police Chief Loren Ryerson; said they would support limiting construction hours; and they believe construction management is key to managing growth in the city. The trio also agreed that a recent call for a moratorium on residential development was “inappropriate.”

“That scared the hell out of people,” Semrau said, touting his “five specific proposals” to improve construction management in the city.In closing, Aspen City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss asked what “values” the candidates would bring to the job. Torre responded respect, humility and humor; Semrau said fairness, reasonableness and problem-solving; Ireland noted his experience in public service, humility and integrity.The Aspen Times, Aspen Daily News and GrassRoots TV sponsored the debate. The public access channel will air the debate numerous times before the May 8 election. Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is

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