This is not a political blog, but Aspen is a political town. The opinions expressed below are those of Andrew M. Israel, registered voter.
As Aspen's May 7th election approaches, important political issues rise to the forefront and the candidate's positions become more clear. AspenSpin attended the candidate forum on the environment at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). All 6 mayoral candidates and 3 of the 4 people running for City Council participated in a panel discussion at ACES.
I left the forum feeling a little disillusioned and frustrated, but another attendee astutely pointed out to me... "these forums are not where the problems get solved, but you can get a feel for how the candidates will react under pressure".
I was quite pleased to learn that all the candidates seem to agree that environmental issues are crucial to the future of Aspen. Perhaps it was the venue and the audience, but there was absolutely no debate about the existence of climate change and all the panelists seemed to respect the importance of Aspen's high profile role in the environmental crusade. The candidates all seemed to believe that the continued stewardship of our precious natural resources is essential to residents, tourists and the future of our town.
Current council member and mayoral candidate Torre is passionate about the environment and his track record reflects that. Torre is credited with shepherding the ban on plastic bags in Aspen and doesn't own a car. He didn't have to ponder the issue of drilling on the Thompson Divide, "hell no" he said. He's finishing his second 4 year term on city council.
Steve Skadron is also clearly committed to the environment. It's a major part of his political platform along with "small town character". Skadron cited his work with C.O.R.E (Community Office for Resource Efficiency). Skadron has 2 years left on his second council term.
Political newcomer and retired attorney & C.P.A., Maurice Emmer,"led the fight" to defeat the city's controversial hydro power initiative. At the forum he seemed to be more concerned with the fine print (my words) like jurisdiction and policy than with actually protecting the environment. He seems smart, experienced and probably good with numbers...but i don't see him becoming Aspen's next Mayor.
I personally have a hard time making sense of Adam Frisch's "common sense" platform. While I truly respect his diligence, commitment and energy...he often paints with broad brush strokes. Adam has two years left on his first council term. The environment does not seem be his most passionate cause. My impression is that he is pro-growth...whatever that means.
Derek Johnson is finishing his first term on city council. His day job is Director of Retail for Aspen Skiing Company. Derek is a nice guy and he seems interested in the environment. He was instrumental in "Aspen Tap" and "WE", the new bike sharing program. He has served admirably on council and has proven his independence. However, in my opinion the position of Mayor should be arms-length from city's largest business...but that's just me.
Lj Erspamer is a good guy, and he's been around Aspen for a long time. He has worked tirelessly for years on countless committees and he helped build the ARC. His mention of a "master switch" for all the empty mansions in Aspen to help curb their needless power usage deserves further discussion, because we all should our energy consumption to elimintate waste.
The City Council election has only 4 people running for 2 open spots.
Art Daily was not in attendance.
Ann Mullins is clearly pro-environment. Her experience with urban design and planning would serve Aspen well on City Council. She is a new face on the Aspen political scene, but she seems clear headed and strong. It probably would be good to have a Woman's voice on council again. I like her.
Dwayne Romero is a war hero and a graduate of West Point and he has an MBA from Harvard. On paper he's unbelievable. But for me, it's hard to overlook the fact that he previously left his elected post on City Council to take a big title job with the State of Colorado. That part would have been OK had he not left that new position within 6 months. It was a bad decision and he admits that. I realize people make mistakes and I forgive him, so I'm glad he was able to reclaim his position of President of Related Colorado in Snowmass. The fact that he voted thumbs-up for every development project that crossed his council desk (including the divisive Aspen Art Museum deal) also gives me reason to pause.
Jonny Carlson is a good times guy. I've seen him at the parties and the bars. He's a funny guy...and he brings a little GONZO to the table. Is he cut out for politics?? I don't think so. Jonny's candidacy is reminiscent of days gone by in Aspen when the freaks challenged the establishment. If Jonny, or someone like him, understood the issues and took their role seriously...I think he or she would have a chance. I believe the voters are looking for fresh perspective.
So there you have it. My 2 cents. I'll be voting early and often...you should too. You decide.