Who is she to judge?
October 20, 2007
ASPEN ” Karen Goldman is impartial when it comes to Aspen.
That’s why Goldman, a former city clerk in Lakewood and current secretary of the Colorado State Senate, has been settling disputes here since 2002.
At a hearing scheduled in Aspen City Council chambers at 9 a.m. Monday, Goldman will decide whether two proposed Entrance to Aspen ballot questions are legitimate.
Jeffrey Evans and Curtis Vagneur obtained city approval and collected the required 749 signatures to float two ballot questions slated for special election in coming months.
The ballot initiatives ask Aspen residents to vote on two four-lane solutions to the Entrance to Aspen.
But Les Holst, Clifford Weiss and Terry Paulson filed a protest. They called the ballot questions misleading and an attempt to circumvent the “years of work, study, evaluation and decision making that went into the approved design for the Entrance to Aspen.”
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The protesters said the question is an administrative matter for government officials to decide, not a legislative matter to take to the voters.
Aspen City Clerk Kathryn Koch already turned down Evans and Vagneur’s proposal once, spawning a lawsuit, and the pair had to rephrase it twice before she finally accepted it, she said.
In May, however, Koch told the men to “go forth and get signatures,” and the matter was tentatively slated to go before voters in the winter.
Koch could make the decision on the protest herself, she said, but she decided to get another perspective.
“I just felt somebody impartial ” somebody from outside the community ” would be better,” Koch said. “This is a small town.”
It’s not the first time Goldman has been to Aspen to settle a dispute.
In 2002 she presided over another Entrance to Aspen matter: a squabble over signature verification on a petition.
In 2004 Goldman stepped in on a dispute over parking at Park Place, and in 2005 settled an issue over housing at Burlingame.
Goldman is originally from St. Louis, Mo. A librarian by training, she was city clerk in Lakewood from 1986 to 2002. She has experience training election staff and has been on a number of committees drafting election legislation, she said.
“I do know a lot about election law,” Goldman said.
She charges $100 per hour, and estimated it will take about six hours for the hearing on Monday, plus additional hours deliberating.
By state statute she’ll have five days after the hearing to make her decision.
Jim True, acting as an attorney for the city, will advise Goldman about the legal points of the case.
Goldman was careful not to prejudice herself to the current ballot issue, and Friday, when she arrived in Aspen, was the first time she had seen any information on the case, she said.
“The law is pretty clear in terms of what I rule on,” Goldman said. She will focus on election procedure, not on actual substance of the ballot questions.
If either party wants to question her decision, the next step is district court, she said.
“People have the right to take the decision as far as they can,” Goldman said.
Her current job with the state senate ” a non-partisan position ” means facilitating for legislators.
“It’s interesting,” Goldman said. Now in her fifth year, she was originally appointed and comes up for re-election by senators each year.
Goldman said her work on the state level is not a conflict because the ballot questions are a municipal issue.