Editorial: Time to ditch council appointment process
After last year’s near-dice roll to select a member of the Aspen City Council, we are pleased to see that the Aspen Election Commission is taking significant steps to overhaul the city’s appointment process.
On Wednesday, City Attorney Jim True said that he was crafting legislation that would require office vacancies to be determined by a public vote rather than appointment by members of the City Council.
True’s initiative comes on the heels of July’s City Council appointment process, which was exposed for its flaws and made a mockery of the democratic process.
Steve Skadron had been elected mayor, meaning that he was forced to relinquish his seat as an Aspen city councilman. That led to the appointment process, which drew a sizeable field of applicants that was whittled down to two finalists — Howie Mallory and Dwayne Romero.
The City Council, charged with selecting either Mallory or Romero, found itself deadlocked, 2-2. Initially, none of the council members seemed willing to budge, so City Clerk Kathryn Koch noted that in this instance, both Romero and Mallory could take a roll of the dice, and the person with the highest number would win and thereby join the City Council.
But the next day, Skadron, concerned about the potential embarrassment the dice roll could bring, changed his tune and selected Romero. City Councilwoman Ann Mullins followed suit, resulting in a unanimous 4-0 vote for Romero.
At the time, we felt that this procedure, too, made for a sham of the democratic process. A dice roll, we reasoned, at least would give each finalist an equal chance to win, as opposed to the game of chicken that took place.
True’s draft states that the vacancy could last as long as 120 days because the vote would be pushed to the next scheduled state, county or city election. If the vacancy were to occur 120 days or more before the next election, the council would have the option to call for a special election. The council also would have the option to appoint a replacement in the interim.
This isn’t the perfect solution — it would mean lengthening the campaign seasons, which drag out long enough as it is. But it strikes us as the most democratic way to go about selecting a member of the Aspen City Council. The composition of the entire City Council rightfully belongs in the hands of the people, not the officials they elect.
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