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ISSUE # 57 .... ContestANTs for Office: Elected and Appointed


The Red Ant LOVES election season!!  And here it comes.  On Tuesday, May 3, city voters will elect a mayor and two city councilmen.  Mayor Mick has indicated that he will run for his third 2-year term (he is term-limited to 3 terms), and both Steve Skadron's and Dwayne Romero's city council seats are up for grabs.   There's a lot of time yet for the politicking, and I promise there'll be plenty, but for now, just a couple of important dates and house-keeping matters:

·         Need an ABSENTEE BALLOT?  The application is available HERE.  Ballots will be mailed out the week of April 18.  Please take care of this TODAY and be done with it.

·         INTERESTED IN RUNNING for mayor or city council?  Petitions will be available on March 14 (you will need to get the signatures of 25 registered city voters) and are due to the city clerk on April 1.  HERE is the info.

·         As you know, we got rid of Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV) in November, so we'll be holding a traditional run-off election, thank goodness.  Should a mayoral candidate not receive 50% + 1 vote, and/or should two council candidates not receive 45% of the votes cast + 1 each on May 3, there will be a run-off election on Tuesday, June 7.

·         The city clerk will have a grown-up supervisor for the election!  Dwight Shellman III, election manager for Pitkin County, has been hired as a consultant for our municipal election!  This is a great victory and a step toward proper and fair election management in Aspen. 

·         If there is a Run-Off election in June, absentee ballots will additionally be available.  You may request one HERE.


Recently appointed to be the new Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) in Colorado democratic Governor Hickenlooper's administration, city councilman Dwayne Romero has already left the council table -- this, before his official term is up.  As a result, council will be appointing a councilman to fill Dwayne's seat by mid-March as dictated by city charter.  The seat, however, is up for re-election on May 3 so it will be a short tenure for Dwayne's replacement.  (But don't be fooled, every council meeting presents the opportunity for legislative action, so it's very important that we don't get an idiot in there, even for a matter of weeks!)

The Red Ant had a mostly positive relationship with Dwayne over the past 2.5 years of its existence.  Dwayne took a strong stance - often unpopular with his fellow councilmen - on several high-profile issues during his tenure:

·         He threw the brakes on a Burlingame Phase 2 bond in 2008 and insisted on an audit of the spending on Burlingame Phase 1.  (He was the first to call for a halt to the plan until there was some/any accounting of what had been spent.   This was the beginning of the uncovering of the ridiculous expenditures and subsidies on a project that had no budget and resulted in per unit subsidies of approximately $400,000 each.)

·         He was the only councilman to vote NO on emergency ordinance 30 of 2007 that placed countless Aspen properties on a "historic" list, preventing owners from changing so much as a door knob.  Dwayne tried to persuade the others not to go through with this disastrous plan, but lost the battle.  In the end, however, the war was won in early 2011 when council finally voted to make "historic designation" a voluntary program.

·         He was the first to call for a repeal of Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV).

·         He insisted on budget cuts in 2009 when Mick and Jack were refusing to lay off government workers.

While being fair, honest and open in his dealings, Dwayne was sadly reticent to regularly engage mayor Mick when the latter got out of hand.  (Which is often!)  We had really hoped to see more of that "Army Strong" from our elected West Point grad.  The Red Ant's favorite exceptions were when Dwayne schooled mayor Mick on "civility" (watch the video below):

Incidentally, Dwayne had several regrettable votes:

·         He voted to grant our inept city manager Steve Barwick a $170,000 annual contract.

·         He voted in favor of IRV when it was originally brought forth by then-councilman Jack Johnson as a new-fangled voting mechanism for Aspen.

·         He voted in executive session to settle the Wienerstube lawsuit, controversially exempting the property from P&Z review for the new building to be built on the site.

The Red Ant was particularly disappointed that during the past two years (likely because of his professional role as president of troubled Related-WestPac and the mess with the Snowmass Base Village development), Dwayne seemed distracted and less than engaged in city matters, sadly not serving as the mentor we'd all hoped he would be to councilman Derek Johnson, who instead seems to have become yet another lemming of mayor Mick.

But all that being said, Dwayne was ALWAYS THE MOST POLITE AND RESPECTFUL to all who came before council.  For that, he had widely been the hope to challenge (and beat) Mick in the 2011 mayoral race.  Alas, it is not to be.

Dwayne will now go from being a popular local political figure to one of "puzzlement" in our state's capitol.  In the Denver version of the, a January 19th editorial said of Dwayne, "A man respected, a member of the Aspen City Council and the president of a business, however his selection to lead the State of Colorado in economic development is a puzzle:

·         Mr. Romero appears never to have started a small business

·         His international experience is limited to serving in the Persian Gulf War

·         His current business is building residences for the wealthy as a division of a New York company

·         He appears to have no training in economic development

·         He appears to have never held a job as an economic developer"

The Red Ant thanks Dwayne for his service, and wishes him great success in his new role, including a safe commute back and forth to Denver for the position.  (His wife Margaret and three school-age daughters will remain in Aspen.)


The following Aspen citizens have officially applied for the appointment to fill Dwayne's vacated seat on council, including the tidbits and opinions you've come to expect from The Red Ant:

·         Adam Frisch, who narrowly missed winning a council seat in 2009 (he had 33 more first place votes than Torre, but through the mystery magic of IRV, lost the seat), has distinguished himself in the past two years on the Housing Frontiers Group, responsible for assessing the financial situations at local subsidized housing projects and working to develop solutions to the lack of financial reserves amassed by the various HOAs.   Will run in May.

·         Cliff Weiss, a resort marketing consultant and ski instructor, has served on the city's P&Z board.  An independent thinker, Cliff is no rubber stamp for mayor Mick and likely sees the AACP as a guiding (rather than regulatory) document for Aspen.  Likely to run in May. 

·         Patty Kay-Clapper - Recently term-limited off the BOCC (Rob Ittner was elected to fill her seat), the former nurse is looking for employment.  (Her full-time BOCC role paid $70K a year.)  Patti was a dedicated public servant, but The Red Ant seeks to end the practice whereby city and county voters enable the same people to bounce back and forth between BOCC and council.  Likely to run in May.

·         Marcia Goshorn - Mayor Mick's neighbor and a long-standing Ba'ath Party stalwart, this housing authority (APCHA) board member is famously known for her advocacy of rent reductions for subsidized housing tenants in projects where they must now pay for their own electricity.  She also supports using our excess subsidized housing inventory for the homeless. Planning to run in May. 

·         Jag Pagnucco, a  current SkiCo ambassador, has served 6 years on the city's board of adjustment.  Likely to run in May.

·         Dan Kitchen - Outspoken activist and protector of wildlife, this self-proclaimed "master window-washer" advocates for a big-box store in Aspen.  It's hard to take this one seriously, besides, we already have a tennis teacher on council.  Undecided about running in May. (At press time, Kitchen had just withdrawn his application.)

·         Howie Mallory - A retired local banker who likely sees the AACP as a regulatory document.  This long-time supporter of mayor Mick has a well-known reputation for not doing his preparatory reading while serving on local boards (Citizens Budget Task Force, Open Space and Trails), slowing the meetings to near stand-stills while he is briefed.  Undecided about running in May.

·         Cathy Markle - This self-employed landscape architect and planner has distinguished herself on the Wheeler Board and is known as a quick study.  Cathy is not planning to run for council in May, but wants to serve in order to bridge the gap created by Dwayne's departure. 

·         Ruth Kruger, local commercial real estate broker and former city P&Z member, knows the retailers, knows the landlords, knows the restaurateurs.  Her practical business experience, especially in this climate, is perhaps her greatest attribute.  Does not plan to run in May.

Is this "appointment" an election advantage for whoever is appointed?  Perhaps, but only a small one.  (Note that several applicants have already said they do not plan to run.  And there are likely others who plan to run who did not apply.)  The replacement will certainly get to run as an "incumbent," however, with just 2 or 3 council meetings under his/her belt before the election, the advantage is really OURS.  Could there possibly be a better way to learn just how a candidate will be -- politically, personally and ethically -- than to actually witness and experience their behavior, leadership and voting record?  And how fortunate for us that the "test drive" period is brief!  Unlike other buffoons we've elected to 4-year council terms, this temporary councilman will be gone if we don't like what we see.

The Red Ant encourages and appreciates council's serious consideration of these applications.  The legislative responsibility of council is paramount to the functioning of our local government.  But in the same vein, The Red Ant was appalled by the information sheet provided to applicants by the city clerk's office.  For such a critical leadership position in a local government that controls an $84M annual budget (2011), was it really necessary to list the following as "requirements" for the role?  Sounds like something mayor Mick would find funny:

·         Speed Reader

·         Adventurous

·         Sense of Humor

·         Ability to See the Big Picture

·         Love Late Nights and Long Hours

Let's face it, a negligent (and dangerous) precedent has recently developed:  appointing and electing representatives who have little fiscal acumen, leadership experience and, all too frequently, no outside employment.   This inherently brings terrible time managers to the table and enables the largely unnecessary long hours and late night meetings.  Joking around about the requirements for the serious role only serves to attract less-than-qualified candidates who want to serve on council for all the wrong reasons.

Council will be conducting candidate interviews in the very near future, and a decision is expected shortly thereafter with swearing-in on March 14.  (Salary for the part-time-at-best city council seat is $20,000 annually, and those seated can opt-in to purchase health insurance on the city's plan.)

We can only hope that the four remaining members of council will ask the applicants about their position on pressing local issues such as the AACP draft, the plastic bag tax, subsidized housing being used for the homeless, etc.


The Aspen Times is currently conducting an on-line poll. At press time, the results were:

Which applicant do you support for appointment to the Aspen City Council?

Adam Frisch  



Howie Mallory  



Cathy Markle  



Patti Kay-Clapper  



Ruth Kruger  



Marcia Goshorn  



Dan Kitchen  



Cliff Weiss  



Jag Pagnucco  



233 votes


I've often asked the same question.  But the answer is simple:  you have to know where to look to find out where the vacancies are.  The city citizen board openings are listed on the city clerk's page, and the county's are listed on the Board of County Commissioner's page.

At the February 14 council meeting, council appointed and re-appointed 10 citizen volunteers to city boards.  There were 22 applications for these positions - darned good odds for those who applied.  Why aren't YOU on this list?

  • ·         Howie Mallory - Reappointed regular member of Open Space and Trails board
  • ·         Joyce Alger - Regular member of Open Space and Trails board
  • ·         Guiles Thornley - Alternate member of Open Space and Trails board
  • ·        Brian McNellis - Reappointed regular member of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)
  • ·        Willis Pember - Alternate member of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) 
  • ·         Bill Dinsmoor - Reappointed regular member of Commercial Core and Lodging Commission
  • ·        Siam Castillo - Regular member of Commercial Core and Lodging Commission (CCLC)
  • ·        Jim Pomeroy - Alternate member of Commercial Core and Lodging Commission (CCLC)
  • Tom Curt - Regular member of Wheeler Opera House board

There remain several city board vacancies, specifically on the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority board, Planning & Zoning, and the Wheeler Opera House board.

The county has several very interesting positions available on the following boards:   

·         Animal shelter

·         Board of Adjustment

·         Board of Appeals

·         Conflict of Interest

·         Financial Advisory Board

·         Planning & Zoning

·         Redstone Historical Preservation

·         Senior Services Council

·         Weed Advisory Board

The Red Ant encourages you to apply today to serve as a citizen volunteer on a board that interests you.  The time commitments and terms vary by board, and the application is basic and straightforward.  Please think about getting more involved in 2011!


Local letter-to-the-editor writer (and antagonist of The Red Ant) Carl Heck recently wrote to the Aspen Times, "Maybe Aspen City Council could appoint Jack Johnson to the seat being vacated by Mr. Romero?  That way, Elizabeth Red Ant would have another target to bitch about."  I laughed, but knew it would never happen.  Remember, Mick and Steve must run for re-election in May.  (Jack would have been WAAAY too big a political liability for them.)  And in the end, Jack didn't throw his knit hat into the ring to briefly fill Dwayne's seat.

But it seems Jack has found himself a new gig.  He is now a columnist for the Aspen Daily News, writing weekly on the subject of -- you guessed it -- local public policy issues.  A recent installment was to smack the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) for criticizing his prized Aspen Area Community Plan (AACP) draft.  He followed that up with a rant about the lack of subsidized housing and need for more worker entitlements in Aspen.  I was compelled to respond with a letter to the editor.  Read it HERE

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