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ISSUE # 94: ScANT Enthusiasm

"I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership.  And when we get lazy as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government."  

                              -- Barack Obama


June 4 marks the mayoral run-off election between Torre and Steve Skadron.  I can't remember a less inspiring race for political office in Aspen.  And how sad that it's down to just these two.

But, as tempting as it is to ignore the run-off and abstain, I will vote because it's the right thing to do.  In fact, I see voting as, among other things, an act that upholds my right to complain about the outcome.  When just 2289 fellow citizens bothered to participate in the May 7 election that brought us to this point, it's really hard not to wonder why those other 4124 registered voter-neighbors just blew it off.  The result of their apathy?  Torre vs Skadron for Mayor.

HERE is the list of those who voted on May 7.  It's public information.  These are your friends and neighbors who exercised their right.  They are the people who have determined the direction (for better or worse) of Aspen's governance. They participated. Those whose names are not on the list did not.  Is YOUR name on the list?  If not, you are allowing others to determine the fate of our town.  You know better.  

I will vote for Steve Skadron for mayor.  Of the two, I believe that Skadron is the "least worst."  Besides, a vote for Skadron rids us of Torre.  Yes, Skadron's council seat will be filled by appointment -- determined by Skadron (as mayor), Adam Frisch, and new councilmen Ann Mullins and Art Daily.  I am not worried anymore about the possibility of Mick being appointed.  There is no way Skadron will allow that tyrant to rain on his parade in a long-feared Putin-Medvedev scenario.  I actually don't think Mick will even apply for the vacancy. There is a palpable community-wide sigh of relief that Mick is soon to be history.  And Mick knows this.  Aspen is indeed SICK OF MICK.  At this stage, a new face will be a welcome sight.  Bring it on!

Furthermore, of the two, Skadron is the better listener.  He has at least read and contemplated several things I have sent to council over the years.  That's not saying a lot, I know. And no, I do not particularly see him as any sort of political ally per se, but I do think that he will engage.  He is often visibly confused by complex subjects, but he CAN be reasoned with. While quite surprising, the additional fact that Skadron has a master's degree in finance and is a small business owner gives him the leg up in my book.  Torre, on the other hand, is more stubborn, ideological and entrenched in his own already-formed opinions. The one-named professional tennis teacher and erstwhile local tv personality is a friendly soul, but we're talking about being mayor of Aspen.   There's A LOT more to the job than riding in parades, kissing babies and glad-handing.

So, please get out there and vote, again.  Flip a coin if you must.  But vote.  Then you have the right to complain!!  And I have a feeling that the new council is going to give us plenty to complain about!

Questions about the June 4 election?  Ballots, early voting, precincts, etc. Contact the city clerk's office: 970-429-2687.


The campaign always forces The Red Ant to back-burner other news of the day. To catch you up, the following "lightning round" will briefly summarize recent goings-on with relevant topics:

Caribbean Rotations:   Retirees who live in APCHA units will soon be able to leave their units ostensibly for warmer climes for up to 6 months of every year, if they rent to qualified employees.  Previously, subsidized housing residents could only do such a thing if they applied for a 1-time leave of absence. (Working residents are required to occupy their subsidized housing units 9 months of the year.) The idea is to free up short term rental space.  BUT, the law of unintended consequences is kicking down the door.  Retirees and their renters have to work the deals out themselves; APCHA won't get in the middle, but will allegedly monitor the program and determine the rent amount. (Joke.) There are also no stipulations as to which 6 months; participants can simply leave in the spring and fall off-seasons when few renters are looking, and then what? Watch and see: the next generation of scamming the system has been blessed by the bureaucrats.  Instead of housing local workers (the intent of the housing program), we are now housing hundreds of retirees. And that number continues to grow. When we should be encouraging or incentivizing these retirees who no longer want to be here full time to sell their units to actual workers, we're making additional concessions to these folks and enabling them to keep their units and travel half the year on the rental proceeds! APCHA has never been able to oversee yet alone manage the inventory in its portfolio.  Abuse is rampant.  And the program's requalification affidavit method lacks any teeth to ensure compliance. But the local governments simply do not want an aggressive enforcement policy. They just want more and more and more subsidized housing built. This ridiculous new program makes mockery of the intent of the program, and serves only to perpetuate the need for additional housing units.

Hydro Slammed: The city and its beleaguered hydro plant (CCEC) took a beat-down recently from Old Snowmass resident and internationally esteemed energy expert Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute. The 33-page critique submitted to council unabashedly rips the project, its premise, the decision-making process and the city's sketchy and ever-changing project financials. Read it HERE. This was symphony music to The Red Ant's ears. After all, I have been beating this drum since June 2010! Among other scathing remarks, Lovins notably says:

  • "The city's economic analysis of CCEC is flawed and unreliable."
  • "CCEC has higher costs and risks than available, ample and suitable alternatives, even neglecting its sunk costs and counting its to-go costs."
  • "CCEC's total cost may make it the costliest hydro plant ever built."
  • CCEC got into trouble because of: "Inadequate consideration of available alternatives and strategic risk management caused bad decisions; input from council's technical advisors was either ill-informed or misinterpreted; and input from the public, which in this region includes world class independent experts, was improperly solicited and inadequately considered."

Of note, Skadron and new councilman Art Daily still support the hydro plant despite the vote and the proven idiocy of the project. And new councilwoman Ann Mullins thinks that last November's vote (against the plant) was so close that council should make the final determination. (Makes one wonder how she views the outcome of football games that end with a field goal as the clock runs out!) Since the November vote was merely "advisory" (thanks to Mick), all it would take is a vote of 3 at the council table to kick the project right back into gear. Meanwhile, the city is still in the process of pursuing its license from the feds. It's not over til it's over.

Marilyn's 2009 Ballots: In the 11th hour, the city of Aspen FINALLY released 2415 ballot images from the 2009 municipal election. HERE they are. Remember, these are the ballot images that the city would not share after promising the public that they too could run the vote count on their home computers to verify the controversial IRV ranked choice voting methodology employed for that election. When the city closed ranks following the election, Marilyn Marks sued to see these same images that had been shown on Grassroots tv throughout the vote counting procedures. (Trust, but verify.) The case was dismissed in district court but overturned unanimously on appeal. Interestingly, 129 ballot images were withheld from the recent ballot image release because the city determined that the voters' identities could be somehow determined on these ballots. Well, that alone is illegal. Identifying marks could possibly signal a vote-buying scheme, for example. Why were those ballots counted in the first place? And they were. Marilyn now has the ballot images she sought, but daunting questions remain. And don't forget, the court also awarded Marilyn legal fees for this inane goose chase. Early estimates put that number at over $300K. We're sure to see a big fight over that payment, but the bigger question remains to this day: What is the city hiding that was worth spending (wasting) over $300K of taxpayer dollars to conceal?

AVH Approved: Well, it's official. Aspen Valley Hospital's 3rd and 4th Phases will move forward once the institution has private money on hand to finance them. The most notable comment came when mayor Mick was wrangling for some sort of personal deal in order to vote in favor. Just what did he want? Mayor Mick had the audacity to ask the hospital board and representatives to REQUIRE that all doctors who office at the new AVH campus accept Medicaid patients like himself. Well, that's illegal, so it can't and won't happen. But I had to laugh -- with the approval a fait accompli, Mick still wanted a pound of flesh in the form of even more freebies. Typical. But finally, someone had good reason to tell him no. Let's all hope that AVH's fundraising campaign keeps up its early momentum so the project gets completed as soon as possible. (And properly landscaped to disguise its immense size.)

War on Free Market Rentals: Blatantly ignoring the compliance rules for those who live in publicly subsidized housing, the city of Aspen has a different approach for locals who offer their private homes for vacation rentals. As of 2012, homeowners who rent out their homes must get a business license from the city and pay sales and lodging taxes on the money they collect from renters. This amounts to approximately 11%. In the year since this new rule took effect, only 10 new business licenses have been issued and the city believes it is missing out on over $100K in lost revenue as a result. Now they've hired a compliance firm that will comb the internet for Aspen rental properties and cross-check these units with city tax records. Scofflaws beware. Can you say "double standard"??

Haters Celebrate: When the recent election results were announced, local haters (and newspaper columnists) Doug Allen and Su Lum rejoiced in their candidates' victories but celebrated even more the fact that The Red Ant's candidates were defeated. Allen tittered about the results, "There's no doubt of who controls Aspen." And he quoted Glinda the Good Witch who famously said, "You have no power here! Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!" Allen, who is the Aspen Daily News' replacement for our old pal, political windbag and former councilman Jack Johnson, is quite full of himself. A loyal mouthpiece for mayor Mick, Allen's anger and venom will likely become more erratic than ever without direction once Mick is out of office. And the Times' Su Lum, long rumored to be Jack Johnson's mother, similarly mocked "The Red Ant contingent" for its losses. Let these simpletons have their fun. It's true. We lost. But they were frightened. And their lack of class enables them to behave this way. We're not the entrenched political class in Aspen; we have a lot to learn. But we're getting better all the time. And to quote another movie classic, "We'll be back."

The Red Ant's nemesis mayor Mick will be leaving office on Monday, June 10, when the new council is sworn in.  To celebrate this momentous occasion in Aspen's political history, please contribute to a special edition of The Red Ant.

This is an open call for limericks that "celebrate" Mick.  How better to honor a guy named Mick Ireland than with a collection of limericks submitted by his constituency!

The rules:

  • The Red Ant is a family publication - keep it clean (however innuendo is welcome and encouraged)
  • I will assume you want your limerick un-attributed, but will include your name upon specific request
  • Email your submission(s) to:
  • Submit as many limericks as you would like!
  • Have fun!
  • Deadline June 7

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