Letter: Misplaced criticism
I am writing in response to Maurice Emmer’s letter to the editor May 13 criticizing the role of the Next Generation Advisory Commission (“Next Gen has some growing-up to do,” The Aspen Times). We welcome his thoughts and appreciate the dialogue and appreciate the opportunity to remind the public of our role.
The Next Generation Advisory Commission was born out of a City Council directive to engage the younger-than-40 demographic in 2012. In a memo to the council that year, Community Relations Officer Mitzi Rapkin wrote: “Public participation is essential in having a thriving political atmosphere. It is clear from city meetings, representation on city boards and commissions and participation in public engagement sessions that the 20- to 40-year-old demographic is underrepresented.” After more than two years of organizing, the Next Generation Advisory Commission was officially recognized as a commission in January 2015. Our mission is “to advance the policy interests of the 18-to-40 demographic who live or work in Aspen.”
Unlike some of the city boards Emmer mentions, e.g., the Historic Preservation Commission or the Planning and Zoning Commission, we do not review applications that move on to the City Council. We do not have a city staff member serving as a liaison, nor do we receive any of the added city accommodations such as meals.
Rather, we are all solely volunteers who care passionately about our community and wish to serve it. We routinely meet outside our regular board meetings — held the last Monday of each month in the Sister Cities Room at 5:30 p.m. and open to the public — with a diverse cross-section of the community on various initiatives. Most recently, these include the launch of the Create Mentorship program matching emerging entrepreneurs with experienced talent in Aspen, the development of a road map to increase voter turnout this fall, and the ongoing participation in policy regarding the affordable-housing program.
When we surveyed our demographic in 2014, two issues rose to the top as major obstacles to people’s success in the valley: affordable housing and long-term business or career success. We don’t see the Aspen Power Plant as a “pet project” but a direct solution to one of these very real issues. The board member with financial ties to the project recused himself on all discussions, just as happens on every other commission, as did another board member who is married to one of the project’s directors.
While Emmer might see our public support of this project as questionable, it is exactly within our purview and was a direct request from the City Council and city staff. We humbly serve the community, and we want to continue to hear from everyone in it. We ask that you approach public dialogue with solutions and not cast aspersions. Our door is always open, and we humbly ask that Maurice, or anyone else, approach us before crafting falsities. It’s the least we can do for one another. Please join us at our monthly meetings, or reach out to us individually. We are grateful to live in such an engaged community and proud that our generation is increasingly part of the conversation shaping its future.
Next Generation Advisory Commission
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For the avid cyclists going up Catherine Store Road, through Fender Lane and El Jebel Road (Cattle Creek Road from Wendy’s), you are about to be challenged!