Letter: Listen to the people

Rick Carroll wrote recently about the spate of petitions that Aspen’s residents have employed to override the City Council. The article begged the question why the community feels it must intercede so frequently. An example is playing out now in the selection of a new director of city planning.

More than 80 locals have endorsed the petition to appoint a temporary citizens’ board to work with the city manager as he selects the planning director. (You can read it on Facebook by searching “Betteraspengovernment.”) The petition doesn’t encroach on the council or the city manager’s authority. Yet, when informally presented to council in December, almost in unison (could they possibly have conferred in advance?) the city manager and mayor announced that granting the request would “politicize” the selection of the new city planning director. Their solution to involving the public: Rely on the Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions — two of the most political and politicized arms of Aspen’s city government. That’s not political, but appointing a citizens’ board (not dominated by development interests) is.

These people have been hanging around City Hall too long.

Many residents feel the outgoing planning director led council into some ill-advised projects that were inconsistent with community values. These residents believe it’s been shown that the so-called “Community Development” department is so influential on Aspen’s character that selection of the new director is not the average city hire. So the residents feel it’s council’s responsibility to supervise the city manager, to guide him in a direction that is more consistent with community values.

It’s time for the council formally to consider the petition so the council has the opportunity to vote on it and show that it stands for our community values.

Maurice Emmer