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Pitkin County Commissioner candidates attack on Squirm Night in Aspen (video)

In contrast to a relatively congenial Squirm Night during the primary season, Wednesday’s version lived up to its name.

The two candidates for the only contested seat on the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners — Greg Poschman and Scott Writer — repeatedly attacked each other’s positions on a variety of issues as they sought to convince voters watching the debate on Grassroots TV that each was the right man for the job.

Poschman, 57, frankly pointed out what he said was a major difference between himself and Writer.

“He’s a developer,” Poschman said. “Given free reign, developers would have made this place unlivable.”

Poschman said he would follow a philosophy of slow, measured growth that would address affordable-housing needs through public-private partnerships, though he allowed that every child who grows up in Aspen probably won’t be able to live here.

“Building more doesn’t make it better,” he said. “The danger of overcrowding exists.”

Writer, 58, defended his profession — pointing out that he’s helped create nearly 100 affordable-housing units — and bemoaned the political tendency to place labels on candidates.

“They try to label you and make that sound bad,” he said. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done. It’s an insult to suggest developers shouldn’t be allowed (to serve on the board).”

Writer said he isn’t for “overbuilding” or chasing money but wants the county to create more affordable housing opportunities and more ways to help young people create businesses. He also suggested the city of Aspen provide affordable commercial space in the downtown core to bring back “old, funky” local businesses.

“At no point do I say, ‘More, more, more,’” Writer said. “(But) there’s a whole world out there. I’m for creating as many programs and opportunities as we can possibly squeeze into the system.”

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program, which is funded by a property tax voters will approve or not approve for another 20 years in November, has been an issue in the campaign and was the subject of several questions Wednesday.

Writer said the program “feels pretty good” and criticized Poschman’s previous comments labeling the Open Space and Trails Board as “arrogant” and an “old boys club.” Writer said Poschman has been critical of the program and the people who run it “at every turn” and that continuing to do so is “an unfortunate leadership position.”

“I think he needs to back that up or apologize for it,” Writer said.

Poschman said he’s received many calls from residents all over the county complaining about “a sense of arrogance” on the part of the board. He also said people feel open space staff members think they have a “mandate” for building trails, installing bathrooms and creating parking lots on open space bought by the county.

“It’s not something I was making up,” he said. “It’s an issue I heard.”

Poschman said he supports reauthorizing the open space property tax, though he wants to see better oversight of the quarter of a billion dollars it will generate until the year 2040. He also questioned the 20-year length of the reauthorization.

“An entire generation will pass before this comes to the public again,” he said.

Poschman also defended his previous calls to enact term limits for Open Space and Trails Board members, saying limits ensure a fresh flow of ideas. Writer said he believes the board could use some new blood, as well, but he doesn’t support term limits because county commissioners have the control to change the board if necessary.

In addition to covering the issues, moderators Lauren Glendenning, editor of The Aspen Times, and Curtis Wackerle, editor of the Aspen Daily News, also kept the candidates on their toes.

“Have you ever been arrested,” Glendenning asked at one point.

Poschman said he hadn’t, though he added that, “When I was a kid, I probably should have (been).”

Writer had a harder time with the question.

“Yeah, well …” he began before detailing a time he “did something bad” as a sophomore at Aspen High School. He said his parents grounded him for four months, though a kindly school resource officer helped him through the period and made a positive impact on his life.

“What did you do?” Wackerle asked.

“I’m not going to tell you,” Writer said. “I was a juvenile so I don’t have to tell you. It wasn’t violent. How about that?”

The moderators also asked the candidates to name a recent county decision they didn’t agree with.

Writer cited a lack of leadership by the county in producing affordable housing. Poschman said he didn’t agree with the county moving ahead with a renovation of its building on Main Street without allowing the city to fully vet the project.

Poschman and Writer are vying for the District 3 seat currently held by Commissioner Michael Owsley, who has served the maximum allowed three terms on the board. Commissioners Steve Child and George Newman are up for re-election to the board this November but are running unopposed.


Get to know the Snowmass Village council candidates

There are three candidates running for two open Snowmass Village Town Council seats next month. Incumbents Tom Goode and Alyssa Shenk are being challenged by newcomer Jamie Knowlton. The Snowmass Sun asked the candidates the following questions to help readers get to know them and where they stand on Snowmass issues a little better before the election.

Alyssa Shenk

I am 40 years old and moved to Snowmass Village in 2007 from Aspen, where I had lived since 2004. I have a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Juris Doctor from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. I have a daughter, Sophie, 11, and a son, Eli, 8, with my husband of 13 years, Ben Genshaft.

Business experience includes: business manager, Thunder Construction; executive director, DonorDirect Tide Me Over Lending Fund; foundation campaign manager, Wexner Center for the Arts; Of Counsel, Wolman and Associates.

Board experience includes: president, Aspen Elementary Parent Teacher Organization; Co-chair, Aspen Jewish Congregation rabbi search; board of advisors, DonorDirect; board member, Ronald McDonald House Young Professionals Board.

While serving my neighbors, friends and acquaintances over the past two years on the Snowmass Village Town Council, I’ve appreciated how young families in our community need a voice and a seat at the table. I continually engage residents and visitors through my work as a Snowmass Mountain ambassador, attending local events, and volunteering. I want to continue fostering what makes Snowmass remarkable, furthering our goals as a town and helping us flourish for years to come.

Snowmass Sun: In your opinion, what are the top three issues facing Snowmass today and how would you approach solving them?

Alyssa Shenk: Much like the construction of Base Village, the identity of Snowmass is a work in progress. What we do, provide and look like is central to balancing the interests of our residents and visitors. Our recent branding efforts and the reworking of the town’s comprehensive plan are vital to determining what sets Snowmass apart from other resort towns while identifying key opportunities for growth.

With the reboot of Base Village, we have a rare second chance to explore ways to bring together a variety of interests. Providing additional activities, safety measures and resources for families will be key to attracting new residents and visitors and ensuring all who come will stay or return. Tying it all together needs to be enhanced and hassle-free connectivity around town.

As our growth soars, so will the demand for employee housing. Likewise, creating alternative living scenarios for people benefiting from employee housing who are agreeable to downsizing needs to be at the forefront of the discussion.

Snowmass Sun: What are your thoughts on the town’s handling of the Base Village project? What do you think needs to be done in the future?

Alyssa Shenk: The town’s boards and departments dedicated an extraordinary amount of energy to working cohesively on moving Base Village forward. Despite the challenges of working with the project’s most recent developer, the town still achieved a favorable outcome. Now, with the potential sale of Base Village, we’ll finally have partners with deep community ties and a genuine investment in people, not just buildings. The council must continue monitoring the progress of the project while maintaining strong relationships with the developers.

Snowmass Sun: What are your feelings about the town’s handling of the Ice Age Discovery Center? What should the town’s role be in that project?

Alyssa Shenk: The Snowmass council correctly identified the Ice Age discovery as a once-in-a-lifetime gem by encouraging the formation of the Snowmass Discovery 501(c)(3). The town should continue aiding and guiding Snowmass Discovery towards a permanent home while also using its unique platform to educate on climate change and further market its iconic treasure. Instead of criticizing what Snowmass Discovery hasn’t accomplished, the council needs to sign the Memorandum of Understanding and stop standing in the way of progress.

Snowmass Sun: What are some of the successes and failures of the current council?

Alyssa Shenk: Our council triumphs by working as a cohesive unit. The Community Connectivity and the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation plans came to fruition when we articulated the importance of exploring the topics as a community. As well as we work together, though, we need to be more receptive to the people who come to us. The concerns and efforts of Base Village residents, Snowmass Discovery volunteers, and Community Connectivity Plan organizers are critical to our success and they need to be acknowledged and treated accordingly.

Snowmass Sun: Ask yourself a question related to Snowmass and answer it.

Alyssa Shenk: What is the future of Snowmass?

The future of Snowmass is inarguably its people. Community involvement is essential, whether it’s serving on boards or commissions, shaping and attending events, or engaging in our comprehensive planning process. A substitute doesn’t exist for participation and it’s incumbent on everyone to keep Snowmass vibrant for future generations.

Tom Goode

I am 67 years old and have lived in Snowmass Village for 30 years. I have a BA in industrial education, a Master Plumber License and a General Contractors License. I am the owner and operator of 10TH Mountain Plumbing Services. I have been in business for 35 years. I have been married for 24 years and have two grown children. I have no political affiliation. I have chaired and been on both the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals. I am also a trustee on the CORE Board.

In 2015, I had the honor of being elected to fill a vacant seat. The remaining time on that seat was for one year. Now that term is over and I feel that I have much more to offer the community at this critical time of decision making and would very much like to continue to serve on Town Council.

Snowmass Sun: In your opinion, what are the top three issues facing Snowmass today and how would you approach solving them?

Tom Goode: 1. Base Village. I would approach this issue as I have done this past year — diligently moving forward toward completion with the most viable solutions that would work best for our community, and I am wholeheartedly committed to the pursuit of this goal.

2. Updated comp plan to link with the connectivity plan and work actively along with both steering committees for feedback from the community that will ensure we are headed in the right direction.

3. The strategy of “rural vs. reality.” With all the changes that we will encounter as Base Village moves forward, it will be a challenge in regard to a larger population of tourists to the area. There will be strategic key issues in dealing with more traffic, more congestion and more frustration. Putting together the steering committee soon is vital.

Snowmass Sun: What are your thoughts on the town’s handling of the Base Village project? What do you think needs to be done in the future?

Tom Goode: Looking back when the original Base Village entitlements were set, there were no guarantees for completion, and the community has suffered with incomplete development and a lack of trust. Base Village has now been reset and is on track. Due to the dedication and hard work of the existing council, 10 agreements are now in place that will assure the completion of Base Village.

Snowmass Sun: What are your feelings about the town’s handling of the Ice Age Discovery Center? What should the town’s role be in that project?

Tom Goode: Building 6 for community purpose, The Discovery Center. The viability of the Discovery Center depends on whether proper funds will be available to provide support for 12 months at a time. I feel the town’s role to lend financial support should be at a limit and not 100 percent. We should continue the encouragement of the town’s Marketing Department to remain involved for the future of the Discovery Center’s success.

Snowmass Sun: What are some of the successes and failures of the current council?

Tom Goode: Success of the current council include working in harmony and the passing of Phase 2 Base Village, Ordinance 9. I have not witnessed any failures during my short term on the council.

Snowmass Sun: Ask yourself a question related to Snowmass and answer it.

Tom Goode: What is my long-term vision for Snowmass Village?

To reposition Snowmass as a world-renowned resort that is in balance with a community that continues to be innovative, creative and characterized by strong values of mind, body and spirit.

James “Jamie” Knowlton

I am 63 years old, born in Aspen and the son of 10th Mountain veteran Steve Knowlton. I moved from Aspen to Snowmass Village in 2000.

I practice law in Basalt and have been practicing since 1985.

Gwyn Knowlton (Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant) and I have been married since 1998. She has two grown up daughters and three grandchildren, who I consider my family.

I was active in Aspen committees and boards when I was project manager for the North Forty affordable-housing development at the (Aspen Business Center) from 1995 through 2000. My community involvement included:

• Board member of APCHA.

• Board member (president) of Aspen Financial Advisory Board.

• Board of Aspen Valley Ski Club ( I was ASVC alpine coach from 1978 to 1980, U.S. Ski Team coach 1980 to 81).

• Affordable Housing Committee member for Aspen Area Community Plan.

• Board of Directors of Aspen Valley Improvement Association (second homeowner’s organization dedicated to participating in Aspen’s development begun in the 1950s by Edger Stern and Paul Neitze).

• Graduate of Leadership Aspen.

• Currently, I am chairman of the Snowmass Village Planning Commission.

• I am an independent.

• Director of Roaring Fork Legal Services.

I am running for Town Council because I care about Snowmass Village and feel I have the experience and qualification to help Snowmass move into the future as a vibrant community and sustainable world class resort.

Snowmass Sun: In your opinion, what are the top three issues facing Snowmass today and how would you approach solving them?

Jamie Knowlton: With Base Village finally on its way, it is time to focus on what the community wants. The town has started its review of its comprehensive or master plan to determine what the community feels is important. For me, involving all community members in this process is the most important issue because it will determine where we go in the future. The issues I expect will be highlighted are improving or finishing the entrance of Snowmass Village, affordable housing and finding creative ways to connect the mall, Base Village and the center. Like most issues, solutions will take consensus, education and some financial planning.

Snowmass Sun: What are your thoughts on the town’s handling of the Base Village project? What do you think needs to be done in the future?

Jamie Knowlton: Base Village was approved in 2004, suspended in 2008 and reapproved in 2015. The Aspen Skiing Co. is planning to break ground on its signature Limelight hotel in April 2017. I think the town did a good job in getting it done. With Related’s sale of Base Village to Skico, East West Partners and KSL, I expect there will be some movement on the timing of portions of the remainder of Base Village buildout.

Snowmass Sun: What are your feelings about the town’s handling of the Ice Age Discovery Center? What should the town’s role be in that project?

Jamie Knowlton: The town, as owner of Building 6, has a 14-year waiver on common area maintenance expenses, which should help the Discovery Center get up and running. I do not believe it is the town’s responsibility to subsidize nonprofit organizations or for-profit businesses. The town can lend support but the organization or business must stand on its own merits to be successful. There will always be a place in Snowmass Village for the Discovery Center but where and what form depends on the value the community at large places on it.

Snowmass Sun: What are some of the successes and failures of the current council?

Jamie Knowlton: The current council has become much more effective after the recall of Chris Jacobson. This is a success. I cannot think of any failures.

Snowmass Sun: Ask yourself a question related to Snowmass and answer it.

Jamie Knowlton: What is your hope for Snowmass Village?

Being able to work together as a diverse community to create a world class resort and a place to call home that will make us all proud.

Editor’s note: In the mayoral race, Richard Goodwin is challenging Mayor Markey Butler. Their responses to the following questions will appear in next week’s edition of the Snowmass Sun.