Pitkin County commissioner candidates Q&A: What is the most important issue facing Pitkin County today?
pitkin county race
The Aspen Times published a five-day series with the five candidates for Pitkin County commissioner. Here are the topics addressed:
Monday: What are your views on growth in Pitkin County and should it be slowed, increased or stay the same and should house sizes be capped?
Tuesday: What, if anything, should be done to increase affordable housing in Pitkin County? Do you think APCHA is being run and administered properly and what would you like to see done differently?
Wednesday: Do you support efforts to widen the runway to accommodate larger airplanes? What is the most important issue to consider in planning the new airport?
Thursday: How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you contribute to on-going efforts to counter the effects of the pandemic if elected?
Friday: What is the gravest and most important issue facing Pitkin County today?
For more on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.
Editor’s note: This series is the launch of our 2020 election coverage for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. This is the final day of a five-day Q&A with the five Pitkin County commissioner candidates. To read the past questions and for more information on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.
There are five candidates running for three Pitkin County commissioner seats.
Current Board Chairman Steve Child, a Capitol Creek rancher, is running for his third term for District 4. Former Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board member Chris Council, a Snowmass Village resident and local photographer, is running against Child.
In District 5, Francie Jacober, a retired teacher and Prince Creek Road resident, faces Jeffrey Evans of Basalt, a longtime proponent of finding a solution to the Entrance to Aspen. The seat is open because Commissioner George Newman is term-limited and will step down after three four-year terms.
Greg Poschman, a Brush Creek Village resident, is finishing his first term in District 3 and is running unopposed.
For day five, the topic is Pitkin County (with a 200-word limit):
What is the gravest and most important issue facing Pitkin County today?
If I must choose just one, it would be complacency. Complacency in the face of imminent and overdue threat of wildfire, in the face of indisputable climate emergency, and currently, in the face of a crippling pandemic and its economic fallout.
The danger of fire in our forest/urban interface during this drought is an easily overlooked but immediate threat, which should be on everyone’s minds. Next, the underlying reality of climate change, which is the truly grave, long emergency we are facing everywhere. The pandemic has revealed the atmosphere’s and oceans’ ability to refresh when human pollution activity ceases or just slows down. If we can remain conscious of our impact on the climate and the natural inhabitants who share our ecosystem during our rush to recover economically from the pandemic and return to “normal,” perhaps we can adopt new, cleaner and lower impact ways of living. I confess that I am a practicing optimist who chooses hope, rather than indulging in pessimism. But as a frugal pragmatist, I finally must say that complacency and the failure to act in the face of the gravest and most important issues facing us today is indeed, our gravest threat.
Climate change is by far the biggest challenge facing us today. It creates an existential threat to the continued existence here on earth of humans and other living beings. It threatens the future of our local economy which is based on a ski industry and summertime recreational and cultural activities which all rely on clean air and water and a healthy environment. The increasing temperatures have led to a shorter winter season, more irregular snowfall patterns, and earlier and faster melting of the snowpack, all of which impact the ski industry. The decrease and disruption of the runoff in our rivers threatens our local agricultural and recreational industries which rely on a healthy natural streamflow to flourish. The constant threat of a catastrophic wildfire in our valley, and the nearly constant degradation of our air quality from smoke threatens the health and well-being of all our residents and visitors. We are just beginning to see the impacts brought by an influx of climate change refugees to our community.
The most important issue we face is climate change — it will impact every aspect of our lives and all the things we hold dear in our community.
Warming temperatures will affect our snowpack and water sources. We have already experienced some of the worst drought years on record in the past decade. Similarly, we will see significant impact to our ski season, which in turns impacts our tourism-based economy.
This summer alone we saw the horrific effects of the Grizzly Creek and Pine Gulch fires, on the heels of the Lake Christine Fire in 2018. Wildfire poses an ever-present threat to our community which will only worsen.
We will likely begin to see an increase in “climate refugees” moving to our community — those who have the means to leave behind rising sea levels and hotter temperatures.
This will impact our infrastructure, affordable housing, school system and density, just to name a few. We have seen this happen over the past few months in a smaller form as a result of the coronavirus.
I believe in working at a local level to proactively mitigate the effects of climate change through smart growth policies, reducing greenhouse emissions and supporting composting efforts.
The biggest problem in Pitkin County is the same as the nation. We are reluctant to either defend traditional principles or propose original solutions — for fear of attack.
To increase my chances of being elected, I should have used the past four days to say: We need stricter growth controls and more affordable housing; to protect the Earth we must all stop driving; and people who live in big houses are insecure narcissists.
Instead, I have questioned the COVID-19 orthodoxy, argued that the airport plan has a major flaw, pointed out the mess at the Entrance to Aspen as our biggest transportation problem, and embraced a couple of other classic local heresies.
I registered to vote in Pitkin County as an independent in 1976. That has provided me with 44 years of non-partisan bliss, and I can serve by example if you would like to escape the toxic atmosphere between the major political parties.
If elected, I will propose original ideas regardless of the consequences, and challenge my fellow commissioners to question their basic assumptions. Isn’t it about time?
Please vote for me. I will really appreciate it, and we will have productive fun shaking up the status quo.
The persistent problem that Pitkin County faces is how to balance growth with our beautiful rural character. We try to gracefully welcome new people while often secretly wishing we could just say, “No more.”
Pitkin County has focused on slow growth since 1960, with a combination of designation of open space, increased residential density, affordable housing and alternatives to cars. Development must pay its own way and provide a percentage of affordable housing to match the size of the development.
The Aspen Area Community Plan provides guidance on how to control the effects of population growth, but there is no panacea. In the Crystal River Valley, for instance, there are intense demands on water, especially in late summer. A projected increase of 100% for Carbondale population in the near future plus a changing snowmelt timeline converge to increase tension between municipal, agricultural and environmental uses of the water.
Obviously, we must deal with some kinds of growth restriction or we will not have enough water to support any further residential development. We are compelled to continually work to balance an ever-increasing population with our open spaces, the municipality infrastructure, our rivers, the wilderness areas and agriculture.
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The Aspen City Clerk’s Office is looking toward the next, next election in 2021 with two council seats and a mayoral race up for a decision, and an added focus on coronavirus safety when early voting begins in February.