Elizabeth Milias: A Mark for common sense on city council | AspenTimes.com

Elizabeth Milias: A Mark for common sense on city council

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

In late 2018, in a great push to increase local voter participation, moving the date for our municipal elections from May to March was overwhelmingly supported. It seemed reasonable enough; the argument being that holding the elections during the spring offseason kept many from the polls.

In 2019, the first time we voted in March, 3,243 voters turned out to vote, a whopping 53% of the electorate. But keep in mind, the 2019 ballot included the nail-biter referendum regarding the future development at Lift 1A. It could be said that the strong voter turnout had far more to do with that, but here we are today, with eight candidates running for two council seats and incumbent Mayor Torre facing off against one challenger.

The campaign season has been anemic at best, likely because people are just plain old busy during ski season and a municipal election simply isn’t on their radar screen. The earlier campaign season brought out a field of candidates but absolutely zero enthusiasm. Is this yet another case of the solution being worse than the problem?

I’ve seen a yard sign here and there, and someone left a flyer at my front door. There have been the usual letters to the editor, including the expected missive from John Sarpa promoting his candidate du jour (Sarpa brought us Skippy), but other than that, crickets, crickets and more crickets.

They want untold amounts of more subsidized housing. More subsidized child care too. Anything special and subsidized for locals, like tax breaks for local-serving businesses, and the usual anti-development drivel and necessity of maintaining our small town character. Same old, same old. I just wish someone would promise Coca-Cola in the water fountains and Van Halen playing in the hallways like someone always did in junior high. At least that would bring a small degree of comic relief.

So, how to vote? Your ballot is in the mail if it hasn’t already arrived. With eight candidates running for two seats on council, there is sure to be a run-off; it’s highly unlikely that two candidates will emerge with 45% of votes cast plus one vote on the first ballot. I have long been a promoter of the “bullet vote,” a strategy of getting your first pick elected in the first round by only voting for one candidate. The theory is to boost your favorite candidate’s total by one vote while also reducing the number of votes used to calculate the 45% threshold.

For mayor, with a choice between incumbent Torre and his challenger, housing scofflaw Lee Mulcahy, I am just going to leave it blank. Between bad and worse is a terrible choice, and I still can’t believe no viable candidate stepped up to run against Torre.

But for council, I am advocating for an element of diversity that actually matters. We currently have a tennis instructor, a retired landscape architect/urban designer, a computer consultant, a City Market employee and a “lord-knows-what-he-does” on council.

I don’t have to tell you how woefully hapless this group has been. The upcoming election is not a popularity contest. With a $141 million city budget for 2021, construction of the Taj Mahal City Hall well underway, Burlingame Phase 3 in the pipeline and impending development decisions regarding the Lumberyard, let’s try for once to assess our needs at the council table and match those to the skills of those who are running for office.

Our choices to fill two open council seats include a local artist, an EMT and COVID-19 contact tracer for the county, a ski instructor, a Clark’s Market employee, and the computer consultant wants his post for another term. Additionally, we have a working mom who extols her family’s curious move from free market housing in Carbondale to an in-town subsidized housing unit (how and why is that allowed to happen?), a combat veteran and mental health advocate, and the owner of the restaurant Pussyfoot Steeps at the ABC.

Now we’re talking. We desperately need someone who represents a sector of our community and economy that has not had proper representation at the council table — the business community. As we take initial steps to clean up after the ravages of COVID-19, I advocate bullet-voting for the candidate who has identified and delivered community needs with his two restaurants, has faced and successfully jumped through the regulatory hoops in order to open them, has experienced being on the hook for commercial rent during our extended shutdowns, understands the concept of inventory and the cost of goods sold, can read a financial statement and regularly meets a payroll. Meet Mark Reece.

With an eye toward actionable post-pandemic solutions, Mark Reece understands the real-life consequences of mental health issues on locals and small businesses, and how these problems manifest themselves in small communities like ours, and is dedicated to paying them more than just lip service. Never one to back away from a challenge, this small business owner and employer will bring common-sense pragmatism and fiscal oversight to a board that sorely needs it. Bullet vote for Mark.

We’ve already got Skippy and Torre, and some are talking Kimbo. That’s just far too much sizzle when what we really need is steak. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to reflect the owner of Pussyfoot Steeps Aspen no longer operates the bowling alley in Snowmass.


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