Blumenthal: Fresh voices needed on Town Council now
Kudos to Aspen Journalism’s Brent Gardner-Smith and Madeleine Osberger and Snowmass Sun Editor Jill Beathard for their hugely successful efforts in putting together last week’s very informative and sorely needed candidate forum.
I thought it worth mentioning a few key takeaways resulting from the in-depth questions posed to all three candidates running for the Snowmass Village mayor’s seat and the three candidates running for the two open Town Council seats.
At the outset of this discussion, the only things certain come Nov. 4 are that Chris Jacobson will be back in his seat at the council table and that Markey Butler will be on the board, either as mayor or in her current role. Every other seat is subject to change — and that presents an interesting opportunity or dilemma for some of the other candidates.
If peace and collegiality on council are a desired outcome, that goal — as clearly evidenced at the forum — is unlikely to be achieved if Butler and/or Bill Boineau win their respective races. Neither of them appears willing to put their past and current grievances against their colleagues aside, even though that would be the best course of action for the good and welfare of the entire community.
Both are still very angry and apparently getting angrier as the days roll on with respect to what they perceive as unrepentant transgressions by Jason Haber and Chris Jacobson, who’ve had several significant differences with the three-member council majority, which also included retiring Fred Kucker.
We’ve heard volumes concerning the role they all played concerning the recent exit of our interim town manager and the selection of our new town manager, so no need to rehash that unpleasant experience again other than to say the three-member council majority prolonged the pain and agony well beyond the point of reason.
The fallout resulting from Councilman Jacobson’s involvement in the latest controversy concerning his allegations of improper ex parte communications by members of the council majority during recent quasi-judicial proceedings exemplified — in a very public way — why there’s no chance any of these people can ever work well together. And since Jacobson’s not going away anytime soon, we need to make changes in some of the other seats so that Town Council can get on with doing the people’s business.
At last week’s forum, Butler attempted to put her involvement in this mess in the best possible light. Without directly admitting guilt, she repeatedly pled her innocence while at the same time acknowledging that she in fact had ex parte communications with an Aspen Skiing Co. representative directly tied into and dependent on a favorable approval of Related’s application. Councilman Kucker’s involvement was a lot deeper and more complex, as was Mayor Boineau’s.
In my opinion, the behind-the-scenes, ex parte communications were a clear violation of our well-established rules and needed to be brought out into the light; although there are varied opinions as to how that should have been done, I’ll leave that issue to another day.
In order to ensure that our mayor and council members avoid such transgressions in the future, our new town manager, likely with the support of our town attorney, has added a prominent notice on the new Town Council agenda format reminding our elected representatives of their legal obligations when acting as a quasi-judicial body and to steer clear of ex parte communications. It’s likely our new town manager was as shocked as many of us were to hear what the majority council members had done. Fortunately he’s quickly taken steps to make sure they don’t do it again.
All that having been, let’s get back to the point of whether any of our current elected representatives can ever work together again in peace and harmony. In my opinion, the relationships are too forgone and the anger too entrenched to ever hope that any of the currently seated participants in the conflict can work together without further flare-ups of the type we’ve seen over the past year.
What’s needed in the mix are some fresh faces that haven’t been tainted by all the conflict and controversy that we’ve been witness to. We have several very important projects — namely the completion of Base Village and the Entryway — that our elected representatives will be dealing with during the next few years, and it’s critical they be respectful of the members of the public and one another and work together collegially. This does not mean they always have to agree with one another, but they have to work well together and compromise where necessary to achieve the best possible results for the community. Unfortunately that’s not always been the case with the current mix of elected representatives.
… And from left field, a couple of movie tips for films that you should not miss when they hit the valley in the run up to awards season: “St. Vincent” starring Bill Murray, Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy, and “Whiplash” starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Both are thoroughly entertaining and award-worthy films, and, in full disclosure, none of my family members are involved in the first film but fortunately my middle son is involved with the second.
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