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Wilson: Our town is losing its character

Janet Urquhart

A local shopkeeper who fears Aspen is losing its character is making his first run for public office to see what he can do to bring that character back.

Bob “Kritz” Wilson, manager of Aspen-Santa Fe Trails, a Mill Street home-decor shop, announced his candidacy for the Aspen City Council on Thursday. His entry brings to six the number of candidates vying for two seats up for election in May.

Wilson came to Aspen in 1968 for the skiing. The California native said he managed several ski shops and coached on the pro ski circuit for Hank Kashiwa before moving to Arizona in 1983. He returned to Aspen in 1993.

“I realized this is where my heart was, so I moved back here,” he said. “I think I have a great feel for the town. It has been my home. I just want to get involved in the community more because I love this place.”

What Wilson doesn’t love is the influx of chain stores that have replaced the mom-and-pop shops Aspen once boasted. He is especially critical of the high-end chains that predominate in Harley Baldwin’s Brand Building.

“I think Aspen is losing its character. I hear it from people every day,” Wilson said. “I’m sick of seeing big chains come in – all I hear from people is, `Where did the little stores go?’

“There are a lot of small-business people in town that are being forced out,” he lamented.

What can be done about it is another matter, said Wilson, but he said he wants to explore placing limits on floor area for retail operations to discourage big chains.

“I don’t have any concrete answers,” he conceded. “I want to bring it to public awareness and see what we can do.”

Wilson said he supports the state’s plan for the Entrance to Aspen, with two highway lanes and a mass-transit corridor routed from the Maroon Creek Road roundabout across the Marolt open space and into town.

“Logistically, I think it makes the most sense,” he said.

He panned the sales tax plan spearheaded by a fellow candidate to preserve the Isis Theatre, calling it “inappropriate” for the city to bail out a failed movie theater.

He also called for stepped-up recycling in Aspen and said he would support mandatory recycling at affordable housing projects. Government should provide containers and pick-up of recyclables, Wilson said.

The council race has attracted a diverse group of candidates, including Wilson, incumbent Terry Paulson, window washer Dan Kitchen, TV talk show host Andrew Kole, ski instructor Pepper Gomes and developer Tim Semrau.

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