Pitco candidates face the public | AspenTimes.com

Pitco candidates face the public

Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writer

Candidates for two contested seats on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners ? or rather, three candidates and one wild card ? sounded off Monday at the first “Squirm Night.”Political gadfly Jeffrey Evans sat in on the issues forum for his friend, Ramon Duvernay, who is challenging incumbent Commissioner Mick Ireland. Duvernay, 36, was hospitalized last spring after suffering two strokes and is recovering at his parents’ home in the Washington, D.C., area.Citing Duvernay’s doctors and parents, Evans said at the forum that it is “extraordinarily unlikely” that Duvernay will be able to serve as a county commissioner if elected. But Evans urged voters to vote for Duvernay anyway, because if he cannot serve, the four remaining commissioners would have to appoint a new member.”What most of us would like to see on ballots is a box marked ‘none of the above,'” Evans said. “This is as close as we’ll ever get to that.”In the race for the other commissioner seat, incumbent Patti Clapper and challenger Tim Mooney squared off.Clapper cited her experience, and Mooney touted his ability to come up with ideas and be a “deal maker.”An Aspen resident since 1970, Mooney said he has experience in the two main local industries: 23 years as a ski instructor with the Aspen Skiing Co. and 13 years as a real estate broker. He said he supports a “growing community with a sustainable economy where the community and the economy are in balance.”Mooney also noted his experience of being on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years and of being on the board of the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club for eight years.”I’m the real thing. I’m a deal maker, I’m a local, and I care about the direction our community is going in,” he said. “I hope you vote and make a change.”Mooney defended his actions that got him fired from the Skico this past winter, when he used a chain saw to cut several trees for a private, and illegal, ski run. He said the trees that he cut were already felled, and he was trying to ensure the safety of a run many others were already using.He also said the reputation he developed as “not being a team player” while on the P&Z board is just his penchant for being vocal.”I do get excited, and when I do think I can solve problems I get emotional about Pitkin County and I get emotional about Aspen,” he said. “It’s this fervor that I think makes me stand out … someone has to be the quarterback. There is a team effort, and what I do best is shake things up, come up with ideas and be creative.”Clapper, a county commissioner for the past four years, said she first got interested in politics during the Superfund project on Smuggler Mountain and has since appreciated the community’s participation in local issues.She said she is proud of the county’s open space purchases over the past four years, and said as a registered nurse, she enjoys being the county commissioners’ liaison to the health and human services area. She considers herself an advocate to public health, safety and welfare, she said.Clapper said the commissioners are working steadily to balance the budget by looking into lobbying the state for funding with other tourism-dependent counties affect by downturns in the economy.She said the work she does on the board is a group effort that takes staff hours and community participation. She is pleased with the work she’s done on the county land-use code and in putting this November’s tax question for health and human services on the ballot.Clapper also denied reports that her attendance record at commissioner meetings has been lacking, saying she has only missed meetings to attend to other meetings this year with the blessings of her fellow commissioners and only missed work sessions due to family illnesses.As for the attempt to replace Ireland on the board, Evans said that Duvernay is “absolutely adamant about staying in the race” and that he will return to health. Evans also noted that the candidate has supported efforts to recall Ireland over the past several years. If voters choose Duvernay, they will be sending the message that nine years in office was enough for Ireland, Evans said.Ireland countered Evan’s comments by voicing his goals of managing growth, protecting housing and managing the environment in Pitkin County. Ireland, who was first elected to the board in 1993, said he supported the rural and remote zoning that protects backcountry and wild areas from “large-scale development.”He said he strongly backs the open space and trails board, and Great Outdoors Colorado, which funnels money from the state lottery into open space and recreation efforts. Ireland also voiced strong support of affordable housing to keep the work force local, and voting yes on this fall’s referendum 1A, which allows the county to collect and retain $800,000 in property taxes for local nonprofits.Evans also read off a list of issues on which he is certain of Duvernay’s opinions, including supporting salary raises for the commissioners and the Aspen City Council so that more people will have an opportunity to run for office and electing all Roaring Fork Transit Agency representatives directly by jurisdiction. Duvernay is strongly anti-rail but also strongly in favor of the proposed modified direct alignment for the Entrance to Aspen, Evans said.When asked why no one else was running against Ireland, Evans blamed the coverage of The Aspen Times, saying “people don’t want to be ripped apart by a local newspaper” because of an “unholy alliance” between Ireland and The Times.”We’re making it clear we don’t want Mick Ireland to have a third term,” Evans said. “If no one had run against him, he’d be running unopposed.”[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]