Wampler joins council race

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Michael Wampler

ASPEN Local businessman Michael Wampler has thrown his hat into the ring for a City Council seat, saying he will campaign “on a platform that emphasizes the importance of keeping the character of Aspen.”At the same time Dan Kitchen, a long-time local political gadfly and window washer by trade, has said he will run if he can get a few volunteers to help him.Wampler, owner of the Aspen Velo bike shop, told The Aspen Times on Thursday that he is in the race to fill one of two vacancies in the May 8 municipal election.With a business located in a building that has changed hands twice in the last year, and a long-time resident of government subsidized housing, Wampler, 57, stated flatly at one point, “I’m fed up, and I’m scared.”A resident of the upper Roaring Fork Valley since 1976 and an Aspen business owner for 22 years, Wampler is the divorced father of two sons, Peter, 12, and Luke, 9, who both attend Aspen’s public schools.”I want Aspen to be a place where my sons can afford to live permanently,” he declared. He first started thinking about serving on the City Council late in 2006, when he applied to fill a vacancy left after former Councilwoman Rachel Richards was elected to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.Concerning his reasons for running, Wampler said, “Aspen is a special place with a character that is both rare and cherished by those of us who have made our lives here. We should be working hard to limit the loss of that character.”For Wampler, that means “limiting building heights, saving historical buildings, and incorporating employee housing into new commercial buildings.” He emphasized that affordable housing means both owner-occupied and rental units to serve a broad spectrum of employees.Also, he wrote in a prepared statement, “establishing strong regulations on the SCI (Service/Commercial/Industrial) sector will help keep important local businesses such as laundry facilities and small repair shops available for locals as well as all those who visit Aspen.”Noting that he hears a wide array of opinions and ideas at his bike shop, he said, “Young locals lament their future due to lack of housing. Second-home owners are constantly amazed at the loss of local shopping and a continued loss of the ambiance that brought them to Aspen in the first place. Tourists wonder what happened to the atmosphere, wonder where all the young people have gone, and complain about the construction that seems to be on every corner.”Wampler invited voters interested in his ideas to call him at 925-1498.

What’s cooking?In a related development, Kitchen, a well-known political gadfly during the 1990s and a four-time failed candidate for elective office, has said he is considering a run for either the mayor’s job or a City Council seat.

But first, he said this week, he realized “I can’t get elected on my own” and that he needs to hear from any local political activists who would be willing to help with his campaign.Kitchen, 55, has been living in the valley for 31 years and now lives in Aspen. He is single, and has one daughter living in California.He termed the job of a council member as “so easy a caveman or a construction worker can do it, right?” He said he is running because he believes the current members of the council “still have their blinders on” concerning a variety of issues, starting with the Entrance to Aspen debate.

Kitchen believes what is needed, to begin with, is a straight-shot road leaving Highway 82 at the Tiehack Road intersection near Buttermilk, and heading directly toward a crossing of Maroon Creek in the vicinity of the Aspen Recreation Center.This, he said, would draw off volumes of traffic headed for the Aspen Highlands ski area, the public schools campus, the ARC and other destination on Maroon Creek, thereby freeing up “two bottlenecks,” the Maroon Creek Bridge and the roundabout at the Castle/Maroon intersection.Concerning the question of how to pay for such a project, he said, “Make it a toll road.”As for the entrance itself, Kitchen believes the best option is to redesign the entire project. He would build two lanes of traffic from the roundabout across the Marolt park lands, over a new bridge and connecting to Main Street. Those lanes, he said, should carry the in-bound Aspen traffic.Next, he said, the S-Curves should be retained for the outbound traffic heading downvalley. As for traffic heading into town from the Cemetery Lane neighborhood, he said, the cars would simply turn right and go to the roundabout, which would connect them to the in-bound lanes.Other planks in the Kitchen platform include the declaration, “It’s time we had a big-box up here.”

He said a big box retailer such as Wal-Mart or Target, located in between the Brush Creek/Highway 82 interchange and the Aspen Business Center, would keep “5,000 cars from driving downvalley to shop” in the malls of Glenwood Springs.He also believes the city should pass a law making possession of one ounce of marijuana or less a petty offense, just as Denver recently did.Kitchen invited anyone interested in being part of his campaign to call him at 928-1586.John Colson’s e-mail address is