Letter: Ineffectual, disruptive and destructive approach to governance

I was hoping that in 2016 the community could move away from the divisiveness, viciousness and personal attacks that we saw in 2015. This same sentiment has been expressed by others in the community, but Maurice Emmer’s letter on Jan. 13 (“Clueless on the council,” The Aspen times) persists in this ineffectual, disruptive and ultimately destructive approach to governance. It would be my preference not to respond to this mean-spirited letter, but the inaccuracy and exaggeration of his statements demand a response.

The reference to unfettered and unilateral authority of the community development director to approve projects that vary tremendously from the basic zoning rules is a gross misunderstanding of the city government. Very simply, the council is the approving body, not the community development director.

The statements about planned development also warranted more research. The concept came from combining the statistical planning area and planned-unit development regulations that addressed both small and large projects. Again, granting approval of the planned development can only be done by council, not the community development director, and may be subject as well to voter approval.

It is difficult to address the issue of loopholes in the land-use codes without specific examples, but in general the City Council reviews projects, and as problems, omissions or the need for clarifications in the land-use code are seen, the code is amended accordingly.

In addition, the community development director and his staff draft and propose amendments to the land-use code at the council’s request or as they see the need. This is their job, to evaluate the performance of the land-use code and continually try to improve it. That said, again, only the council can approve an amendment to the code.

There is no question that the role of director of community development is a significant and influential role in the city. I would not be opposed to reviewing the applicants for this position just as we review the applicants for city clerk and the director of finance, but only after an in-depth discussion and serious consideration by City Council along with public input. Until we have that discussion and make a decision to change the city charter, I will not violate the charter and interfere with the hiring process.

I hope that the next communication from Emmer is more collaborative but also recognizes the experience and knowledge that council members bring to the council table and acknowledges the great amount of effort and time we put into this job.

Ann Mullins