Petition survives protest | AspenTimes.com

Petition survives protest

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The petition drive aimed at forcing a new vote on the Entrance to Aspen has survived a challenge that threatened to nullify the results of the grassroots effort.

Although 18 signatures were declared invalid as a result of City Councilman Tony Hershey’s protest, another 802 were allowed to stand, giving the Citizens for a Small Town Entrance more than the 797 signatures needed for their citizens’ initiative.

Karen Goldman, secretary for the Colorado Senate, was appointed to hear Hershey’s protest last week. In a ruling issued Friday, she sided with Hershey in discounting signatures on petitions that were left unattended by the citizens’ group.

However, she declined to invalidate the vast majority of the signatures Hershey had challenged on various procedural and technical grounds.

“The omissions were human error rather than a deliberate flaunting of the law,” Goldman concluded.

“The ones I had a big problem with, she didn’t allow, so that’s fair,” said Hershey, adding that he doesn’t intend to appeal the matter. “I’m pleased. It was a compromise, I think.”

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Of the 18 signatures Goldman tossed out, only 14 had been certified as valid by City Clerk Kathryn Koch. The other four hadn’t counted anyway.

Although the petitioners lost 14 names, Goldman allowed 10 others to be counted, giving them a sum that put them over their goal.

The 10 signatures were among 22 that were submitted after the group’s first filing, but before it began circulating a batch of supplemental petitions. Koch did not admit the 22 signatures, 10 of which came from registered Aspen voters, but Goldman decided they should count.

The petitions propose an ordinance that would halt the transfer of open space for the realignment of Highway 82 on the west side of town without a public vote.

“I’m obviously happy. We’ve essentially won,” said Cliff Weiss, petition drive organizer. “Our initiative should stop the transfer until it’s placed on the ballot.”

The Aspen City Council, however, isn’t so sure that’s the case. The council has been advised by the city attorney that an ordinance cannot be used to repeal a resolution. It was a council resolution authorizing the property transfer, which passed on a 3-2 vote in April, that sparked the initiative.

The council is scheduled to accept the petitions as sufficient at its meeting today, but the debate on the controversial entrance issue is likely to heat up Tuesday, when the council considers what ballot question regarding the entrance it might like to put on the November ballot.