The Aspen Times endorsements in the city election |

The Aspen Times endorsements in the city election

The Aspen Times Editorial

For mayor For the office of mayor of the city of Aspen, The Aspen Times recommends voters cast their ballot for incumbent City Council member Rachel Richards.

Richards has been on the council for eight years, the last four of them as mayor pro tem, and she has acquitted herself well in that role.

To be sure, there have been occasions when her style has rubbed this newspaper the wrong way, but that is true of practically any politician. And it cannot be denied that at times she seems not to know when to keep quiet, when her dedication to being heard has lead to interminable meetings.

Still, at its most basic, the reason to elect Richards is that she has worked hard at understanding the complexities of running this city during some of its most challenging years, and she largely has succeeded.

Other than perhaps outgoing Mayor John Bennett, no one else sitting on the City Council has as firm a grasp on the intricacies of Aspen’s role in Western Slope politics, or better understands the myriad details and complexities of dealing with federal and state transportation bureaucracies. And whether valleywide rail ever becomes a reality or not, this region is going to be working on transportation problems for a long time. A good rapport with the regional, state and federal transit officialdom can only be a plus.

Richards also has shown a commitment to affordable housing, and while no new housing has been completed in three years, some housing has been created by other means.

There also is Richards’ dedication to her job as an elected representative. She thoroughly reads and understands the massive amount of “homework” handed to every council member, which cannot be said of certain others on the council, and has put in considerable time on a variety of boards, commissions and committees over the years.

It cannot be denied that Richards has a job cut out for her in overcoming a perception that she represents simply two more years of John Bennett-style leadership, an issue that has been raised more than once in this election campaign. But anyone who has paid attention over the past eight years knows that the two have not always agreed on everything, and that Richards is a woman with a mind of her own and a style of governance that is unique.

It can only be hoped that, as part of her administration, she will strive to find a balance between Bennett’s sometimes overly heavy reliance on “government by consensus and task force” and the need for the City Council to make decisions and accept the responsibility for them. By thus speeding up the pace of decision-making, perhaps the city can get moving on such issues as housing and transportation.

Vote for Rachel Richards for mayor. For City Council The Aspen Times endorses Roger Haneman and Tom McCabe for election to the two open City Council seats on May 4.

This is Haneman’s second bid for a council seat, and he appears to have matured and mellowed since he ran for election two years ago. In his appearances at various forums throughout April, he has spoken out in favor of greater efforts to build affordable housing, and on the need to keep an open mind on the idea of valleywide rail. As an employee of a small lodge in town, he understands the needs of that endangered segment of our economy, and he has displayed a good working understanding of the workings of city government.

Tom McCabe we also have seen before, when he narrowly lost a bid to become a Pitkin County commissioner last year. We believe the City Council will benefit from McCabe’s calm, open-minded approach to the tough issues the council will be facing in the coming years. He is unconvinced that the proposed valleywide rail system is appropriate for this region, but he has declared himself willing to listen and study the idea before making up his mind.

Another good candidate presented to the voters this time around was developer Tim Semrau, whose passion and forceful presence was impressive. But we feel Semrau can serve the city best by continuing to build affordable housing projects and by serving as a strong voice on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Vote for Roger Haneman and Tom McCabe for City Council. Ballot question No. 1 Rec facilities revenue bond Vote “yes” on question number one. This community’s recreational facilities, while historically excellent, have fallen behind the levels needed to meet the demands of the current population. And this program comes without a tax hike, which may not be possible in the future given the volatile nature of the financial markets.

It is true that this is quite an ambitious series of projects that the community will be taking on, but City Hall has proven itself capable of performance under pressure in the past and should be able to handle this task.

And it must be kept in mind that the passage of this bond question is merely the first step. Starting right after election day, city officials will begin the process of gathering community ideas and suggestions regarding the myriad of details involved in completing these projects.

Vote “Yes” on ballot question number one. Ballot question No. 2 Extend housing/day-care sales tax Voters must give their wholehearted support to extending the .45-percent housing and day-care sales tax for 10 more years. The benefits from the tax and the funds they support are incalculable. Without these funds, there would be no affordable housing program, and local parents would have much greater difficulty finding child care in the upper valley. And without the involvement of the city in these two critical areas, the livability of the Aspen community would be immensely diminished.

Vote “Yes” on ballot question number two. Ballot question No. 3 Truscott Place expansion Once again, the only reasonable vote on this question is, “Yes.” Truscott Place has proved to be a popular and convenient location for affordable housing, and the three-acre site addressed in the ballot question is about as easy an option as we are ever going to find for expanding the housing inventory.

The expansion will not have a negative effect on the golf course operations, we are promised by the experts, and the 80 to 120 units that are to be built there will relieve some of the pressure on the local housing program. These units are perfect for working Aspenites, being right on a bus line and close to town, and we cannot afford not to build them.

Vote “Yes” on ballot question number three.

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