Talk show host Kole seeking council seat | AspenTimes.com
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Talk show host Kole seeking council seat

Janet Urquhart

Outspoken talk show host Andrew Kole is ready to encourage public discourse in a new forum – the Aspen City Council chambers.

Kole, 50, will seek election to the council, he announced Thursday from his “campaign headquarters” – coffee shop Cafe Ink, where he’s a morning regular.

So far, only Kole and incumbent Terry Paulson have declared their candidacies for the two seats up for election in May. Incumbent Jim Markalunas is stepping down.

A former film promoter, Kole arrived in Aspen from New York two and a half years ago and quickly made a name for himself as the colorful – some would say obnoxious – host of a local radio talk show. He lost the radio job, but quickly found a new outlet for the show on local television. He’s also an assistant coach for the Aspen boys basketball team.

It was listener support when he joked about running for mayor on the radio, combined with inspiration from his current participation in Leadership Aspen, that convinced Kole to make his first bid for public office.

He has already jumped into the political fray, spearheading a campaign to save the Isis Theatre. Kole is pushing the City Council to put a sales tax before voters in May to provide funds to lease the closed theater.

He is adamant that the electorate should have the opportunity to put its tax dollars toward the theater.

“It’s not the government getting involved,” he said. “It’s the citizens using their money to preserve an asset they want.”

If he’s elected, Kole said he’d also like to be the city’s representative on a committee formulating a new marketing plan for Aspen. Kole figures his marketing background lends itself to drafting a strategy to effectively use a new marketing fund created by voters in November.

“I think that new budget creates an opportunity to come up with some sort of a plan where everybody’s working together instead of independently,” he said.

But it’s mostly the little things, Kole said, that he wants to tackle. People who don’t pick up after their dogs, for example, is one of his pet peeves, so to speak. Kole advocates an onerous fine – like $500 – to get dog owners to scoop the poop. Perennially icy spots in town bug Kole, too. He wants the city to take care of them.

Traffic congestion at the entrance to town has Kole calling for a police officer to manually operate the Cemetery Lane traffic signal at peak commute times. It’s a step that could be done next week, he reasons, while relief through additional roundabouts or a new highway alignment is years away.

“Everyone is so concerned with the big issues . I’m willing to focus in on the small issues. I think the small stuff gets lost,” he said. “I’m interested in fixing the small stuff.”

Even the Isis, he contends, is “small stuff.” The tax is a simple step that can be done quickly, Kole said. The Isis issue, he added, is a “poster child” for public participation – something Kole believes is missing in Aspen.

Citizens aren’t active participants in government because they don’t feel they are heard, according to Kole.

“The one thing I would really focus on is making people really feel they’re being heard,” he said.

First, though, Kole must convince voters the sometimes abrupt and abrasive persona he displays on TV won’t carry over into the council chambers. “It’s a show – there’s a difference,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean Kole won’t liven up debate.

“I do still think that I will be the pot stirrer – that’s in my personality – but I’d like to be a focused, progressive pot stirrer,” he said.

Kole also wouldn’t mind having a little fun. Take his idea for “name tag Mondays” for instance.

To break the ice and facilitate a little community interaction, he has suggested locals, and even tourists, wear name tags on Mondays.

“I just think it would be fun. You don’t have to do it . but I think it would be kinda cool,” he said.

Aspen has a tendency to take itself too seriously, according to Kole.

“There are a lot of serious issues, but you don’t have to approach them as if the world is coming to an end,” he said.

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