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Paulson runs for mayor

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

City Councilman Terry Paulson, questioning the city’s present course on a number of fronts, announced Tuesday he will challenge Mayor Helen Klanderud for the council helm.

While the field of candidates for two council seats up for election in May continues to swell, Paulson is the first candidate to oppose Klanderud in the race for mayor. It’s a move he’s been contemplating since January and a response to his growing frustration with the council, he said.

The longtime Aspenite is currently in the middle of his third and, presumably, final term as a council member. If he loses in his mayoral bid, he will retain his council seat until his term ends in May 2005.

Because Paulson was already serving his first term on the council when term limits were enacted, limiting members to two four-year stints, he was able to seek a third term, which he won easily in 2001.

Apparently popular with voters, Paulson nonetheless finds himself out of step with the rest of the council more and more frequently. Ironically, he’s probably more closely aligned with Klanderud than the rest of the group.

“That’s what’s so interesting about this,” Klanderud said yesterday after hearing of Paulson’s intentions. “No question, we’re on the same page most of the time.”

Lately, however, Paulson has distanced himself from his fellow council members, and not just on the issues before the city. He no longer joins them for the council dinner break during meetings, for example, prompting Klanderud to question how effective he’d be as mayor.

“I think you’ve got to be able to work with the rest of the council,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but you do have to work with your fellow council members.”

But Paulson said he is put off by the backroom politics of city government, though he often complains that council members have left him out of the loop in their behind-the-scenes discussions.

“I see them forming this good ol’ boys’ club,” he said. “When these guys have already made up their minds before they come into a meeting, that’s a disservice to the community.”

While Paulson quickly concedes he shares little common ground with the council, he figures voter response to his mayoral bid will tell him whether or not he’s out of step with the community, as well.

“It’s a litmus test, for sure,” Paulson said.

He contends, though, that it’s his fellow council members who have lost sight of what Aspenites want for their town.

“These guys are out of touch with the community. I think there’s a sort of vagueness about the present administration,” he said. “The leadership of this community needs to be very clear on where we’re going.

“I think we’re faltering. We’ve lost our identity, we’ve lost our will to be different,” Paulson added. “I want to challenge the present administration. I think we need to take a new avenue here.”

Paulson said he will focus his campaign on economic, environmental and social sustainability. He wants the community to weigh the benefits versus the costs of things like infill, which would allow denser development in town; building up to 330 units of worker housing at Burlingame Ranch outside of town; and realigning the highway at the entrance to Aspen.

“If the net benefit of a four-lane, Burlingame or infill is positive, well OK then,” he said. “If it’s not, then it shouldn’t happen.”

His election theme, he said, could be: “Go wreck someplace else.”

Fellow council members frequently peg Paulson as “anti-change,” but the councilman said it’s growth, not change, that concerns him. Aspen can’t keep growing indefinitely, he contends.

“Growth is not sustainable. I don’t care what form it takes,” he said. “We’re a mature resort.”

Paulson opposed the ballot question that paved the way for Burlingame Ranch, which has not yet been built, but voted to approve a new deal that expanded the development from 225 homes to 330 units. Last year, he sided with Klanderud in opposing the transfer of a highway easement across open space to the state before voters could weigh in on the realignment in November.

More recently, he fought the council on its decision to give away the city’s unused trolley cars and argued the city should take a stand on the looming war with Iraq.

He urged the council this week to approve a measure in support of a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict, but annoyed fellow council members by prodding them to approve something without having drafted a statement for their consideration. Ultimately, the council took a concise stand: Aspen supports peace.

Paulson, 52, is an avid nordic skier who works at the Ute Mountaineer and the Aspen Nordic Center. He grew up on a farm in southern Colorado and has resided in Aspen nearly 21 years. He is single and owns a free-market condo at Hunter Creek.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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