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ISSUE #91: The Election PageANT Is On!

"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal -- that you can gather votes like box tops -- is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process."     -- Adlai E. Stevenson


For those who simply want to know how to vote, please cast your ballot for:

  • Mayor: Maurice Emmer
  • Council: Dwayne Romero ("bullet vote" for Dwayne; use just 1 of your 2 votes)

Please forward this issue of The Red Ant to your friends, especially those who vote in Aspen. Early voting begins in the clerk's office on Monday, April 22, and absentee/mail-in ballots are likely already in your mailbox.


Voting strategically is the best way to ensure that city hall begins responding to the people, not the internal bureaucracy (driven by Mick Ireland for years) with the willing support of the incumbent council members. With 6 mayoral candidates and 4 council candidates on this year's ballot, those who want real change and a new direction at the council table should only use two of three votes. Here's why:

For mayor: The mayor must be elected with 50% +1 of the votes cast. This is unlikely to happen in the first round. Therefore, the two top vote-getters will advance to a June 4 run-off.

To ensure a minimum of TWO grown-up voices at the council table, vote for Emmer. He and Adam Frisch (who is in the middle of a 4-year council term) will then hold 2 of the 5 votes before we even discuss the open council positions. Furthermore, if Frisch is to win the mayoral race, his council seat will be filled by APPOINTMENT by the new council FOR THE REMAINDER OF FRISCH'S TERM. This is a frightening "what if" scenario that can be avoided with a vote for Emmer. And we get to keep Frisch in the deal.

For council: There are two open council seats, however, "bullet voting" for Dwayne Romero (only voting for him) betters Dwayne's chances of being elected with 45% +1 of the votes in the first round. As a former councilman, Dwayne is by far the most rational voice for change and a responsible government. Don't hurt Dwayne's chances by voting for another competitor as well.


This gets down in the weeds, but for those interested, here is an interesting way to look at the council race. With two seats open (those vacated by Torre and Derek Johnson), a candidate can avoid the run-off if his/her adjusted vote total exceeds 45%. This can easily be determined by doubling the actual number of votes received to determine the percentage of the total. For example, with 5 people running and 100 total votes, and a vote distribution of 30, 22, 20, 18 and 10, #1 wins a seat (60%) and there is a run-off between #2 (44%) and #3 (40%). Now, consider the same race with 30, 23, 20, 18 and 9. #1 (60%) and #2 (46%) win seats and there is no run-off. This occurs because #2 also crossed the 45% threshold.

So, in short, if you have a favorite, "must-elect" candidate (in this case, Dwayne) in a multi-person race, it is VERY IMPORTANT to vote for that person -- and that person only -- to ensure they avoid a run-off by getting the maximum number of votes in the first round.  The Red Ant calls this "bullet-voting."


The Red Ant is relieved. No matter the outcome in either race, we will be in a FAR better place than where we've been. Mick will be gone. And regardless of the potential presence(s) of Mick's protégés and endorsees, city council will take on a new tenor; one of respect and integrity. Each of the candidates is a "good guy/gal" (a trait immensely important to the Aspen electorate, often at the expense of position on the issues) and each will contribute positively and civilly to the discourse, regardless of political stance. For our community, this is already a win.

But I want a bigger win. In the end, The Red Ant is specifically looking for a 3-2 majority of "grown-ups" who will make fiscally responsible, legal and transparent decisions for the community. A 3-2 majority. This allows for a variety of viewpoints and experience, but requires intelligence, intellectual curiosity and maturity. A 3-2 majority is a BIG WIN for The Red Ant and an even bigger win for Aspen.

The crux of my thinking stems in general from my personal experiences with the current council and specifically the dismal economic sustainability report conducted and presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association in April 2013. Read it HERE. In short, it specifies that little has been done to address challenges identified in 2002, concluding that Aspen's economy is "bleak," as indicated by notable job market stagnation and declining wages. And, looking at data over 20 years demonstrates a slow, steady erosion of economic vitality. It is time to begin the post-Mick era with thoughts and actions directed toward our future, our competitiveness and our economic survival. We have fallen behind, and it is the local government and its business-averse practices that have contributed greatly to this. NOW is the time for real change.

I have very specific reasons for endorsing / not endorsing the candidates. Here are my thoughts:

Maurice Emmer: I am endorsing Maurice for mayor for many reasons, but primarily because he gets it. He's a grown-up. This retired attorney and former CPA sees, grasps and has workable ideas to responsibly address the issues we face with a deteriorating subsidized housing portfolio that does not benefit from the city's continual building of more and more units ad infinitum. He recognizes that the city makes it VERY DIFFICULT and often impossible for new businesses, and this costs us jobs. He can and will untangle and simplify that web. He will get our government back in its lane, following our own charter and freeing the many citizen boards to do their work and directly affect policy. He sees our huge city budget and questions the excessive and wasteful spending (on geo-thermal drilling experiments, Burlingame 2 and frivolous lawsuits, etc. to name just a few) simply because we have the cash. Prioritization of spending is a big priority. He is intent on maintaining Aspen's vibrancy, and recognizes the need to update our resort amenities while upholding our unique architectural character. Maurice is not new to Aspen politics. He bravely led the effort to collect 953 voter signatures that put the Hydro Plant to a vote in 2012. He then led the campaign to defeat the city's "green at any cost" boondoggle. His success in shuttering the Hydro Plant was because he nimbly brought together local fiscal hawks and the environmental community. This relatively new political voice is already a proven leader. Maurice does what he says he will do and does it well, building coalitions along the way. If you want change at city hall, Maurice will bring that change. This is the leadership Aspen desperately needs. Vote for Maurice.

Adam Frisch: I endorsed and supported Adam for council when he was elected in 2011, going so far as to ask my readership to "bullet vote" for him to ensure his election. It worked. His first two years have frequently been frustrating to his supporters, but more due to Mick's iron fist and a lack of proper mentoring than anything else. Adam HAS leaned forward, in opposition to emergency ordinances that don't meet the definition, the legally problematic plastic bag tax and the proliferation of secret "executive sessions." Adam has a bright future in Aspen politics, especially with two more years on council, presumably serving with others who don't/won't get bullied by the likes of Mick, lazy and incompetent city manager Steve Barwick, and corrupt and compromised city attorney Jim True/False. And I will support him. But Adam's strength in this particular race is in maintaining his council seat and collaborating with newly elected representatives who share his pro-business and common sense stance. With Maurice as mayor and Adam on council, we've got 2 of 5.

Steve Skadron: Mick's heir apparent and recipient of the outgoing mayor's endorsement, Steve's politics most closely mirror his mentor's: an ingrained aversion to development of any kind (aside from subsidized housing) because this "destroys" Aspen's character, a "green at any cost" environmental position to reach a 100% renewable energy portfolio, a more-is-more outlook on subsidized housing (in the name of "ensuring diversity") and the view that because the city's budget is "healthy and balanced," the way we spend $106 million annually is not a concern but reflective of the "community's values." Scary. Steve supports the build-out of Burlingame phase 2, ignoring the known facts that only 19 of the 57 people signed up for the to-be-built units are not already residents of subsidized housing elsewhere. In other words, he is ok building bigger and nicer units for folks who are already in the system vs looking at the true need for more public housing. Steve has shockingly gone on the record citing the benefits of the hydro plant ("well-conceived project, sensitive to the environment and a financially sustainable model") and has defended it all along despite its ridiculous cost over-runs and serious environmental issues. (He has indicated that he would be in favor of re-starting the project - this would be possible by a mere 3-2 vote of council - despite the will of the voters last November, but has dialed this conviction back a wee bit during the campaign.)

Steve has served two terms on council, rather uneventfully, but could always be counted on to vote with Mick. His notable departure from toeing Mick's line was his lone vote in opposition to the Aspen Art Museum. Often visibly confused at the council table, Steve's strengths are certainly not complex issues and financial reports. And most recently, he embarrassed himself by admitting his own confusion and accusing the Aspen Valley Hospital leadership and development team of "sneaking" things into the AVH expansion project because HE couldn't recall the original proposal or how big it would be. Like Adam Frisch, Steve is in the middle of a 4 year council term, so regardless of the outcome of the mayoral contest, Steve too will remain at the council table. And, similarly, a mayoral win by Steve creates the same "appointment" scenario to fill his vacated seat.   (There is widespread speculation that a quid pro quo exists between Steve and Mick: in exchange for Mick's endorsement and support, upon winning the mayor's race Steve will press for Mick to be appointed to fill his seat on council. This alone is reason NOT to vote for Steve.) Furthermore, while far more kind, patient and polite than Mick, Steve does not have the intellectual curiosity to lead council, direct staff and drive a complex and fiscally responsible agenda that benefits Aspen in 2013 and beyond.

L.J.:  This dedicated local vounteer who calls himself a "community organizer," currently chairs the Planning & Zoning commission, but says he would support the hydro plant (despite the outcome at the polls) if the project were to be properly phased and if it is deemed to be financially feasible.  And, acknowledging that our housing program needs oversight, he believes the folks at APHCA are simply too busy to do it.  He does not think the city should mandate reserve accounts for the APCHA homeowners associations because the government should not get involved in "private ownership."  Strange, because L.J. debated the INVOLUNTARY designation of private post-WWII properties on the Historic Preservation Task Force for 19 months, but when this disastrous idea came to a vote in  2011, he couldn't/wouldn't take a side and instead voted "present."   In the "energy" usage realm, L.J. spoke at the ACES forum about his desire to have what he considers to be "monster homes" to have "master switches" that the government can presumably control to curb energy usage.  Again, class warfare has no role in the post-Mick era of Aspen government.  L.J.'s community service has been commendable, but his divisive stance on the critical issues of the day are not good for Aspen.

Torre: Madonna. Cher. Sting. Torre. Really? I don't think so. While this professional tennis teacher's campaign platform rails against "the undue influence of precipitous wealth" and how Aspen is a victim of its own success, he is quick to call for a raise in the mill levy (property taxes) of said "precipitous wealth"-holders when presented with unfunded community requests that could and should easily be addressed through a critical look at the city's $106 million budget. But Torre says it's just "too hard to chip away" at that budget; higher taxes are the answer.   Enough already.  Mick's class warfare must end now.

Derek: I endorsed and supported Derek Johnson for council when he was elected in 2009. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. Not only has he been regularly unprepared and unimpressive (he's brought exactly ZERO legislation or even ideas for legislation forward) in the 4 years he has been at the council table, he sealed his fate with me immediately upon his election. Proud of his refusal to state an opinion on ANY issue while campaigning, he smugly told me, "See, I got elected without taking any sides." But it gets worse. Upon winning, he told Marilyn and me (at the time writing The Red Ant together), "Thanks for the help. Now don't ever contact me again." And to this day, he has never responded to a single email inquiry until the questionnaire for this issue. He is simply in over his head with all aspects of elected office. Coach Johnson needs to return to the sidelines. I will NEVER vote for Derek Johnson again and urge you not to either.

Dwayne: Bring Dwayne back! This West Point grad, long-time public servant, decorated combat vet, real estate developer with a Harvard MBA who, with his wife, is raising three daughters in Aspen, is exactly what Aspen needs back at the council table. Dwayne served on council from 2007-2011, when he then accepted an appointment by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to serve as the head of the state's economic development commission. He is currently the president of Related Colorado, which owns a large portfolio of commercial and lodging properties in Snowmass Village. His leadership roles in the US military are numerous, surpassed only by those he holds and has held on Aspen philanthropic boards: Roaring Fork Leadership, Aspen Historical Society, Aspen Rotary Club, Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA), Aspen Fire Protection District, Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA). Dwayne, known for his approachability and willingness to listen, cites his "lessons learned" through a lifetime of service as the cornerstones of his vision and ability to bring effective and consistent leadership back to Aspen's City Council. I saw Dwayne as a bright light during his previous term on council, often voting as the sole 1-4, but in the process, making articulate arguments for the grown-ups who favored less intrusive government actions and actually standing up to Mick. This time, Dwayne vows to look critically at the changing needs of our workforce and how this impacts our housing portfolio. And, by bringing the state's "pits and peeves" program to Aspen, Dwayne is prepared to address and streamline the city's red tape and bureaucracy in order to enhance the process of "doing business" here. By his sheer presence at the council table, "trust" in city government will improve, especially though the development of clear policies and procedures, public feedback mechanisms and oversight of a professional staff. Dwayne Romero is synonymous with good governance. Vote for Dwayne.

Ann:   A well-respected landscape architect, Ann Mullins offers, according to her campaign materials, a "fresh start" and a "fair voice." She surely brings know-how and understanding of the evaluation of development proposals, and is known for her leadership as chair of the Historic Preservation Commission. But those of us who have followed the nitty-gritty of "the historic issues" in town know Ann best from her well-known stance IN FAVOR of INVOLUNTARY historical designation of post-WWII private properties. (Thankfully this hideous land-grab concept died a slow and painful death in 2011.) Notably, she too was recently endorsed by Mick Ireland for a council post, presumably because she sees the narrow 51%-49% loss by the hydro plant at the polls not enough of a consensus and favors a decision by council on the matter.  As we look to the future with a galvanized focus on change, I'm afraid that Ann represents a "same-old, same-old" ideology and "bring back the quiet years" constituency that do not accurately represent the evolving needs of our community. This well-intentioned candidate with Mick Ireland's values is not who we need on council in 2013.

Art: This well-known and well-respected local attorney was the first to throw his hat into the council race, and The Red Ant is a vocal advocate of new faces entering the political realm. With a strategy of minimal campaigning and guarded public responses, Art kept his viewpoints to himself and remained a political mystery for weeks. Then, he was endorsed by Mick Ireland, which, truthfully, raised my ire. Just what does Art, with his compelling personal story and general "good guy" reputation, offer that earns him Mick's endorsement? Then I received a mailer from his campaign that gave intentionally vague answers to several important public policy issues.

He writes of maintaining Aspen's "special character," and wisely advocates a "needs" study for the subsidized housing program. An ardent supporter of arts and cultural organizations, health and human services and environmental organizations, Art sees the need for Aspen to evolve and improve, but not at the cost of density and height, lest this "spoil" the Aspen we all moved here for. Sounds squishy but decent enough, huh? To me too, especially because I appreciate his reputation for thoughtfulness and alleged impeccable ethics. But back to the Mick question. What is the deal there? You gotta know there is one. It was not until I sent the candidates MY questionnaire that Art fessed up with unabashed support FOR the hydro plant. (See his questionnaire in its entirety below.) He cites "related science" and "economics" of the beleaguered project (what????) as positives and sees the re-invigoration of the hydro plant as a "green renewable energy" source for the city that will "reap long term benefits." Preposterous. But there's the quid pro quo for Mick's support! With Art, Steve Skadron and Ann Mullins (Mick's 3 endorsees) at the council table, they will vote to undo what so many locals worked tirelessly to end. Not good, not good at all. But the hydro plant is Mick's legacy. And notably, Art would not rule out a vote for Mick to fill an open council seat. And do take a look at Art's answers to the questionnaire. Has the guy been living in Aspen or Toledo for the past 40 years? The well-intentioned but uninformed candidate knows absolutely NOTHING about our housing program, housing law, the city budget, or the city charter. Just say NO. Vote for Dwayne, and no one else. 

Jonny:  The Red Ant loves to see new faces enter the political fray, and Jonny Carlson is the latest to do so.  Entering the race in the 11th hour, Carlson admits that he does "a lot of politicking around the bars," and at the time of his official paperwork filing was unsure of what a councilman does.  Unfortunately, he did not submit reponses to the questionnaire, but kindly left a message for The Red Ant stating his fondness for Aspen and his desire to "do the right thing for the people of Aspen."  HERE is the Aspen Daily News article on Carlson's candidacy.


The following is the questionnaire that I sent to all 10 candidates. Given a week to respond, 9 did. I attempted to ask a number of probing questions on the issues the new council will face, as well as elicit a couple of telling responses that the candidates are not likely to admit in the public forums or interviews by the local papers. With respect for brevity, I have included those responses from my endorsees Maurice and Dwayne and linked the responses from all of the other candidates, in their entirety. Please click through and read them all thoroughly.

Hello Candidates

First and foremost, thank you for running for elected office in Aspen!  As a great advocate for fair and honest elections, citizen leadership, transparent and accountable government, and fiscal responsibility, I believe your candidacy represents the opportunity for real change for the citizens of Aspen.

I have a few questions that I hope you will answer for the upcoming election issue of The Red Ant (deadline April 19).  While I cannot guarantee that your responses in their entirety will make it into the issue, I will make your entire questionnaire available to my readers upon request.  And yes, if history is any indication, people do request these.

On behalf of my 2,000 subscribers, many thanks for taking the time to respond.  And best of luck with your campaigns.

Elizabeth Milias


1.  The Castle Creek Energy Center (hydro plant) has been shuttered following a 49%-51% loss at the polls in November.  This was an advisory vs. binding vote.  Is there ANY circumstance in which you would vote as a member of council to continue/complete the hydro plant despite the election outcome?  Yes or no?  Please explain.


Maurice:No.  The citizens have spoken at the polls against continuing the project.  City Council should respect the public's decision and stop the project.  As mayor I would oppose any effort to continue the project.


DwayneI would oppose a push to restart the project, given the current public opinion and the uniquely awkward tradeoffs that this initiative presented (healthy streams vs. renewable energy sources). Perhaps with time, greater education, and a more comprehensive examination of our options might we get to a point of consensus and some direction.


Until then, I would like for the city to further examine alternative means and methods to achieve our goal of 100% renewable energy sources. Example: the city has already secured a contract with the Ridgway Dam facility that once in place will bring our total sources of renewable energy to over 89%, up from the current 75%. 


2.  The APCHA housing inventory is comprised of 2800 rental and owned units.  There is great speculation (but no proof) of widespread non-compliance.  In order to better understand our current and future housing needs, would you support a comprehensive audit/"needs assessment" of the entire portfolio to determine who lives there, where they work and whether or not they comply?  Why or why not? 


Maurice:Yes.  I have heard anecdotal opinions that there is widespread non-compliance, and that there is not widespread non-compliance.  It is difficult to know the truth without routine and comprehensive audits.  The more challenging part is the needs assessment.  There are 2,800 existing units for a total city population of about 6,500.  That is existing capacity for about 60% of our TOTAL population, not just our working population.  One would think that is enough inventory for the foreseeable future, especially since the job market in Aspen has been stagnant for at least 12 years (see the ACRA report on the sustainability of the Aspen economy).  We should have a proper needs assessment conducted by professionals, and not influenced by a political agenda, before building any more inventory.  As mayor I will propose that such an audit and needs assessment be undertaken and seek to insure there are adequate resources for continuing, routine compliance audits.


DwayneGaining updated intelligence over the entire program, including current uses (and possible abuses) cannot be anything but helpful for all of us. It is my understanding that these types of assessments have occurred in the past, and to the extent they need to be updated and/or improved in the analysis required, then I am supportive. This type of updated information can help inform and positively shape future decisions that we face with an evolving housing program.  


3.  Recent reports of APCHA housing inventory in physical decline have been attributed to (among other things) the lack of "HOA reserves" and deferred conduct of maintenance over the years by the HOAs.  Would you support a government mandate of "reserve accounts" at every APCHA HOA?  If not, how do you envision the prevention of further decline of these vital community assets?


Maurice:Yes.  If affordable housing communities fall into sufficient disrepair their occupants will abandon them.  That will require the city to take them over and spend large sums either replacing them or rehabilitating them.  So this is a potential financial burden on the city.  The city should be proactive, requiring HOAs to have capital reserves.  The city also should provide minimum standards for upkeep and repair, and should inspect the communities periodically for compliance.  As mayor I will propose such measures.


DwayneFirst, it is important to note that the notion of collecting capital reserves at the homeowner association level is not a new or extraordinary concept. Most associations in town (private and public) do practice good discipline and are mindful of the requirements to invest now in order to protect and preserve common assets (roofs, building exteriors, site work, utility systems, landscaping, etc.) for the future.


As to the government mandate for reserve accounts, given the fact that similar laws exist at the state level (as in the case for common assets owned in special/metropolitan districts) that require reserves to be funded, I could support a similar approach here. It would need to be equitably established - supported by competent and current life cycle reserve studies for the common assets in association ownership, and would need to be regularly assessed and regularly reported and maintained. No different than how most well-managed HOA's operate today.


 4.  The city of Aspen has a $106 million budget for 2013.  Just because we have it, should we spend it?  Where do you see waste/abuse?


Maurice: Where to begin?  Initiating and continuing the Castle Creek Hydro project without adequate study, resulting in more than a doubling of the original cost estimate.  Drilling for geothermal energy, a speculative and risky activity usually left to expert risk takers such as energy wildcatters.  Paying $18 million for the lumber yard to secure land for more affordable housing; in addition to paying way over market, as indicated in other answers we have enough inventory now and only need to manage it better.  Insisting on building more and more unneeded affordable housing units (e.g., over $31 million for BG2).  Producing a 633 page budget document when other mountain resort communities of comparable size seem to be able to get by with 150 pages or so.  And decorating the document like an oriental rug with lots of graphics that add nothing to the utility of the document.  Planning to pump grey water uphill from the AABC to the golf course, while doing so will require more energy than the ill-conceived Castle Creek Hydro plant ever could hope to produce.  Dragging on and on with frivolous litigation that costs the city continuing resources while not advancing any legitimate public purpose.  There are many, many examples.  This year the city will spend $16,000 per Aspen resident while other mountain resort communities seem to be able to do just fine spending not more than $11,000 per resident, some as little as $5,000 per resident.  As mayor I will draw attention to waste and inefficiency and call for a thorough budget review to prioritize spending away from wasteful endeavors.


DwayneThe quick answer is we should never spend that which is not in the public's interest, from both the short and long term views. Once we spend on operations and public services, and on capital reserves and capital projects, what's left over should not be spent out of the adage of "use it or lose it". Reminds me of my time in the Army back in the 80's. Fortunately those days are behind us.


However, it is never that simple. Just like running your own business or your own family household, we have to balance the needs of today with the desires of tomorrow. So in deciding budgets and choosing worthy projects to invest in, we must ensure that baseline public services are maintained for our residents and guests, while also recognizing that we have longer term objectives (community planning & preservation, affordable housing, health and human services, public transit, open space and trails, to name a few) that require longer term funding and investment. 


The takeaway for me is this - we have a large and complex city budget, including both our operating funds and accounts as well as an entire array of special use/purpose enterprise funds with their own funding sources and their own limited uses. Is there waste? Possibly, but the better question would be "are they ways to further achieve efficiencies and economies across all these funds and accounts"? Quite probably, in my view.     


5.  Steve Barwick is the city manager.  As such, he is responsible, per the city charter, for running the administration of the city, not developing/directing policy.  Why, in your opinion, is it that much city policy that council contemplates originates with city staff rather than by council direction to Barwick and his staff?


Maurice: I believe city policy often emanates from city staff for two reasons.  First, most of the current members of city council are passive and reactive, not proactive.  They react to proposals rather than setting the agenda and offering their own proposals.  This has left a policy vacuum that staff has rushed in to fill.  Second, I believe the current mayor has set himself up as a super-city manager.  He spends a lot of time influencing city staff (prohibited by the city charter, by the way), and inciting city staff to make proposals to council that reflect his policy preferences.  This is an insidious way of influencing policy without making every proposal look like it originated with the mayor, which many actually do.  The city manager might like this practice or hate it, but there is no way to know when an overbearing mayor pushes him aside.  Is the city manager to risk his job pushing back against the mayor's disregard of the city charter?  The city council should have been keeping the mayor in line.  Instead, they have looked the other way, if they even understood their duty to enforce the charter.  If I am mayor I will insist that policy emanate from city council, not staff, as required by the city charter.  And I will insist that all council members, including the mayor, abide by the city charter.


DwayneI'm not sure I entirely agree with the premise of the question, but I can see the tendency that has evolved whereby council has fallen away from being good direction setters and policy makers. We still suffer from inconsistent leadership performances from council, including my own time on council.


Oftentimes council fails to inspire, to inform, and to steadfastly role model the community values and ideals that we have long since agreed to in our vision statements. We are an idyllic community with an abundance of natural beauty, populated by a well-informed and engaged citizenry, and blessed with an amazing array of cultural offerings the rest of the world is left to envy. Yet, we still stumble towards mediocrity when it comes to setting good vision and clear direction at the council table. We can achieve a greater level of public trust in city government by improving the collective performance of council as a leadership body. We can improve: 


    • How council sets direction through the establishment of clear policies and priorities.
    • How council gives and gets feedback from the general public.
    • How council shapes and optimizes the performance of government (by unleashing the potential of a professional and well-equipped staff, by listening to and taking appropriate direction from a cadre of engaged, citizen-led commissions, and by defining and requiring more measurables in our budgets and plans).

6. Current mayor Mick Ireland is term-limited out as mayor and is not seeking a council seat.  Is there ANY circumstance in which you would vote to appoint Mick to a vacant city council seat should one arise?  Yes or no?  Please explain.


Maurice: No.  As indicated above, I believe that Mr. Ireland has disregarded the city charter during his terms as mayor and has interfered in the functioning of city administration.  I would not favor returning him to a position where he might feel he could continue such practices.

DwayneNo.  I appreciate his long dedication to public service, but it is time for him to pass the baton to others, as is occurring now.  All good. 

7. Citizen volunteer boards and commissions (P&Z, HPC, Housing Frontiers, etc.) prepare thoughtful and detailed reports for council on various issues.  But city staff - not those who prepared it -- presents this information to council.  In turn, council often ignores the boards'/commissions' recommendations and instead re-hashes the issues themselves.  Are citizen boards and commissions even relevant anymore?  Please comment.


Maurice: Citizen boards and commissions have been made largely irrelevant by the practice of filtering their recommendations through staff.  Staff can have an agenda at odds with the recommendations of citizen boards and commissions.  The city charter calls for citizen boards and commissions to advise city council, not to advise staff.  In fact, the ordinances creating the boards and commissions call for staff to support the work of the boards and commissions, not the other way around.  Citizen boards and commissions are an important channel for citizen input to policy making.  That is why the charter elevates them to the position of providing DIRECT advice to city council.  Under the current practice, members of citizen boards and commissions become frustrated and unwilling to serve because their hard work is ignored.  If I am mayor I will insist that citizen boards and commissions report their findings directly to council.  I also will take steps to make serving on such boards and commissions more attractive and to increase citizens' participation.

Dwayne: Very much so, and your question does suggest perhaps a way to improve the impact and traction of their reviews and recommendations (having representatives from the boards and commissions present directly to council on a regular basis). I would also like to see council perform better as a leadership body, including how to better engage and respect the recommendations from these citizen-led boards.

An important note - these boards and commissions have vital roles to perform; however their perspectives are generally along a singular policy issue (for example, historic preservation, or commerce and lodging, or planning and zoning). The council is bound and obligated to apply a larger view and context, looking to making good decisions that span across all policy issues, attempting to find the greatest amount of public good in the process. This may end up producing a decision that is different than the recommendations of our boards and commissions. That doesn't mean that these boards and commissions are ignored. Perhaps the takeaway is to ensure this process is more clearly communicated and illustrated for the general public, elevating trust and confidence in the system.

8. In 2013, the city will provide $380K to local Health and Human Services programs and non-profits (temporary care, childcare, child welfare, adult protection, low income energy assistance, food stamps, etc).  With an annual budget of $106 million, is $380K too much, not enough, or just right?  Please explain.


Maurice: The city of Aspen should be a leader in funding HHS services.  Pitkin County has taken the lead in funding HHS organizations.  Under state law it has the responsibility for providing HHS services of certain types, but not all the types of services that it funds through various grants.  Pitkin County spends about $3 million a year on HHS services.  Of that, $1.8 million is through grants from the Healthy Families Fund.  This year the city of Aspen contributed $380,000 to that $1.8 million grant total.  There is no magic number that is right for the city of Aspen to contribute.  The city should be mindful, however, that the non-profits providing the services rely on such funding and cannot plan without some assurance of continued funding levels.  In light of the city's historic commitment to the wellbeing of its citizens, and of people who work in Aspen but who might not be residents, the city should maintain a predictable commitment to funding HHS.  As mayor I will support an increase from the current level of HHS funding by the city.  The precise amount should be determined after studying overall HHS needs.  From the few examples of waste described in an earlier answer, however, it is obvious the problem is not availability of funds but better prioritizing.


DwaynePutting aside the debate of where the funding should come from (either the county or the city), it is not difficult to recognize that the need outstrips current funding levels. I would like to see the city and the county (as well as other jurisdictions in the county) come together in an effort to develop and propose a more structural and sustainable platform of funding and support into our local Health and Human Services programs. The need is acute, real, and growing.   I would support making these programs a higher priority within our community plans and budgets. 


Read the responses in their entirety from these candidates by clicking their names below:

Adam Frisch

Steve Skadron

L.J. Erspamer


Derek Johnson

Ann Mullins

Art Daily

Jonny Carlson  (did not submit)

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