Don’t fall for fear-mongering, vote for Mullins

What does it take to win an election these days? Hard work, professionalism and values, or fear mongering, name-calling and distortions of one’s record?

Those taking up the “damn dams” propaganda seem to be following the latter model. Banging the drum as if the bulldozers were already rolling sadly reminds me of Donald Trump hyping fears over Muslims, immigrants and people of color.

City residents should trust themselves enough to know that Aspen, through its elected leadership, is one of the most environmentally oriented towns anywhere. By keeping their conditional water rights for storage on Maroon and Castle creeks for six more years, the city will have more options and opportunities to effect long term protections of Castle and Maroon creeks.

Aspen could file for a change of location for using those rights and to reduce those rights, instead of losing them forever in an election frenzy. We deserve a through and thoughtful review at how the city might provide its residents water 100 years on. Who wants to hear, “Boy, water rights and steam protection are really complicated,” as we’ve heard about health care, once the sloganeering was over.

Renewal of conditional water rights comes up every six years — with the same opportunities to challenge as today. More importantly, under Colorado law, Maroon and Castle creeks can be diverted down to their minimum stream flows (far lower flow then in those streams today). Extinguishing Aspen’s water rights does nothing to protect those streams from new water right filings to do so.

A better approach is for Aspen to keep its rights while pursuing an increase to the decreed minimum stream flows, and legislative changes to Colorado water law create an endangered fish water right that would allow unperfected conditional water rights on the West Slope to be dedicated to the critical habitat of the 15-mile reach between Cameo on the Colorado and the confluence with Gunnison river; or a “compact compliance” water right to dedicate these older rights and flows to our state’s compact requirements for water delivery to Lake Powell.

I see opportunity where others see armageddon, and I’m not going to be hyped into voting based on a non-crisis. I‘m voting for thoughtfulness and long-term thinking. Yes, it would be a big lift legislatively to modernize Colorado water law, but so was creating recreational in-channel diversion rights, or the original creation of minimum stream flow law.

I’m voting for Ann Mullins because she has the fortitude to take this challenge on — to make good come from difficult and perplexing circumstances. I support Ann for the issues no one talks about — like her solid support for city of Aspen contributions to community health services, nonprofits and the Senior Center, funds that are critical to supporting a healthy community of all ages and incomes. I see thoughtfulness, caring and professionalism in all her work, and hope that you will join me in voting for Ann Mullins.

Rachel E. Richards