Questions for the May elections |

Questions for the May elections

Dear Editor:

Recent interviews of Aspen City Council members revealed their ideas of accomplishments on the council and goals if elected mayor. Perhaps the list seemed shallow because of distance from the May election and distractions of the holidays.

But Aspen deserves attention to weightier matters. Directional change is needed in many areas, such as: (1) commitment to social welfare, (2) efficient use of staff and commissions, (3) reservation of City Council time for matters truly requiring decisions by elected officials, (4) respect for the will of the voters, (5) appreciation for the importance of a vibrant local business sector, and (6) strong sense of fiduciary responsibility in the commitment of public funds.

Any candidate seeking service on the City Council or as mayor ought to articulate his or her views on such issues as:

1. Strengthening sense of community.

• How to prioritize social-welfare spending within city budgeting.

• Whether the City Council and mayor should be uncompensated positions, restoring them as citizen positions, not careers.

2. Process.

• Open meetings – whether to reduce use of executive sessions and whether to improve public notice of executive sessions.

• Whether to ensure that all public records are open to the public, including ballots to reassure voters that their ballots cannot be traced by politicians.

• Whether to enforce time limits on City Council meetings, including limits on the mayor’s and council members’ comments.

• Whether to presume recommendations by staff and commissions (Planning and Zoning, Historical Preservation, for example) should be approved and whether the City Council should continue repeatedly to redo the work of staff and commissions.

• Whether important or especially controversial questions should be submitted to the voters instead of enacted only with City Council action, whether ballot measures should be straightforward or loaded with language to influence the vote and whether the voters’ guidance from ballot measures should be honored or excuses should be invented to disregard the voters.

• Whether to complete the Castle Creek Energy Center despite November’s ballot result.

3. Fiscal responsibility.

• Whether unnecessary spending should be ended and taxes reduced.

• Whether to end unnecessarily protracted or frivolous litigation and whether earnestly to avoid litigation.

• Whether affordable housing should be rationalized and how, i.e., whether to create a way for affordable housing occupants to transition to free market, avoiding “limited appreciation” trap; how to avoid affordable housing becoming subsidized housing for retired citizens; and how to rationalize current and future inventories to needs, not to political agendas.

• Whether and how to ensure that capital projects are properly researched and realistic projections offered to the public before money is spent building them.

• Whether to establish a publicly elected and independently funded auditor of major city projects to report directly to the public on financial aspects of such projects.

4. Economic growth.

• Whether to meet openly with local business owners to hear their concerns and determine their needs.

• Whether zoning ordinances should be modified to incentivize and attract business investment, whether zoning should be administered consistently and whether exceptions should be rare to allow investors to plan projects with certainty.

• Whether ordinances affecting businesses generally should be modified as necessary to support local businesses.

5. Environmental.

• Whether to undertake a serious energy-conservation program rather than building more electricity-generating capacity.

• Whether to expand alternatives for completing the Canary Initiative.

Maurice Emmer


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