Letter: Please make peace with voters
This letter has been sent to the mayor and City Council.
Mayor and council, you have a unique opportunity to repair your strained relationship with the voters. You can do it at the next council meeting. Please embrace the opportunity.
The council’s relationship with the voters is strained because the voters feel the council has become a cheerleading squad for developers instead of representing the voters who elected you. Whether you agree isn’t the point. This is how the voters feel, and that is causing strain. The council can choose between more strain or less strain. It’s in your hands. Please, take the opportunity to repair the relationship.
The voters think the strain was caused by the council’s recent actions. It isn’t just the council’s passing of any specific ordinance or approving this or that variance. It is a course of conduct beyond action on any particular variance. Let me give you some examples.
Every member of the council hated Referendum 1. Why love it? It took away some of your power. But the council didn’t just stick to arguments on the merits. Members denigrated the intelligence of voters, claiming voters wouldn’t be able to understand the complex nuances of land use or make intelligent choices. Let’s assume that’s true just for argument’s sake. How is that perceived by the voters? You were saying we are stupid. Result: strained relationship.
Another example: You permitted the city attorney to become your political tool. You let him tell the press that Referendum 1 wouldn’t stop variance requests filed before the election when that wasn’t true (no pun intended). He told that to the papers four days before Election Day. Did you know that violated the city’s ethics code? But you allowed it anyway because it served your political agenda. How do voters see that? As the council permitting the chief legal officer of the city to be used as a political tool to try to affect an election. Result: strained relations.
Another example: You allowed the city attorney to buy an outside “legal opinion” about Referendum 1’s effect on pre-election-filed variances that was actually a political commercial against Referendum 1, an opinion that easily was shown to be false by the publics’ hiring of an independent lawyer actually to research the law and provide the correct answer. How do the voters see that? Another use of the chief legal officer and city money not to enforce the law that has just been adopted by the voters but to flaunt the law for political purposes. Result: strained relations.
Another example: Instead of enforcing the charter amendment created by Referendum 1, you challenged voters to just go out and circulate a petition every time you illegally pass another variance request. How do the petition circulators see that? We see it as the council saying that it refuses to enforce the law and that it’s going to make you spend your time and effort doing petition after petition because it doesn’t care. Result: strained relations.
Mayor and council, do you get a kick out of kicking the voters? Or would you like to repair the relationship? You are making that choice with every move. If you want to start repairing it, adopt the following resolution at your next meeting:
“We the Aspen City Council resolve that whenever any variance or variation request that was filed before the May 2015 election comes before us, we will honor the will of the people and, exercising our authority under the laws of the state of Colorado and the city of Aspen, will send the question of approval to a public vote.”
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