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New political force coming

A new political organization that aims to limit growth and promote mass transit is scrambling to find a part-time, paid administrator and launch its efforts early this year.

Leaders of the group, tentatively known as Citizens for a Livable Valley, have interviewed candidates for the paid post and are hashing out such critical issues as the group’s formal name, and whether it wants to stick with issues or broaden into candidates’ campaigns, according to Aspen Mayor John Bennett.

Bennett acknowledged he is helping get the group off the ground, but said he and other elected officials have intentionally stepped back from organizational tasks.

Leaders want to show that CLV is a true citizens’ group and not something driven by the elected officials, Bennett explained. CLV’s foes on issues like valley rail would like nothing more than to portray the new organization as a pawn of upper-valley politicians, he said.

Bennett claimed there has been significant work done on CLV by citizens from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, but he declined to name the leaders. “None of them want to talk to the press right now,” he said.

Because of his limited role, Bennett was cautious about what he would say about the organization. However, hfirmly disputed suggestions that Citizens for a Livable Valley would take politics to a new level by being the first organization with a paid, professional lobbyist.

Bennett labeled CLV as an “attempt to catch up” with groups on the other end of the political spectrum. Organizations like the Common Sense Alliance, which has fought rail and growth-control efforts, have already raised the political stakes with well-financed campaigns, he claimed.

“This is an effort to not let big-money politics steamroll the valley,” said Bennett. “The Dick Buteras and Jeffrey Evans of the world have certainly changed the game.”

Butera and Evans have been critical of efforts to build a valleywide rail system and spearheaded opposition. Bennett claimed Butera, Common Sense Alliance and their allies “churned out a $50,000 media campaign” to try to defeat ballot questions pertaining to rail in the November election.

Groups and individuals on the opposite side of the political spectrum traditionally haven’t mounted such sophisticated campaigns, he claimed. Thus, the creation of Citizens for a Livable Valley.

But Bennett’s foes claim the “liberal” politicians and their supporters increased the stakes and the professional level of campaigning years ago in the upper valley.

During the infancy of the Common Sense Alliance, speakers stressed the need for better organization and fund-raising to match the efforts of a “liberal machine.”

Evans, an activist who helped found Common Sense Alliance, previously stated that the organization would jump at the chance to pay an administrator, but it’s just not fiscally possible. He believed too much money would go to administration rather than efforts like advertising.

Last week, Evans said Common Sense Alliance won’t try to match Citizens for a Livable Valley’s efforts to hire an administrator. “We’re not really worried about it,” he said.

Evans said CSA members will concentrate on getting their message out as best they can and believe they will prevail with the public.

Bennett said pro-rail and growth-control advocates have been able to rely on grass-roots efforts because the majority of citizens have been on their side. The grass-roots efforts aren’t enough any more because of the higher level of spending by their foes, he said.

CLV, or whatever name the group adopts, will soon start raising small contributions from large numbers of people throughout the valley.

“I do know we can’t lie back and just think the right side always comes out ahead,” Bennett said. “The right side does come out ahead when the information is out.”


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