Mayors emphasize unity during meetings
Aspen and Rifle appear to be as well-matched as caviar and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Carbondale and Snowmass Village have about as much in common as Yellowstone and Disneyland.Nevertheless, mayors from throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys have been meeting informally over the past few months to compare notes on problems and seek ideas on solutions.”It’s become apparent that all of the mayors see the necessity to grapple with regional issues, share experiences and so forth,” said Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig. “We share more issues and challenges than we thought.”The participating mayors come from Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt and Rifle.Colin Laird, director of Healthy Mountain Communities, a nonprofit that promotes planning and civics in both valleys, helped bring the mayors together earlier this year, according to Hassig. Now they meet about every four to six weeks.Hassig said he doubts the meetings will ever rise above informal status. There is no special agenda the group is pursuing, he said. However, when opportunity presents itself, the mayors will work together.The first visible opportunity popped up Wednesday night when a state task force pondering the fate of roadless areas in the White River National Forest held a hearing in Glenwood Springs.Each of the towns from Aspen to Silt had already passed a resolution urging the preservation of all 640,000 acres of designated roadless areas in the White River National Forest. (Rifle passed the resolution on the same evening the task force convened.) The mayors felt the significance of the unity would be more apparent if the towns spoke as one rather than individually. Hassig represented them at the task force hearing. The towns don’t want roadless areas to open for activities such as gas drilling and logging, he said.The resolution of each town touted the value of roadless areas in boosting the tourism economy, adding to the quality of life for residents and offering solitude.Hassig was uncertain if and how the mayor’s confab will come to play again in a regional policy debate. As real estate prices continue to climb and affordable housing is harder to find, towns might look at the successes and failures of Aspen’s affordable housing program to help steer their direction, he suggested.Just don’t expect anything too crazy from the informal gatherings. Rifle won’t suddenly adopt tofu as its food of choice; Aspen won’t embrace Wal-Mart. The mayors are sharing experiences but definitely holding onto their different, diverse political beliefs, Hassig said.”[Silt Mayor] Dave Moore’s politics aren’t the same as [Aspen Mayor] Helen Klanderud’s,” Hassig said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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