"Those who are too afraid to voice their conscience and make it felt politically, by any means, are already slaves; they simply have not yet heard the rattling of their chains." --John Murphy dissidentvoice.com 2010
DEFLECTION FROM THE ISSUES!
Ahh, political season in Aspen. (Simply put, The Red Ant loves it!) But again this year, like in years past, and especially two years ago when our friend Marilyn Marks ran for mayor, the "entrenched political class" is all spun up. Anyone with a different voice, a new viewpoint or the guts to launch a "campaign" based on widespread sentiment that doesn't even say whether or not to vote for the incumbent (just that we're all SICK OF MICK), is a destroyer, a hater, evil, unethical, mean-spirited, a jobless dilettante. The Marcella Larsens, Pete Louras', Tim Cooneys, Su Lums and Carl Hecks of the community carry most of the water for the vapid Ba'ath Party hatemongers, spewing their venom both publicly in letters to the editor and "anonymously" using psuedonyms in the blogs. But all I see is FEAR: fear of the possible, fear of positive change, fear of other voices making an impact and especially, fear of addressing the real issues, all of which the incumbents (especially Mick) will have a hard time explaining!
Sticks and stones. Go ahead, keep trying to shoot the messenger. But this messenger will never quit. And the message is real. The tactic of obfuscation has grown old (and predictable): vilify the opposition in order to avoid addressing the issues. So tired, so vicious, so desperate and so fearful. Optimism rules the day at this end! And hope springs eternal. The only direction we can move is UP!!!
Therefore, The Red Ant will focus, as you've always come to expect, on the ISSUES -- like a laser, and hopes that you will research, call, email and ask each and every candidate (contact info below) where they stand and how they would vote on these critical issues. DO NOT support a candidate who is wishy-washy and does not commit!
THE CRITICAL ISSUES
1) THE ASPEN AREA COMMUNITY PLAN (AACP)
The latest news: A revision of the AACP was released last week. The tone has been dramatically toned down, but don't be fooled, the content is still draconian: replenish the lodging base with economy/moderate lodges, ensure the sustainability of (read: subsidize) local-serving retail businesses, offset job generation by mandating the provision of subsidized housing for 100% of the new employees (preferably on-site), encourage behavior that moves the Aspen Area toward being a zero waste community, ensure the availability of affordable high-quality childcare, ensure the existence of a comprehensive healthcare system, ensure access to primary care and mental health/substance abuse systems, ensure access to a comprehensive dental program --- just to name a few gems! And the Daily News reports that AACP costs-to-date exceed $500K, not including 9700 hours of staff time the city values at $45/hour (an additional $436,000). That puts the embroiled document at nearly $1 million, that is, if you really think that staff time is $45/hour. I'd say it's more than double that! Who is in charge over there? Was there no budget for this endeavor either?! The vote on AACP approval is not expected until the fall. How much more will we ring up?
The specific questions: 1) Should the AACP be a guiding (aspirational) or regulatory (legally binding) document? 2) Would you vote to approve the AACP as written? And 3) for the incumbents - Mick and Steve Skadron -- Who approved what will be a nearly $2 million budget for this project?
Look for: 1) The "guiding" answer, period. (We have zoning and building codes for a reason.) That is, unless a candidate says they'd scrap the whole thing! This thing is DANGEROUS. And, 2), look for a NO to the approval as is. There is still plenty to work out. (Please plan to attend the April 13 Aspen Business Luncheon at the Hotel Jerome to learn more about the industry-by-industry specific impacts of this document! Contact Todd Shaver at email@example.com) 3) I'm very interested in who the incumbents (Mick and Steve Skadron) say approved this budget? If you get an answer, please let me know! (My guess is city manager Steve Barwick - once again spending taxpayer dollars like it's monopoly money!)
2) PLASTIC BAGS
The latest news: The ordinance to place a $.15 fee on plastic bags in the city of Aspen has been put off until after the election. It will likely be brought up with the new council when they take office in June. The delay makes this a pertinent campaign issue as the plastic bag ordinance will likely be the first matter of official business for whoever we elect.
The specific question: Do you favor a fee, an outright ban, or the status quo that could include incentives for using re-usable bags?
Look for: The Red Ant prefers a carrot to the stick. Surely there's a way to reduce plastic bag use through an incentive vs a punishment......
3) SUBSIDIZED HOUSING & THE UNFUNDED RESERVES
The latest news (on the Unfunded Reserves): According to an as-yet-incomplete study by the Housing Frontiers Group, capital reserves at our local subsidized housing projects is in the RED big time - in excess of $10 million. In most cases, the money is not needed tomorrow per se, but after a number of years of neglect, roofs, parking lots and other exterior items do need attention. The root of the problem? No oversight of homeowner's associations by the housing authority, irregular (if any) collection of dues, little-to-no understanding of the responsibilities of home ownership.
The specific question: Who should pay for the repairs when there is no money in the individual reserve accounts?
Look for: If someone says "the public" or "a tax," remember that we paid 1.5% of our free market real estate purchases toward the real estate transfer tax (RETT), of which 1% went to the housing fund. As far as I am concerned, we've already paid. I'm not sure what the right answer is here, so listen carefully to the ideas the candidates have! I will be doing the same thing because doing nothing is not an option!
The latest news (on Subsidized Housing): City geniuses presented a $140K plan to council that would serve as the "initial step" of a pre-sales program for the Burlingame subsidized housing project Phase 2, including $50K for "graphics." (The city has already spent $2.5M on planning for Phase 2, a 167-unit addition to Phase 1 that is estimated to cost between $90-$103M.) The "pre-sale" concept was presented with a November 2011 general obligation bond measure in mind. Council thinks the timeline might be too aggressive. (Ya think?) A week later, the housing authority (APCHA) went on record with the Aspen Daily News, stating that more Resident Occupied (RO) category housing, which makes up 34% of its inventory, isn't needed. Numerous RO owners are having difficulty selling these homes. In fact, APCHA went on to say that demand for the lower-income worker (Catoegories 2, 3 and 4) has also waned. And recall that the excess housing inventory at the Marolt subsidized housing project is currently being used to house the local homeless.
The specific questions: 1) Continue spending money on plans for Burlingame Phase 2 when there is ample housing inventory currently available, yes or no? 2) In the current environment, build more subsidized housing, yes or no?
Look for: TWO BIG NOs. APCHA needs to be reworked in its entirety. Before we build another unit anywhere, we need an assessment of who actually lives in our subsidized housing, whether or not they qualify, rules to closely and more comprehensively monitor and enforce compliance, a plan for HOA management to maintain what we already have, etc, etc.
The latest news: The city convened several (but not all) parties involved in the hydro plant "issue" for a closed mediation session last week. Participants could not bring their attorneys nor could they speak to the press about what transpired. Landowners along Castle Creek and Maroon Creek for the most part decided not to participate because of the secrecy behind the mediation and because all parties agreed that the existing science is inadequate and faulty, making the mediation premature. (To call a process a "mediation" without the most affected parties at the table is not accurate.) As a result, it is highly likely that nothing of any substance was resolved.
The specific question: Should the city continue to pursue a federal exemption from conducting an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on Castle and Maroon Creeks in order to complete the hydro plant, yes or no?
Look for: The obvious answer - NO!! Of course Aspen should do right by the environment and conduct an EIS!!!! The health of our rivers and streams is FAR more important than some silly hydro plant, sold to the voters under false pretenses, that will only operate a couple of months a year at best!
THE CANDIDATES - THE LIST IS IN, THE GAME IS ON
Remember, these are NOT full-time jobs. (Some make them into full-time roles because they do nothing else. It's called "mission creep.") Please contact the candidates, learn where they stand on the issues and be sure to donate to your favorites!
Mayor: This office is a two-year term, for which the elected official receives $2,325/month plus a stipend equal to the cost of health insurance benefits for full-time city employees (as long as that stipend is used to purchase health insurance). This office is limited to three consecutive terms.
Mick Ireland Mick@sopris.net (Running for 3rd consec term)
Andrew Kole AndrewKole@mac.com
Ruth Kruger Ruth@KrugerAndCompany.com
City Council: Two council seats are up for election every two years. These four-year terms earn the office holders $1700/month plus the same health care stipend as the mayor. This office is limited to two consecutive terms.
L J Erspamer Walkabout@sopris.net
Adam Frisch Adam@AdamForAspen.com
Marcia Goshorn MarciaGoshorn@hotmail.com
Steve Skadron RunSkadRun@gmail.com (Running for re-election)
Cliff Weiss CliffWeiss49@gmail.com
Scott Writer Writer@sopris.net
The next issue of The Red Ant will have my endorsements and rationale. (If you need these earlier for your absentee ballot, please be in touch with me directly by hitting "reply" to this email.)
ASPEN ART MUSEUM - A SURPRISE ISSUE THIS CAMPAIGN SEASON
Political season always brings a few surprises. It's still early, but the Aspen Art Museum has provided this year's surprise. It seems that until the Wienerstube was torn down last week, the folks at the AAM kept it under wraps that, oops - they really don't have the money needed to build the in-town museum on the site they purchased under controversial conditions late last year. "We're not going to put a shovel in the ground until (an additional $15 million) is raised," according to AAM director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson in an interview with the Aspen Daily News. In fact, a MAJOR fundraising campaign is now underway to make up the difference.
This is an BIG issue during campaign season because mayor Mick and the boys decided in a closed-door executive session to settle a lawsuit with the prior owners of the Wiernerstube property owners by granting a bypass of P&Z review to The Aspen Art Museum, which claimed they had the funding on-hand to buy the land and begin construction this summer.
Can anyone say "due diligence?" Why did council not require proof of the AAM's ability to finance their construction as a condition of this special agreement? The public had a right to know that AAM's funding situation had changed, but city council prioritized settling a lawsuit over the long-term interests of the community they serve. So, here's a little inventory:
- The Art Museum gets its in-town land.
- The Wienerstube property owners get their sale.
- The city gets to settle a lawsuit they could never hope to win outside of the friendly judicial confines of the Roaring Fork Valley.
- The community gets a demolished landmark, a vacant lot, and a promise without accountability of a new art museum that is incidentally about the same mass and scale as the building council denied that led to the lawsuit in the first place.
- Can anyone say "unprincipled leadership?" Add this to the long and expensive list of horrible "cart before the horse" public policy decisions by our city "clowncil" under the leadership of mayor Mick!
How, pray tell, did The Red Ant come to learn of this "funding" issue? I was contacted last week by an AAM board member, telling me of the financial shortfall ("it is not insignificant") and requesting my resignation from the AAM's Community Advisory Committee, a small "group of unique individuals from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley (who) add their voices to an open and ongoing dialog about museum programming and practices and the role of the museum within the community," as defined on the AAM website. (I was asked to participate upon the group's inception in early 2010.)
I was told the AAM does not approve of my political activism in Aspen (The Red Ant, the Sick of Mick campaign) and they believe an "association" - however small -- with me stands to negatively influence their critical fundraising prospects. Yes, our local arbiters of freedom of expression (dead cats as art?) wish to silence a citizen's first amendment right to the same. Could this be a payback to Mick for his vote on the beneficial settlement? Or mere hypocrisy? You decide.
MICK vs BUSINESS
You can't make this up! When mayor Mick made his "I'm running again" announcement last week, he elected to do so on the patio of Peach's, across from City Hall. Touting Peach's success as a thriving new business as an example of his mayoral success revitalizing the local economy (huh??), he characteristically failed to notice that his little gathering (attended by about 25 diehard fans) completely blocked the front door to the popular café and coffee shop, thwarting its business for the duration of his event. Only Mick could be so oblivious to the tempo of capitalism and wreckless about decisions that directly and negatively affect small local businesses! (At least he promised that if elected for a third term, he would never seek the Aspen mayor's post again!)
THE "SICK OF MICK" CAMPAIGN - IN FULL SWING!
In an effort to encourage challengers, The Red Ant and co-conspirators launched the 2011 "Sick of Mick" campaign on March 21. Visit www.SickOfMick.com At the time, mayor Mick was running unopposed! Thankfully, just 2 weeks later, there are now 3 candidates for mayor. We've got ourselves a REAL RACE! I'm ecstatic! This is a HUGE victory -- to be sure. Thanks to all who have already supported the SICK OF MICK campaign. We've only just begun.
Please join us. Fundraising for this effort is underway and progressing nicely. Donors are limited to donations of $250, however, The Red Ant encourages donations of just $19.99. This keeps your name off any and all official donation lists because the Secretary of State's campaign finance laws require the "itemization of all contributions and expenditures of $20 or more." And yes, we know too well that here in Aspen, reprisals are real. Please make checks payable to SICK OF MICK and send these to THE RED ANT, PO Box 4662, Aspen, CO 81612. Or just stop me on the street with a $20 - I've made it a point to carry a roll of pennies!
If you want yard signs or bumper stickers, please contact The Red Ant at TheRedAntEM@comcast.net and we will make arrangements to get these to you! Again, donations are encouraged but certainly not mandatory.