Rogers: Shock and awe at Aspen City Council |

Rogers: Shock and awe at Aspen City Council

Aspen Times editor Don Rogers

There was shock: Wait, what? There’s actual work involved here? I’ve got kids. I’ve got a new puppy, a job.  

And awe: Well, if that’s the right word for the jaw-dropping wish of the newest, youngest whelp to be elevated to pro tem before his seat was fully warm this first evening.

There was a first non-unanimous vote out of the gate. Even a technical matter concerning the STR tax that Aspen voters approved by 62% last fall was too much to contemplate for the real estate guy.

He wasn’t done. When it came time to divvy up assignments to serve on connected boards, he declared he would not take any. None. Not participating. Don’t look at me. Sorry, no time, basically. I need to concentrate.

That the burden shifted 20% more to the others, well, pretty much their problem, not his. The youngest ever also showed he had no real taste for this part of council service, no title, no crown, but eventually he agreed to a couple of roles. Make that 30%.

So at the start of this next term, the three vets picked up the newbies’ load. Makes one wonder: Will the rookies read their meeting packets? Those are on the lengthy side. Or will puppies, jobs, family time, all these worthy pursuits you’d expect candidates for office to have considered before running — will all this council crap intrude too much on their busy lives?

Besides, actually knowing what you are talking about only gets in the way of a good rant. Seems we were treated to one of those, too.


No doubt I’m wrong. But reading and then watching, I suspected the disquieting start was intentional. The new guys had no problem shaking things up at the get-go, once past the pretty words and proclamations of pure love for citizen and city, respect for the gravity of civic leadership and all. 

In lawyer’s parlance, everyone knew or should have known what they were getting in Bill Guth. Realtor, mortgage guy, developer, entrepreneur. No fan of rules, codes, fees, regulatory obstructionism, building moratoriums, STR moratoriums, STR taxation, pretty much anything between biz and what municipal government might deploy to gum things up. Spending on staff.  

I probably sound critical here of Guth, but bureaucrats do tend to gum things up if left to themselves or encouraged to double down as happens with the more progressive approaches to governance.

There’s a dynamic balance — and tension — that someone like Guth on the council can help. That he’s clear about not going along with the others, even grumpy, I don’t see as a bad thing. He’s drawing boundaries day one.

That he’s also shirking responsibility, well, maybe a beat or two off message there.

Ditto with Sam Rose beaming at the chance to be mayor pro tem, all the extra things he could do, and then unable to disguise a scowl at the suggestion he sit on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, along with no great enthusiasm at these kinds of unsexy assignments generally.

But he did take a couple, and I think he’ll kinda, sorta dip a toe attending the next NWCCOG session virtually, while thinking up plausible excuses for why he can’t possibly do this. Been there, so I get it, the worst member of more than one Rotary Club, a slow learner.


I like Guth. Plainspoken, direct, even blunt. I don’t have to agree with him to believe he can make a good, strong councilman. I also like that he’ll challenge the others on the council in I think the best of ways, even when he speaks out of turn or out of ignorance. Well, to a point.  

Rose, we’ll see. He’s the same age as Rachael Richards when she began on the City Council those decades ago. But while perhaps adorable during a campaign to lean into his youth, he’s going to need to take actual grownup positions, some that will go against what many imagined they were voting for during a campaign of vanilla platitudes and popular criticisms of the council he was running to join.

People pleasers are hardly aberrations among politicians, local or otherwise. Some would say this is an essential quality — means you might actually listen. But he’ll have to choose soon enough politically whom he most wants to be liked by.

Or … step up and embrace the work, all the work — the committee work, the listening work, the homework. The hard work.

This goes for both of them. Serving on council, it’s an all-in deal and only what the constituents deserve, or so the campaign talk went. Not equivocation and ducking assignments, leaving your load to others, but your actual, absolute best effort. Let’s see that.

Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers can be reached at