Richards, True butt heads over entrance | AspenTimes.com

Richards, True butt heads over entrance

Charles Agar

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Rachel Richards and Jim True butted heads Wednesday night over the Entrance to Aspen in a rare clash between the candidates for county commissioner.

True and Richards are vying for the District 2 county commissioner seat Mick Ireland is vacating. Both candidates have long records of public service: True as commissioner from 1989-97 and current land-use hearing officer for the county and Richards as a current council member and former mayor of Aspen.The two agreed on providing affordable housing and mediating rapid growth – but the candidates came to loggerheads over the controversial Entrance to Aspen.”It can be done,” True said. He wants four lanes through the S-curves into town. He said the project doesn’t require another road and that four lanes, including two HOV lanes, could follow the current course.

“We have not gotten any further along in the last 10 years since I left the board,” True said. His is a quick and a workable solution, he said. “I give specific answers,” he added, and he promised to bring people to the table and get things done on the issue if elected.”Our community has been at a stalemate for a long time,” Richards agreed. “A lot of people have the power to say no, but no one has the power to say yes.”Richards called True’s plan a “nonstarter” and a “nonsolution.” She said four lanes through the S-curves wouldn’t work and that she didn’t want to give voters false hope or waste time with such a plan before having to go back to the drawing board again. She said that if elected she would work with the current record of decision based on the most recent environmental impact study. And when pressed for her own plan, Richards said she favors a “modified direct route,” which would mean a straight shot across the Marolt property into Aspen.

Carolyn Sackariason, a member of the audience, asked what the two longtime public servants had to tell voters about the lack of progress on the issue.”I think it was a failure,” True said. He called the entry to Aspen the topmost issue and said that he has a track record of standing toe to toe with state agencies such as CDOT on such issues as widening Highway 82 to Buttermilk.Richardson pointed out that True had opposed the vote for a modified direct alignment, or the straight shot into Aspen, in a 2002 vote. “I don’t think my personal preference really matters here, but it’s what we can all get behind,” she said.

In closing, True claimed his education, professional life as a lawyer and experience as a special-hearing officer on land use for the county make him better qualified for the job. He called himself a “reasonable listener” and said he has a talent for hearing both sides, considering the options and making tough decisions.Richards pledged to give her all to the job. “Public service is my passion,” she said. She cited her work in the community and knowledge of recent issues – unlike True, who has been on hiatus from higher office – as her qualifications.”I think my track record speaks volumes,” she added.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.

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