Newsmakers of the Year: Part 2 |

Newsmakers of the Year: Part 2

Scott Leach, of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, attached this photo of a dog at Krabloonik to a report from his inspection there on Oct. 3. The District Attorney's Office, along with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, went on to seize eight dogs from Krabloonik on Dec. 12, six of which it said were "severely malnourished."
Scott Leach/Courtesy photo |

Editor’s note: Tuesday and today The Aspen Times, in continuing a tradition started 10 years ago, takes a look at the biggest local newsmakers of 2013. Today, we publish our selections of the spots one through five, along with a special note of those we lost in 2012.

No. 1

Mary Jane

Two years ago, the idea of legally possessing or selling marijuana still seemed like a smoke-hazed dream.

But the smoke cleared, and both took a step closer to reality when Amendment 64 passed in November 2012, followed by the passage of Proposition AA this past November, which creates a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales that will fund public-school construction, and a 10 percent special sales tax on retail sales to fund marijuana regulation in Colorado.

The city of Aspen and Pitkin County have been working all year on establishing new regulations concerning all aspects of retail marijuana, from determining who can apply to sell it and the licensing procedures, to growing and processing, to selling it and ultimately, how much the public can buy and where people can indulge.

It’s now legal to smoke pot in the privacy of your home, and soon anyone 21 and older will be able to purchase retail marijuana in Aspen, although an exact date is yet to be established.

The first retail shops that open in Aspen are expected to look a lot like a medical marijuana outlet; a person of legal age can buy pot to smoke, eat or absorb, as well as paraphernalia and other products that relate to the shop, like shirts and souvenirs. Just how much the products will cost and how readily they’ll be available are still major questions.

Current medical marijuana outlets have the first opportunities to apply for retail licenses in Aspen until Oct. 1, 2014. After that, anyone can go through the application process.

The state of Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division sent 136 approved marijuana licenses out to stores in December. Those businesses could begin selling marijuana to anyone 21 and older on Jan. 1, assuming the businesses also have approval from their local governments.

One business in Aspen was among the 136 that received approval.

Jordan Lewis, the owner of Silverpeak Apothecary, has the first retail marijuana license application on record for Aspen, but won’t be selling any retail pot before meeting with the city’s Local Licensing Authority on Jan. 7 to go over his application.

There’s also the supply and demand aspect of the business, which is yet to be clarified.

Retail outlets will need retail supplies, but regulations for non-medical grow facilities have yet to be finalized in Pitkin County.

Regulations in Pitkin County are moving along, but at a slower pace. There aren’t many retail outlets expected to pop up in the rural areas of the county, as compared to businesses looking for areas to grow their product.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners still has work to do setting regulations for where such operations will be allowed, as well as the structures being proposed to grow marijuana in.

The attitude of many residents in Pitkin County seems to be in support of decriminalizing of pot, but they don’t want people setting up large-scale grow operations in their neighborhoods.

— Michael McLaughlin

No. 2

The residents of Pan and Fork

The situation at the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park sparked plenty of emotions and left few observers neutral during the last half of 2013.

The town started moving residents out during the summer so it could launch a long-planned project to reduce the flood risk of the Roaring Fork River. The town also will build a riverside park and raise the level of adjacent land to get it out of the floodplain so it is eligible for development.

The town has planned the project since 2007, but only recently came up with the funding and altered a controversial replacement housing law to get the job done.

There were 35 occupied trailers in the mobile home park. The town is offering financial-settlement packages to owners and residents so they can either place a down payment on other residences they want to purchase or a deposit on residences they want to rent.

Town officials estimate that slightly more than half of the residents have been relocated. Negotiations are underway with additional households. However, 10 families are objecting to the effort. They formed Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt to give them a collective voice. They are being led by park resident Ralph Vazquez. They collected signatures from community members on a petition that demands the town find replacement housing for them.

For some observers, the town’s action is an eviction, pure and simple. They claim it is unfair to force out the mobile-home-park residents, who generally are low-income, Latino workers.

Other observers contend the town is being generous with taxpayer dollars. Each household is getting a financial-aid package worth between $15,000 and $22,000. The town’s only legal requirement was to give the residents 30 days notice that they would be evicted. In fact, residents have known since the town and its partner, the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., bought the property in August 2011 that they would be required to move.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he hopes a new affordable-housing project will be built in about a year in Basalt. If the town and its partners pull off that aggressive timeframe, residents of the Pan and Fork will have preference for purchases, he said. It’s uncertain how legal status would affect their ability to get into the project.

Regardless of whether that project is built, Pan and Fork residents will have to vacate the mobile-home park by April, according to Scanlon. The town’s contractor for the river work needs to dismantle a makeshift levy that has protected the park from spring runoff on the Roaring Fork River for years. The park could be affected by the work.

Members of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt say they fear they won’t be able to find suitable alternative housing once they leave the park. They said in numerous public meetings that they want to remain in Basalt because they consider it their home.

— Scott Condon

No. 3


Allegations of animal abuse at the Krabloonik dog-sledding operation have surfaced in the news from time to time over the past three decades. Headlines this year have been somewhat meatier, however, since the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office began investigating the Snowmass Village business and filed misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges against it on Dec. 18.

The public attention on the issue started with a child-custody hearing in September in a Glenwood Springs court. The dispute was between Bryna Erwin MacEachen, daughter of Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen, and former musher Curtis Hungate, who wanted to prevent the child he had with her from going to the kennel.

Hungate told various anecdotes during that hearing, describing one incident in which a dog died of hypothermia last winter because MacEachen allegedly wouldn’t allow another musher to bring it inside. Former musher Christian Lowry described the incident to the Snowmass Village Police Department on Nov. 19, when he, Hungate and former general manager Guy Courtney filed complaints against MacEachen. MacEachen has not responded to calls placed by this newspaper at his business and home.

Following newspaper coverage of the hearing, members of the public and of the activist group Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs began consistently writing letters to the editor and appearing before the Snowmass Village Town Council to speak out against the kennel’s practices. An appearance at the Oct. 7 meeting spurred the elected officials to direct interim Town Manager Gary Suiter to research the details of Snowmass Village’s lease with Krabloonik. The kennel operates on town-owned land and leases it for $10 a year. The lease expires in 2026.

However, the results of the criminal case against MacEachen could put that lease in jeopardy. The lease has a provision that the tenant must comply with all laws applicable to the premises. If the tenant defaults on any of its conditions, the town, as landlord, can re-enter the premises and terminate the lease.

Several supporters of Krabloonik showed up at the subsequent council meeting to let the council know that “things are good at Krabloonik,” as MacEachen’s attorney David Myler said. However, two days later, the Snowmass Sun reported that Krabloonik had not passed an unscheduled inspection by the state veterinarian’s office, part of the Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, Courtney was attempting to purchase the kennel, which he publicly acknowledged during the Oct. 7 meeting. Courtney told The Aspen Times that he wanted to purchase the kennel in order to make improvements, including “dogs, dog care, customer care (and) restaurants.”

Courtney resigned from his position on Oct. 29 to distance himself from the business during negotiations. MacEachen withdrew from those negotiations two weeks later, according to Courtney. In addition, eight veteran mushers signed letters saying they wouldn’t return to Krabloonik if Courtney was not successful in purchasing it.

Investigator Lisa J. Miller, of the District Attorney’s Office, cited the police reports, violations and interviews she conducted herself in her application for a warrant to search the Krabloonik premises. Miller and representatives from the state Department of Agriculture, including two veterinarians, searched the property on Dec. 12, seizing eight dogs.

District Attorney Sherry Caloia filed eight counts of animal cruelty — one for each dog seized — against MacEachen on Dec. 18. There are six charges related to provision of food and shelter and two regarding veterinary care. One of the dogs had to have surgery, according to Caloia’s motion. They are being held in Glenwood Springs.

MacEachen must appear in Pitkin County Court on Jan. 14 for an arraignment. The charges he faces are Class 1 misdemeanors. Attorney Greg Greer has entered as his counsel.

— Jill Beathard

No. 4

Helen Klanderud dies

Aspen lost one of its most politically active and socially personable citizens when former Mayor Helen Klanderud passed away on Oct. 3.

Klanderud, 76, died of complications following a sudden stroke she suffered a day earlier. She served as Aspen’s mayor from 2001-2007, but was revered as much for her dedication to charities as she was for her political legacy.

Klanderud moved to Aspen in 1971 as a single mother of four. A psychologist, she quickly got to know a lot of people in the community through her professional and volunteer efforts, noted former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling, who met Helen in the early 1970s.

As Stirling told The Aspen Times shortly after her death, Klanderud was tough. A person must be to run in six Aspen elections, five of which Klanderud won.

In 1980, Klanderud became the first woman elected to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners. She won re-election in 1984 and launched a bid for a state Senate seat in 1986, which she narrowly lost.

She ran for Aspen mayor in 1999 but was defeated by Rachel Richards. Klanderud won a rematch in 2001 and served three two-year terms before she was forced out by term limits.

“She was dogged, determined, salty and smart,” Stirling said.

They worked together on issues such as organizing the bus system and starting hydroelectric power at Ruedi Reservoir when he was Aspen mayor and she was a county commissioner.

Klanderud, often seen and photographed wearing black, served on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s board of directors as mayor and stayed involved with the organization after leaving office.

ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun credited Klanderud with having a “quiet eloquence” about her. She would listen to Braun lay out issues or challenges facing the chamber and then “help me figure out what to do,” Braun said.

Braun said she admired Klanderud’s never-ending interest in engaging in civic pursuits, from volunteering at The Thrift Shop to helping serve St. Patrick’s Day dinners at St. Mary Catholic Church.

“I never knew how she had all this energy,” Braun said.

Klanderud also was a driving force behind the city’s “infill” regulations that helped to spark much of the city’s recent development, one aspect of her political career that has been both praised and derided.

During a funeral Mass on Oct. 9, attended by more than 400 people, Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, called Klanderud “a remarkable woman” who had “many, many talents.” But despite her considerable political and charitable activities, “the greatest privilege in her life was her four children.”

Klanderud was surrounded by family when she died, Hilton said. She is survived by two sons and a daughter: Kurt Klanderud, Erik Klanderud and Kaela Moontree. A fourth child, Soren Klanderud, preceded her in death.

“Helen will be remembered for 43 years of dedication to the community not only in public office but with many nonprofit organizations she served,” a family statement said.

— Andre Salvail

No. 5

Mayor Steve Skadron

Aspen saw a changing of the guard this year when Mick Ireland vacated the seat of mayor after three consecutive two-year terms.

In a 2013 election that included four Aspen City Council members as candidates, Steve Skadron won in a runoff against then-Councilman Torre. Winning 52.5 percent of the 1,753 runoff votes, Skadron vowed to create a more diplomatic atmosphere at City Hall.

“I have zero tolerance for bad politics in this town,” he said. “We just came through a generation of that, and I hope in this next generation, we can tone things down a little bit.”

During his campaign, Skadron was aided by Ireland, who won the three previous mayoral elections.

Finishing third in the 2013 election was retired tax attorney Maurice Emmer, who garnered attention the year before by arguing against the city’s proposed Castle Creek hydropower project. Emmer earned 400 votes, or 17.6 percent, while councilmen Adam Frisch and Derek Johnson pulled 374 and 354 votes, respectively, or 16.5 and 15.6 percent. Torre, who was making his fourth run for mayor, earned 481 votes, while Skadron pulled 526 votes.

Skadron heads a council with two new members, Ann Mullins and Art Daily. The fifth seat was filled by Dwayne Romero, appointed by council to a second nonconsecutive term after Skadron vacated the position.

Skadron, 50, is a native of St. Paul, Minn., and owner of the advertising agency Spooner Skadron. He moved to Aspen in 1995 and was first elected to the council in 2007, after serving four years on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission. He easily won re-election to the council in 2011.

Announcing his run for mayor in 2013, Skadron said his focus would be strong oversight of city fiscal affairs, encouraging a vibrant downtown core and bringing civility back to the local government process.

— Karl Herchenroeder