Our recommendations for Basalt mayor, council

Basalt is in the process of enacting master plans to dictate development along its rivers and throughout town. The town continues to explore ways to bring its disparate neighborhoods into a cohesive community. And contentious issues, such as last year’s library election and the 2002 debate over water rates, continue to pop up.

In short, Basalt is a vibrant community in a time of pivotal change. That process continues with the April 6 election, with two candidates for mayor and five for three council seats.

In the race for mayor, sitting council members Leroy Duroux and Anne Freedman both bring solid credentials to the race. But their different backgrounds give voters a real choice about how the town should grow.

Freedman has generally erred on the side of caution when it comes to big issues and projects before the council. For instance, she voted against a proposal to make the new Riverwalk development bigger than originally approved, and she supported a 5,000-square-foot limit on new houses. She represents a slow-growth point of view shared by many of Basalt’s newer residents.

Duroux voted the opposite way on both issues. He is firm in his opinion that growth, especially in commerce and industry, is good for Basalt. A lifelong resident of the valley and 41-year resident of Basalt, Duroux represents the open-minded, entrepreneurial spirit of the people who lived and worked in Basalt for much of the last century. He’s also the kind of guy who would be the first to help out someone in an emergency.

Either would make a great mayor. In this case, however, The Aspen Times endorses Leroy Duroux. One reason is that a Duroux victory would keep both candidates on council during a vital time for Basalt.

Duroux is giving up his council seat because of term limits. Freedman has two years left in her current term and will retain her council seat if she isn’t elected mayor. If Duroux is elected mayor, both will remain on the town board, providing balance and experience.

Of the five candidates for council, the Times endorses Glenn Rappaport, Laurie Dows and Jim Paussa.

Rappaport, like Duroux, is a longtime Basalt resident. He has served on council before and understands the issues facing the community.

Voters may hesitate to return Rappaport to the council, given that he resigned in 1998 amid a confict-of-interest controversy, but the Times editorial board believes he deserves another chance. In his closing statement at the March 30 debate, Rappaport said he had learned a lesson and understood why elected officials must steer clear of even the appearance of such conflicts. We believe him.

We don’t know Dows well, but two things she said at the debate impressed us. First, she acknowledged the duty of elected officials to make tough decisions and to lead. In other words, she claimed to have a backbone. Second, when others tended to sit on the fence, Dows said plainly that she supports the current board’s efforts to protect small-town character. Philosophically, we agree.

Paussa’s performance Tuesday was far from stellar. The bright lights of the community-access television station and a sizable audience seemed to throw him off. Hopefully this doesn’t portend his future as a councilman under the gun of an influential developer.

The reason we’re willing to look past Paussa’s performance is his record as a citizen. He has volunteered time on at least two citizen boards that have made important policy recommendations to the council. Paussa is a newcomer to town, but he has embraced Basalt with enthusiasm. For those reasons, we believe, he would make a good councilman.