Torre, the mall cop |

Torre, the mall cop

Present political circumstances remind us all that we have a responsibility to be engaged in the civic discourse, even when it’d be far easier and more pleasant not to. It is in this light that I feel compelled to address my experience with current Aspen City Council candidate Torre during his previous term in office.

At the time, I was trying to establish an art gallery for locals in a hallway space on the Hyman mall — Nugget Gallery — and ran into multiple city hurdles in that process. During my first public comment at a City Council meeting, Torre made it clear that he opposed my idea. It’s on video, and that was his right. What was not his right were subsequent efforts to single-out my business and to assume duties reserved for code and law enforcement officers. We had no relationship prior to that meeting, and his erratic actions following it puzzle me to this day.

Here’s what happened:

During a period when the city sign code was in flux, I created a sandwich-board sign like most every other business on the pedestrian malls. Twice, Torre entered the gallery unannounced and demanded that my employee remove the sign. When my employee asked for his name, he refused to identify himself. We eventually identified him by his tennis racket case, and Torre himself recently admitted to the encounters.

On one of those occasions, during a warm mid-April weekend when town was nearly empty, Torre physically removed my sign. That may or may not be legal — but it’s certainly not the role of a city councilman. I saw him and spoke to him that Saturday afternoon, and he followed up on Monday with a complaint to the Community Development director. There is no evidence that he made the same back-channel demands of any other businesses under nearly identical circumstances.

While the gallery business has run its course, I’m still puzzled by the impropriety and arbitrary nature of his actions. I give credit to anyone willing to commit time and effort to run for office, but it’s clear to me that Torre does not recognize a boundary between representation and enforcement, nor does he seem eager to engage in creative dialogue with local businesses once in office. I can only speak from my experience, of course, but I urge Aspen voters to cast their votes for alternate candidates for City Council.

Ross Kribbs