Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority needs more independence

Recently there have been a number of articles dealing with the reformation of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s board of directors. Leading this campaign is our current mayoral candidate Adam Frisch. Frisch wants to reconfigure the board to have a minimum of appointed citizens (three) and a majority of elected officials (four).

Thank goodness that the remainder of City Council and the Board of County Commissioners does not agree with this position. Frisch feels that the current board and its approval procedures are broken. He is correct, but the fault lies in the process and not in the board.

I have served for over 10 years on the board, and I have never been part of a more dedicated, knowledgeable, concerned and intelligent group of volunteers. The problem lies in the elected officials being unable to relinquish control over the process to the experts in the housing arena. Policy changes sit for months waiting for the elected officials to approve APCHA recommendations.

The current “call-up” process stifles the ability of the board to make intelligent, well thought-out changes to the guidelines. Now, Frisch wants to turn this long-standing citizen board into a subcommittee of City Council. He claims that it is a matter of accountability.

When did APCHA cease to be accountable to the citizens of Aspen? In the late ’90s, the APCHA board had elected officials on the board. It was decided that this didn’t work and removed them.

Now we have a candidate with political aspirations trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Many of the board members feel that to make APCHA truly accountable to voters, it should be fully independent and made up of citizens elected by the voters, much like the hospital board. Unfortunately, this would mean our current elected officials would have to give up control of APCHA, something that few want to do. As long as APCHA is a de facto department of the city, our current policy and procedure problems will continue. While the process of making APCHA fully independent is an arduous one, since it will require an election of members and voter approval to an operating funding source, it is the right way to go.

Ron Erickson

Chairman, Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board