Michael Owsley to shun Red Ant forum | AspenTimes.com

Michael Owsley to shun Red Ant forum

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Michael Owsley

ASPEN ” Organizers of a Pitkin County candidate and issues forum likely will have to do without the input of one county commissioner hopeful ” incumbent Michael Owsley of Woody Creek.

Owsley has said he will not participate in the upcoming Red Ant Election Forum, scheduled for Oct. 22 in Aspen and organized by government critics Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias.

“I don’t want whatever forum the Red Ants are putting together to be some kind of axe-grinding session,” Owsley said this week.

The two women are responsible for the online website, The Red Ant (theredant.com), which bills itself as “a new source of commentary on local civic matters. It is published on no particular schedule, nor with any organization of thought.”

The forum, according to Marks, will involve pro and con arguments concerning several questions on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, as well as a discussion of the so-called ZG Master Plan, an as-yet embryonic proposal to redevelop the area surrounding the Pitkin County Courthouse to provide more office space for the city and county governments.

Marks said it has been tough finding volunteers to fill out the needed opposing advocacy positions for the ballot questions, and noted that local political gadfly and occasional candidate Andrew Kole has volunteered to stand in for any spots left unfilled.

Also planned for the forum are statements by the six candidates for three open seats on the Board of County Commissioners, written answers to questions from the organizers, and questions from a moderator and a live audience regarding both the ballot issues and the candidates.

All of this is to take place in two and a half hours, which Owsley termed “overly ambitious” and “trying to cover too much material in too little time.” Owsley’s assessment appeared in an e-mail to Marks explaining his decision not to take part.

He noted that he originally had agreed to show up, as invited, to argue in favor of a proposed increase in property taxes to pay for county road improvements, and to tell voters his own position on the issue.

Marks responded to Owsley’s e-mail, conceding, “No doubt, each candidate and each ballot issue merit an entire evening dedicated to them. However, given the limited time, we chose the proverbial ‘inch deep and a mile wide’ approach rather than drilling down deeply on a few topics, or inviting only a few candidates.”

Owsley remained unmoved, replying, “I was firm with you at the outset that I did not want to participate in a forum that would be an axe-grinding session. I feel that the Red Ant forum is evolving into just such an event.”

In a telephone interview, Owsley said Marks’ approach is “not even an inch deep, it’s more like a millimeter.”

Marks, in a telephone interview, said she had “racked my brain trying to understand what he’s talking about” concerning the “axe-grinding session” remark. She said the other five candidates for the BOCC, including Owsley’s opponent in District 3, have all agreed to take part in the event, which is to be held at Paepcke Auditorium on the Aspen Meadows campus.

Owsley said he believes that Marks and Milias, both on their website and in their dealings with local political figures, “simply focus down on their agenda” of heaping criticism on officials with a more liberal bent than theirs.

“All you have to do is go to the Red Ant site and see the tone of what that site is,” he said when asked to explain his refusal to participate.

For example, he said, in poking fun at a recent City Council decision to reject a development plan for the Cooper Street Pier building, the site depicted the restaurant with the label, “Chairman Mao’s Diner.”

“I’m not really interested in associating with that kind of thing,” Owsley said.


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