Roy, Owsley clash in candidate forum |

Roy, Owsley clash in candidate forum

Eben Harrell
Candidates for county commissioner square off at the GrassRoots TV studio Tuesday. From left are William Mohrman, Shellie Roy and Michael Owsley. Aspen Times photo/Devon Meyers.

County Commissioner Shellie Roy was determined to turn yesterday’s candidate forum on GrassRoots TV into a debate.The incumbent, William Mohrman and Michael Owsley are running in the Aug. 10 primary to determine who will face off in the November general election to fill a seat on the board of Pitkin County commissioners.Roy accused Owsley of flip-flopping in his beliefs and suggested possible cronyism if he is elected to the board. Mohrman also faced tough questions from the panel moderators, who queried his ability to work on a board he has testified in public against.Roy, who is normally not confrontational, took the offensive early after a question about the planned runway extension at Sardy Field. After Owsley expressed support for the extension, which will make takeoffs easier in the summer but could lure noisier aircraft to Aspen, Roy accused him of changing his stance.”I find it very interesting that one of my challengers from Woody Creek would come to our [commissioner] meetings and express misgivings about the runway extension and now be supporting it,” Roy said. “I believe the expression used was that the runway extension was the camel’s nose under the tent.”

“I have never used that expression,” Owsley replied. “And my misgivings were less about the runway extension [than other areas of the airport master plan]. I have now become a supporter of the extension primarily because of my involvement in the [planning] process.”Roy later attacked Owsley again, this time insinuating that he may favor Woody Creek residents as a commissioner. Owsley is a longtime member of the Woody Creek Caucus, a body that represents the tight-knit neighborhood on land-use and other issues that come before the commissioners.”Woody Creek is very tight; it’s a clique. And the caucus acts like a planning and zoning commission [for applicants trying to build in Woody Creek],” Roy said. “Applications that come before us that make it through the Woody Creek Caucus are usually in tatters.”But the caucus’ hand is a little lighter if you are part of the Woody Creek clique. I have to put that on my opponent.”Owsley defended his participation with the caucus and in county affairs. “Whether or not I am biased, I’m not going there,” he said.Mohrman was questioned by the event’s three moderators about his involvement with Senate Bill 215, a bill the commissioners felt would hurt their ability to control growth in rural areas. While Senate Bill 215 was under consideration, Mohrman testified before the Legislature that he suffered “abuses” from the county in his effort to develop property in Hunter Creek. His testimony was used to support the bill.Mohrman said last week that he supported much of the county’s land-use code. After some pressing, he said he now believes Senate Bill 215, or any similar bill, “is not the right answer to the county’s land-use woes.” Asked what is the correct solution, Mohrman replied, “I don’t have that answer.”

All the candidates agreed that a simplification of the land-use code, a process currently under way, is a priority for the commissioners. Roy was asked whether the current board was capable of completing the simplification process after three aborted efforts. “Yes, I think we are,” Roy replied without further explanation.The candidates also listed the county’s financial situation as an area of concern. The county is projecting a budget deficit by 2006. Owsley said he felt the answer was “doing more with less” and that raising sales or property taxes was “not the right answer.” Mohrman, too, opposed a new property tax, suggesting instead the transferring of existing taxes, such as the dedicated property tax for Pitkin County’s open space program, to the general fund budget.Roy said she felt comfortable putting a new, short-term property tax before the voters or asking them to extend the current five-year property tax set to expire in 2006.Her opponents, too, said they would support short-term taxes if crucial health and human services were threatened.

The candidates were also asked whether they would be willing to provide the federal government with information from the Pitkin County Library, including patrons’ reading lists. The USA Patriot Act, passed in the weeks after Sept. 11, bestows this power to the FBI.Owsley said he would direct the county’s legal staff to fight the request for information. Mohrman said he felt comfortable reporting users of the library who sought information on “nuclear secrets, making bombs or plots against the government.” Roy struggled with the question, finally saying she would leave the decision to the librarians.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is– see Debate on page A8– continued from page A1

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