Skadron’s election tactics, Torre’s absence at issue (video)
The Aspen Times
Torre questioned the tactics of Mayor Steve Skadron’s camp Thursday during Squirm Night, when the first-term mayor asked where his opponent has been in the political process for the past two years.
“I don’t have an email in my email account asking questions from you until recently,” Skadron said Thursday in Aspen City Council chambers. “I always felt that there was a competitive component to this or friction. … Where were you for two years?”
Torre, who is making his fifth bid for the mayor’s seat, said he was disappointed in the 2013 campaign, particularly Skadron’s lack of oversight. Torre brought up an anonymous letter that he received during that election season. According to reports, Torre had indirectly offered the possibility of Skadron excusing himself from a runoff election between the two and retaining his council seat. That way, the both of them could move “forward together.” The anonymous writer regarded Torre’s suggestion as “skanky.”
“I felt personal attacks,” Torre said Thursday. “Not only did I have small, cryptic notes written on your mailers by other people in your camp, but I was also sent anonymous, somewhat threatening letters during that campaign. Was it difficult for me to re-engage after really what I thought was a breach of our trust? You’re absolutely right. I was very hurt by some of the tactics that went on in the last campaign.”
Torre then asked Skadron why he didn’t reach out either, extending an “olive branch.”
“Torre, what are the tactics you’re talking about?” Skadron asked. “I don’t know what that is.”
With Aspen Times Editor Lauren Glendenning and Aspen Daily News Editor Curtis Wackerle moderating, the two candidates also fielded questions submitted by the public. One asked how a third-generation Aspenite can make a living and raise a family here.
Skadron said living in Aspen is hard, not only for third-generation residents without money, but “those of us who came to town in an old Jeep without money.” He added there is some personal responsibility to the individual looking to settle in Aspen.
“If you want to be in Aspen, there’s a way to make it,” Skadron said. “That’s what I’ve done, and I’m hopeful those similar to me will find a way, as well.”
Skadron said the question suggested that a legacy Aspenite deserves special consideration.
“I think we get to dangerous territory when we start saying, ‘You deserve to be here and you don’t,’” Skadron said.
Torre had a different take on the question.
“I didn’t really hear in the tone of that or the question that they were asking for a special favor or a special position,” Torre said.
The candidates each were asked to grade the performance of the City Manager’s office over the past two years. Skadron gave an A-minus or B-plus, mentioning that the recent parking-meter scandal, which cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, was a black eye for the city. However, he said it’s easy to focus on one problem and forget that the city is in charge of a $141 million business with 15 different operating divisions.
“I think the city manager does a good job of putting the right people in the right place,” Skadron said. “He makes decisions, he delegates and then he does a good job of getting out of the way and empowering those beneath him to deliver responsibilities they’ve taken on.”
Torre gave a C-plus, while saying he doesn’t place all the blame on the City Manager’s Office. He said the issue is communication breakdown, where residents aren’t communicating well with the council and the council isn’t communicating well with staff.
“You have to give someone the tools that equip somebody for success,” Torre said. “Right now, we have not done that.”
When asked who they support in the Aspen City Council race for two open seats, Skadron said it would be inappropriate for a sitting mayor to answer that question, but he’s been impressed with Councilman Adam Frisch’s preparation for City Hall proceedings. Torre said he supports Referendum 1 leader Bert Myrin because of his tireless work on volunteer boards over the years, but remains undecided over his second choice.
Torre was asked about 2012, when as a councilman he introduced an emergency ordinance that would have allowed discussion for capping building heights at 32 feet. The ordinance needed four votes to pass and only drew three, a failure that some say spurred unfavorable development. Torre disputed that it spurred more development had council engaged in a standard 30-day process. Torre also expressed disappointment in failure to gain support from Frisch and former Councilman Derek Johnson.
“I don’t regret it,” Torre said. “I wish the process had worked better. I wish that Adam or Derek would have supported the initiative.”
While Torre’s intentions were good, Skadron said, it was a mistake to initiate an emergency ordinance without having confirmation of four votes prior to the hearing. He also added that Aspen’s Community Development Department and local development community would argue that the action did spur a development boon.
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The steep Jail Trail that leads into downtown Aspen is getting a better grade to address safety concerns and make it easier for people to use.