Six head to post in Aspen council race |

Six head to post in Aspen council race

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Today, there are six candidates for two seats on Aspen City Council. On Tuesday night, the number of office-seekers will shrink, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the field will be pared down.

A candidate with 45 percent plus one vote – determined by dividing all of the votes a candidate receives into half of the total number of votes cast in the council race – can avoid the June 7 runoff. If no candidate reaches that plateau, then the top four vote-getters will head to post in five weeks. If one candidate secures the votes to skip the runoff, then the next two vote-getters will face off. In the unlikely scenario that two candidates are able to avoid a runoff, then obviously the council race is over.

A little confusing? Just vote on two of the candidates and let the election officials worry about the math. There no longer is a computerized instant-runoff voting system to deal with the matter – voters got rid of it last fall. All one needs to do on Tuesday is cast a vote for their preferred two candidates of the six individuals running for office, and let the chips fall where they may.

In the interest of assisting voters with making a more informed choice, we’ve compiled information from recent candidate forums and newspaper questionnaires. Today we present that information, in alphabetical order based on the candidates’ last names, for those who have yet to make up their minds.

Erspamer, 66, is a city Planning and Zoning Commission member. He unsuccessfully ran for council in 2007 and mayor in 2009, and in previous campaigns as well as this one, has touted his consensus-building skills.

Erspamer now works in real estate and property management after operating a rafting company for 18 years. He also runs heavy equipment at the Aspen airport.

At a recent political forum, Erspamer was asked to explain the difference “between growth and development.” He replied that the question was “a lesson in semantics; it means something different to all of us.”

Erspamer said redevelopment is replacing a building, such as a lodge or a house, with one of equal size. Growth, he said, is when a building is torn down and replaced with something with a significantly larger floor area. He added that he is an advocate for maintaining Aspen’s character and charm.

He said if elected, he would spearhead an initiative to standardize city codes to remove the politics out of City Council decisions on development applications.

“I will not allow another BMC debacle wasting valuable housing funds nor allow any development to be approved in the back room without any mitigation,” Erspamer has said.

On the issue of providing financial assistance to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for its marketing efforts, he said the council needs to see a reasonable 52-week marketing plan from ACRA. The city should continue to host special events, but should keep a close eye out for the “point of no return” when spending outpaces return on investment.

Frisch, 43, announced his candidacy in early February. At the time, he had also applied for the interim council position that became available after Councilman Dwayne Romero vacated his term to join the governor’s office. The interim position ended up going to Ruth Kruger, who is running for mayor.

Frisch, who lost a bid for council in 2009, serves on the Housing Frontiers Group, an advisory board to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. For the past six years, he has chaired the Pitkin County financial advisory board. The former currency trader is now a self-employed entrepreneur.

At the recent candidate forum, Frisch said development and growth are very different. He said he is in favor of protecting the integrity of Aspen’s mountain-town character, but that there are opportunities for development “without adding a single brick.”

“New, orderly development is what I’d like to see this town focus on,” Frisch said, “… but that doesn’t mean that we can’t fill up a lot of the empty store spaces that we have in this town, with some more economic vitality. Some of that is left up to the national, global economy, some of that I think we can do a much better job of and try to make it easier.”

If elected, his first order of business would be to convene an affordable-housing summit. He said he would support new employee-housing initiatives as long as the need for them is tangible.

“Aspen needs and deserves a sustainable affordable housing program,” Frisch has said. “To that end, we must have a candid dialogue between city and county leaders and the community to strategize about present and future housing needs and strategies.”

Goshorn, 58, has lived in Aspen for 35 years. She runs a home-based property management business and is a member of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority board.

Goshorn also is a longtime community volunteer. In the recent past, she has said that the city should explore opportunities in the wake of the Great Recession, perhaps by promoting ecotourism.

In the recent forum, she decried much of the development that’s occurred in Aspen over the last decade.

“[With] so much of the development that’s come in the past 10 years … it’s the mass and scale that’s been so out of whack,” Goshorn said. “No one ever expected somebody to take a 1,000-square-foot miner’s cottage and turn it into a 10,000-square-foot monster home. But that’s what ended up happening in the West End. That’s growth.”

Goshorn said she supports the city’s move to address growth mitigation in building codes. “If you’re building a house that much larger, you should be the one paying for the extra burden that’s going to be on the sewer system, on the school district,” she said.

Goshorn said the city should employ a more streamlined process for those wanting to open new businesses. She has suggested a centralized system in which potentially new business owners can get questions answered with regard to fees, taxes and zoning.

“It should not require you to hire a lawyer to interpret the rules,” she has said.

With regard to affordable housing, she said she would be in favor of considering possible revisions to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the city of Aspen and Pitkin County.

“To make any changes to deed restriction or guidelines, both elected bodies need to agree to the change and that has been known to take years to make even a small change. The IGA needs to be revisited and renegotiated to make it possible to make improvements or corrections to the system in a more effective and timely manner,” Goshorn has said.

Skadron, 48, is the only incumbent running for re-election to City Council, given Romero’s February departure. The 15-year Aspen resident, who owns a marketing-advertising consultancy, is nearing the end of his first term.

He cast the only vote last year against the decision to allow the Aspen Art Museum to develop a new facility at the former Wienerstube restaurant site, a process that was fast-tracked by the city and allowed to bypass the usual reviews of the Planning and Zoning Commission. In 2008, he voted against a plan that would have redeveloped both sides of South Aspen Street at the foot of Aspen Mountain into new lodging properties.

A former Planning and Zoning commissioner, Skadron has said that if re-elected, he would go to work to amend the land-use code to better reflect the Aspen Area Community Plan, which is being revised and may come up for a council vote this summer. He said he is in favor of completing the 2011 plan, which has involved more than 2.5 years of work by city and county planning commissions and staffs.

On the recent forum question on growth and development, Skadron drew laughter when he replied, “These are the kinds of discussions that make our City Council meetings go about eight hours.” He said he could live with both growth and development “if it satisfies the principles that are inherent in the AACP.”

He also has said he wants to encourage economic activities outside of the tourism arena to help the city diversify its economic base. In other remarks, he said the city has done a good job of dealing with the recent economic downturn.

“At City Hall, we tightened departmental budgets, reduced the employee count, froze wages and approached the budget conservatively without being over-reactive,” Skadron has said. “Today, our budget is balanced, our bond ratings are the envy of nearly every other resort town and the Aspen brand is strong. As a council member directly responsible for budget policy direction, I feel this is one of my most significant accomplishments.”

Weiss, 61, is a resort marketing consultant and a ski instructor. Like Erspamer, he sits on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2003 and 2005.

Weiss has said his first order of business would be to work with the council and city staff to adjust City Council agendas so that regular meetings don’t run past 9 p.m. – a common occurrence that sometimes leaves officials and audience members exhausted given that the meetings start at 5 p.m.

At a recent forum, Weiss mentioned the need to keep residential development in check, saying there are examples of poor and unsuitable forms of growth in Aspen.

“They’re building 13,000- and 10,000-square-foot houses on Shadow Mountain,” he said. “Is that appropriate development for Aspen? I think that hurts our brand, that hurts what we sell here; all of us survive on what makes Aspen unique.”

Weiss said he wouldn’t lump all developers into the same group, painting them with the same broad brush. “But there are bad forms of development that do hurt and that don’t have community benefit,” he said.

In addition, Weiss has said that he would work to change city land-use codes based on suggestions from the AACP “that seek to protect scenic and environmentally sensitive areas from development.” He also would introduce legislation to roll back the downtown infill code that allows large buildings to change the character of the area.

Writer, 53, is a board member for P4P Energy LLC. He also has a background as a developer and is a licensed real estate broker. He serves as president of the Mountain States Girls Hockey League and chairman of the Aspen Recreation Center Advisory Board.

In his answer to the growth question at the forum, Writer said that as a developer, “I’m often painted with a fairly generic brush. But I take offense to that because I’m involved in the community, I love the community and I don’t think that growth or expansion is the same as development.”

Writer noted that there is such a thing as positive development, listing the city recreation center, open space and trails, and other projects.

Without development, “We wouldn’t have Aspen, we wouldn’t have some of the things that make us great,” he said.

He favors a pause on construction of affordable-housing units in order to focus on other issues surrounding employee housing, such as the need for lower-priced rental units.

“I think we need more diversity and opportunity in housing,” Writer has said. “Employee-housing owners bought into this system with blood, sweat and tears. No one ‘gave’ them anything and they worked their patooties off, and made housing sacrifices, to live in this community. And we ‘reward’ them with zero options to get out of the system.”

Writer also said that he believes the council’s job is to “set policy, provide incentive and get out of the way.” He said he would hope to motivate the city and the community to improve on many fronts.

“We can be so much better on so many fronts but there is this fear that ‘getting better’ is code for getting bigger,” he said. “I am shocked that many who fear/fight ‘bigger’ are at the same time strong advocates of an employee-housing goal that will virtually double the size of Aspen. How can we be ready for the population they advocate? How will our schools, amenities, and services handle a doubling of the population?”

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