Supporters of S-curves raise nearly $17,000 | AspenTimes.com

Supporters of S-curves raise nearly $17,000

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Citizens for a Small Town Entrance have amassed nearly $17,000 to wage their battle against the straight shot at the Entrance to Aspen.

The first round of reports detailing campaign contributions and expenditures were due Tuesday. Four groups that are active in city campaigns filed reports with the city clerk’s office.

The Citizens have far outspent their opponents in the Entrance to Aspen campaign in the early going. The group reported $16,910 in contributions and $7,886 in expenditures.

The Efficient And Safe Entrance committee (EASE), which backs the straight shot, or modified direct alignment for Highway 82 at the western entrance to town, reported $700 in contributions from four supporters and no expenditures.

EASE supporters included City Councilman Tom McCabe ($100) and Semrau Building and Design ($250), Councilman Tim Semrau’s development company. David Guthrie, the group’s registered agent, gave $100, and Sally Glen contributed $250.

The Citizens’ financial backers include Councilman Terry Paulson ($200) and Mayor Helen Klanderud ($100) and a long list of other familiar names in the Entrance battle.

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Referendum 2D, the proposed trolley system for Aspen, has generated a pro-trolley group, the Trolleys for Aspen Committee, and Councilman Tony Hershey’s People Against Silly Trolleys.

The Trolleys for Aspen Committee reported $825.25 in contributions from five individuals, including $25 from Paulson, and spending $270. Hershey’s committee neither raised nor spent any funds, according to his report.

The Citizens for a Small Town Entrance, chaired by Betty Farson and co-chaired by Paulson, has taken perhaps the most active approach to eliciting financial support from citizens. The group sent a mass mailing to Aspen voters, outlining its opposition to the modified direct alignment and seeking contributions. A self-addressed envelope in which to mail contributions to the group’s treasurer, Bert Myrin, was enclosed.

The letter also offered a list of the group’s philosophical, if not financial, supporters, including Paulson, Klanderud and several former mayors, John Bennett among them.

Bennett, a key supporter of the Entrance to Aspen proposal that won voter approval in 1996, said he still supports the two-lane highway and light-rail line in the so-called straight shot, or modified direct alignment, that voters favored six years ago.

He has sided with the Citizens in opposing Referendum 2E, however, calling the advisory question a “blank check” since it does not spell out what would be constructed on the new alignment if voters endorse it.

Referendum 2E on the city ballot (Referendum 1C on the Pitkin County ballot) asks voters which alignment for the Entrance to Aspen they prefer: the existing S-curves alignment or the modified direct alignment over the Marolt/Thomas open space.

The two-lane parkway and light rail across the open space was a “major community compromise” reached after several years of “enormous wrangling” by a community task force, recalled Bennett, who participated in the effort as mayor. The alignment and the cut-and-cover tunnel across the open space were all components of the compromise entrance project that received voter approval in 1996.

“I’m still a big believer in what was approved in ?96,” he said. “It made sense then, and I think it still makes sense today.”

Those specifics elements, however, are missing from Referendum 2E, which the City Council put on the ballot to gauge current public opinion on the alignment issue.

“The ballot issue in this election doesn’t refer to any of that,” Bennett said. “It could mean a six-lane highway with no rail.

“This is the classic pig in a poke, which I don’t think the community should buy.”

In its campaign against the straight shot, the Citizens have labeled the modified direct alignment “a shot in the dark.” Since voters have previously denied funding for light rail and voted against dedicated bus lanes as an alternative to rail, “we have no idea what a vote for the straight shot alignment means,” the group notes in its literature.

The city, in a “fact sheet” it issued on the entrance, concurs next month’s vote will not determine the mode of transportation on either alignment.

“The ballot question seeks only to determine community preference for an alignment and does not relate to any particular mode of transportation [light rail, buses, or four lanes of traffic],” the fact sheet reads.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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