Touting housing efforts, Hershey will run again
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey said his decision to run for a second term did not come as easily as one might expect.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it – I’ve accomplished a lot in the four years I’ve been on the council,” he said.
But, he added, “Personally and professionally, this has been a difficult job, and I expect to be attacked by my opponents for the work I’ve done.”
Hershey is the fourth person to announce his candidacy for Aspen City Council, joining fellow incumbent Tom McCabe, Bert Myrin and Torre in the race for two seats on the five-member council. Mayor Helen Klanderud is the only candidate so far for the town’s top job.
The accomplishments Hershey lists include approving and funding the new Aspen Recreation Center, putting a stop to what he saw as a meaningless debate on rail in the Roaring Fork Valley, obtaining voter approval for the yet-to-be-built Burlingame affordable housing project and moving ahead with the Entrance to Aspen.
On the question of rail, which dominated the political and transit discourse here for nearly a decade, Hershey rightly takes credit as a key player in ending the debate.
“I stopped the pie-in-the-sky rail dream that seemed like it was never going to end,” he said.
As a councilman, Hershey has been a consistent supporter of affordable housing in the upper valley. Projects that have been completed during his term include the Seventh and Main housing and the rental units at Truscott. He was one of the council members who supported annexation of the Burlingame project property when the question went before the voters in the summer of 2000.
“We’ve done a lot with housing,” Hershey said. “Some of my opponents will say we’re going too fast, some will say we’re going too slow – I think we’re building it at the right pace.”
He added that now is the right time to build housing, with the market in a lull, because construction and property costs aren’t as overheated as they were a few years ago.
Hershey even lists as an accomplishment his controversial vote to give the Colorado Department of Transportation a right of way across the Marolt open space for a two-lane parkway and light-rail platform.
“What I did was vote the way I thought was correct in light of the 1996 decision by voters in Aspen,” Hershey said.
In 1996, voters authorized construction of a two-lane parkway, rail platform and tunnel on the Marolt open space between the roundabout and Castle Creek. The vote set a three-way land swap in motion, involving Pitkin County, CDOT and the city of Aspen, and made it possible to construct the roundabout at Maroon Creek Road.
The city’s end of the voter-approved deal involved giving CDOT the right of way it needed to reroute the highway across Marolt and eliminate the S-curves. Last fall, however, citizens in an advisory vote came out against the alignment they approved in 1996.
“I respect the voters’ will,” Hershey said. “We’ll look for a different solution to the problems along that stretch of road.”
He wants a second term on council in order to complete the infill regulations currently in front of the council, to continue work on the housing program, promote public transportation and to find ways to include Aspen’s youth more fully in community decision making.
Growth, Hershey noted, is going to happen somewhere – if not in Aspen, then around it. If it occurs in town, then it’s infill; if it occurs around the outskirts of Aspen, then it’s sprawl. Hershey sees the infill regulations, which would ultimately promote mixed-use development in Aspen, as an effective way of combating sprawl.
He said he would also like to include teenagers in decisions that affect them. The existing youth council is a good start, Hershey said, but community leaders need to consult their teen neighbors for advice on a more regular basis.
“It’s great that we’ve built the recreation center and the new high school, but they are just buildings,” Hershey said. The opinions of both facilities’ primary users – teens – need to be heard and factored in at every level from operations to programming to capital improvements, he said.
On transit issues, Hershey sees himself as an important spokesman for the community. He was integral in both killing the train and convincing voters to support formation of a rural transportation authority, which expanded the funding base for the existing bus system.
Nowadays, Hershey is the alternate representative for Aspen to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and is advising the agency on funding at the state and federal levels.
“Love it or hate it, the Republican Party is in charge at the state and national level, and there is an advantage in having someone like me, who has that point of view,” he said.
In addition to being a card-carrying member of the Republican Party, Hershey volunteers with the Buddy Program, the Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention, Aspen/Snowmass Council for the Arts, and Roaring Fork Legal Services.
Hershey, 39 and a lawyer, earns much of his living in the communications department at the Aspen Skiing Co.
He grew up in Aspen, attending Aspen Country Day School and Aspen’s public schools. He graduated from Aspen High School. He currently lives in the Cemetery Lane neighborhood.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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