Aspen Times endorsement: Voters should consider Doyle, Hauenstein for council; Torre best mayoral candidate

Aspen Times Editorial Board

In only the second municipal election since voters approved moving election day from May to March, candidate participation doesn’t seem to be an issue. With eight candidates vying for two seats in a year of turmoil with no clear end in sight, we commend the field for their commitment to community at a time when it might be easier to just sit out this race.

We endorse newcomer John Doyle and incumbent Ward Hauenstein for Aspen City Council.

The Aspen Times editorial board invited all the council candidates to participate in a Q&A with the board. Doyle, Hauenstein, Sam Rose, Kimbo Brown-Schirato and Erin Smiddy responded.

As someone who has worked across the spectrum in the community as a 40-year resident, Doyle is jumping into public service. During the 2019 election, he came out to campaign against the Lift One commercial development, and of late has voiced concern over the proposed expansion on Aspen Mountain. He is confident in his point of view and has brought thoughtful ideas and reasoning to the table.

Doyle has the unequivocal voice of the locals who live here for skiing and want to protect the outdoors, temper growth and secure housing for workers. He cares about the environment, holds climate change as a strong position in his campaign and has bold ideas for housing (building inside the roundabout).

We think Hauenstein has done a fine job and the job that we elected him to do. We do want to see the incumbent have that energy and enthusiasm to carry our community out of crisis and toward a bright future.

While we commend Hauenstein for being the first in advocating for a new chairlift that comes down to Dean Street, we were disappointed that he voted for the city’s $4.36 million contribution to the Lift One development at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side. Developers were able to take advantage of the city’s land use code, which incentivizes small lodges by reducing affordable housing mitigation. The project, which involves over 300,000 square feet of commercial development, is inconsistent with the Aspen Area Community Plan when it comes to growth and employee mitigation. We need council members who are willing to say “no” to developers until their projects check off all the boxes for community benefit.

We are left scratching our heads by Hauenstein’s recent decision to OK the $600,000 Jail Trail regrade without the changes meeting ADA regulations and his repeated approvals of public funds for consultant fees.

But of the candidates, Hauenstein is the only one who has been pushing through at all the meetings the past four years and puts in time outside of those duties to represent the city. He takes time to listen and consider viewpoints before he makes his vote. Hauenstein comes to meetings prepared, asks good questions and can navigate through the nuances of council minutiae.

He also had been instrumental in the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, was part of the council who brought in a new city manager, pushed for the tobacco tax and was on the council that passed the tobacco ordinances (vaping).

We also strongly considered Rose, who has a fresh perspective as a newcomer to Aspen, moving here in 2019, but he has jumped into the community. He is the lead contact tracer for Pitkin County’s public health department, has become a volunteer firefighter and is an advocate for the nonprofit Response, which helps victims of domestic violence.

Being new to Aspen and politics can put anyone at a deficit by not knowing all the connections. We’ve already seen Rose’s intentions are the best, but he’d be in an arena he still doesn’t know yet being new to the community.

To win one of the two seats candidates have to have 45% of the vote plus one. With eight candidates, there is a strong probability of a runoff (which would be April 6).

We would like to see all eight of the candidates continue their desire to help the community. We hope to see all of them serving on boards or committees and really rolling up their sleeves and digging in during the coming year. It is impressive to have a field with a number of young candidates and a variety of residents.

In the mayoral race, there’s no question that the incumbent Torre is the best choice for the next two years. His challenger, Lee Mulcahy, appears to be using this race as a platform to draw more attention to his personal housing fight and we have no confidence in his desire to put his politics aside and work hard for the city of Aspen. In last Thursday’s Squirm Night, he conceded the race to Torre.

The next four years in Aspen will be about getting past the pandemic, making big strides in the housing crisis and balancing growth. We feel John Doyle, Ward Hauenstein and Torre are the best candidates to work for our community.

The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason and copy editor/columnist Sean Beckwith.