Rogers: Communities turn out to vote
Credit Mayor Torre for putting the bug in my ear, though I’m sure rival candidate Tracy Sutton would do the same: How do we get more voters to, you know, do what they are supposed to do as good citizens of Aspen?
Sam Rose, who I’ve heard knocking outside my door in the most real way I know to build participation, and Bill Guth could only love the same.
Councilman Skippy Mesirow is mocked sometimes for highfalutin’, dream-on campaign declarations like achieving 100% turnout in city elections that last time couldn’t quite manage 40%. Um, that’s a little less than the Voldemort of ski towns the next valley over, just sayin’, especially if talking about that 59% of Aspen’s eligible voters living in free-market housing who managed just 31%. Truckee, another old haunt, runs around 50%.
But Aspen reached a peak at nearly 60% turnout for a municipal election in 2019, the first of these moved to March from May by an initiative championed by Mesirow. Perhaps more telling, though, this was the one with the whisker-thin vote on the notorious 1A base development. Alas, the big turnout appears to be more anomaly than trend, looking at the sag back to the old average in 2021.
Is there 1A level buzz about this election? Some claim the community is fed up, but typically a dozen or so candidates turn up when discontent truly runs rampant. In this contest, more candidates will win than lose their races for three seats. You can count the grand total of them on one hand.
The goal is worthy: Everyone votes, if not necessarily holding hands at sunset with rainbows all around. There’s no good reason municipal elections in Aspen can’t reach 100% turnout or close to it.
These candidates are all smart, caring and earnest people. I’ve definitely seen the other. Everyone running this time is up to the job, and each brings strengths that would shape the council in the years to come. It’s up to the voters, those who bother, to decide which of them will get their chance.
Myself, I look less at what they are saying in the heat of a campaign and more for who they really are and how they would work in office.
I mean, can they solve problems? Will they give sometimes annoying gadflies a fair hearing? Can they articulate and follow a philosophy of governance?
How do they work with others? A council is a deliberative body; no one council member decides anything. How persuasive is each candidate? How much breadth do they have in their command and interest in the issues facing the municipality?
Everyone who lives here is cliqued up, among their own circle, in a bubble. A community is not really a union, after all, but a network. Ah, can these candidates network? How widely?
Can they make decisions in the best interests of that full community outside their clique? This might be the biggest question.
There’s always a lot of blah, blah, blah in campaigns. Challengers always pick at and incumbents always defend their records. Supporters will always aim for groundswells by exaggeration of feats, qualities or errors. Nothing remarkable about any of that. Oh, and the candidates always love their community with all their hearts, just like their mamas love them.
The dark side of this will be the inevitable whisper campaigns. Who might be sleeping with whom, who is on the take, aligned with the deep pockets, would use the position to unleash their own hounds. Under the words themselves, the supposed nature of the particular scandal, these are all the same, too, and spread by the same people, eyes wide, did you hear, eager to show they’re in the real know. Good grief. The first input to throw out.
This probably cycles back to crappy turnouts for city elections. The voter needs to look a little deeper than lazy gossip to discern best choices for the times ahead, and that takes effort.
A candidate’s expressed views are the most available means of evaluation. What are their views? How do they act on those in real life? Do they align with what’s best for the city? Do they align with your views?
Would the candidates in fact do what they say they will? Probably not and for good reason. Challengers would get a real education in the actual seat. Incumbents would need to react to changes and new challenges. So even this is tricky and requires consideration.
A vote is a terrible thing to waste on inattention or throwing over to gossip, as I’ve seen all too often, so much false narrative about any given topic, and humans are such suckers with how we’re hardwired.
Seems a sad state when constituents pay more attention to some weirdo actor in Los Angeles than whether Torre or Tracy Sutton would make the best next mayor of Aspen. But also accurate.
Please, try not to be the sour, know-it-all accountant who goes by what he’s heard rather than counting for himself. Read up, talk with people in and outside your own circle, seek real understanding.
Be a good citizen. Vote, for sure, and make your vote an informed one. That’s how you contribute to building a stronger community instead of eroding it.
Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org