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ISSUE #133: 2017 EndorsemANTs  4/11/2017

"Democracy is a device which ensures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve."  
                 --  George Bernard Shaw


This season's yawner of a municipal election is a mail-only ballot one.  If you are a voter in the City of Aspen, your ballot was mailed to you yesterday, April 10.  Look for it.  Open it.  Don't dilly dally. Vote.  Be done with it.
This is an incredibly uninspiring election.  There are no issues to decide, just the opportunity to vote for Mayor and two Council seats.  Expect VERY low voter turnout, as much a result of the apathetic Aspen voter as a relatively apathetic slate, which, somewhat ironically, makes your vote even more impactful and therefore important.  So remember, in my opinion, no matter how boring the choices, the act of voting upholds your right to complain about the outcome!!  Don't lose that!! 
And whatever you do, DO NOT throw your ballot away at the post office.  Mail ballot elections are ripe for voter fraud.  If you choose not to vote, please destroy your ballot.
Incumbent Mayor Steve Skadron is running for his third and final term against Lee Mulcahy - artist, property manager, taxi driver, substitute teacher and local agitator.  In the Council race, laconically-inclined incumbents Ann Mullins and Art Daily seek re-election, but are being challenged by long-time local business owner and civic volunteer Ward Hauenstein, "whiny millennial" posterboy and self-promoting activist and organizer Skippy (yes, that's his real name) Mesirow, tennis-teaching former councilman Torre (like a phoenix he rises from the ashes), and PhD/artist and Mulcahy affililiate, Sue Tatem.
A strange Aspen pathology infects us all during election season.  It seems that when discussing candidates for office, one MUST preface all comments with the statement, "He/she is a good guy/gal...."  Fine.  Thank you to all 8 candidates for throwing your hats into the ring.  It takes a lot of guts.  I am certain that you are ALL "good guys and gals" by Aspen standards.
When endorsing candidates, The Red Ant prefers to focus on policy issues over personalities, track records instead of propaganda statements, and leadership acumen over self-promoting schmooze.  I've learned the hard way that sometimes even the nicest guy or gal isn't the best candidate for elected office.  But now I am officially on the record with the "good guys/gals" thing.  Moving right along....
  • The mayor must be elected with 50% + 1 of the votes cast on May 2. There are two candidates and one position up for grabs. There will be no run-off election for mayor.
  • Council candidates, on the other hand, must garner 45% + 1 of the votes cast on May 2 in order to be elected on the first ballot to one of the two open seats.  
  • Now this is important. Because there are two positions up for election in the council race as opposed to just one in the mayor's race, "votes cast" shall be calculated by dividing the sum of all votes cast for all city council candidates by 2.  With 6 candidates running for two seats, there is a STRONG likelihood of a run-off.
  • Run-off election option 1: On May 2, if only one council candidate passes the 45% +1 threshold, that candidate is elected to the first open seat, and the next two council candidates with the highest number of votes advance to a run-off on June 6, when each elector may cast only one vote.  The candidate with the highest number of votes on June 6 wins the second open seat.
  • Run-off election option 2: On May 2, if no council candidate reaches the 45% + 1 threshold, the four highest vote-getters advance to the run-off on June 6, where each elector may cast two votes.  The two highest vote-getters win the two open seats.
  • If needed, and it likely will be, the run-off election is Tuesday, June 6.  Ballots will be mailed out by May 22 with early voting beginning that same day at City Hall.  
  • If you know you are going to be out of town on June 6 and likely will miss receipt of your mail-in run-off ballot, please refer to the city clerk's website for more info HERE.  Questions?  970-429-2685
If you read no further, you will miss out on excerpts from each candidate's responses to The Red Ant's 2017 Candidate Questionnaire -- AND my rationale for endorsing the candidate(s) who I feel will best represent us with thoughtful, pragmatic and informed decisions, while looking at the bigger picture, in order to combat Aspen's ever-present nemesis, the Law of Unintended Consequences, lurking in every shadow and around every turn.  But for this 2017 election, if I am honest with myself -- and you -- if you stop now, you really aren't missing anything - it's a boring election and The Red Ant's ONLYendorsement is Ward Hauenstein for Council. Period.
That's right. No endorsement for Mayor. I cannot support either candidate. And no endorsement for the second Council seat either. Neither of the incumbents have dazzled me, in fact they just make me tired. I wish there was some excitement in this race, but so far I haven't seen any. 
Furthermore, for the first time in history, a candidate has flipped the bird at The Red Ant readership by not submitting answers to the candidate questionnaire.  Heck, it happens to me personally from time to time so I can take it.  But what Skippy Mesirow is really doing is telling you - my 2500 readers - where to put it.  Is it arrogance?   Indifference?  Hubris?  Probably all three.  But whatever you do, just don't vote for Skippy Mesirow. He doesn't want your vote.
I have long espoused the benefits of what's called "bullet voting."  This is a process that makes it more likely that your desired candidate will be elected when running for one of several openings (in our case, two) amidst a field of competitors.  The theory is to vote for just your favorite candidate, thereby boosting your candidate's total by one with a sole "bullet" vote.  By not voting for a second candidate although you are permitted to, you are reducing the number of votes used to calculate the 45% threshold for victory while increasing only your candidate's individual vote total. 

It's just math. And strategy. And there's nothing fuzzy or improper about doing this to get your desired candidate elected. "Bullet voting" merely causes your candidate's likelihood of garnering one of the two open council seats to increase disproportionately to the likelihood of other candidates getting the same result.

In this year's tedious excuse for an election, The Red Ant advocates a "bullet vote" for Ward Hauenstein.  

If you employ this voting strategy, Ward has a solid shot of being elected in the first round on May 2 (with at least 45% + 1 vote). That is the goal.  Simply put, we need to get Ward in on the first ballot, especially with two incumbents running for re-election amidst a crowded and competitive field.  To get Ward on council in the first round gives us one "friendly," and by that I mean thoughtful, prepared, even-handed, interested, principled and approachable.  The field will then be democratically narrowed for a June 6 run-off for the second council seat, and we will cross that bridge when we get there.

Yep, Ward is my guy.  We met as election commissioners amidst the Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV) brou-ha-ha in 2010 and have been collaborators, co-conspirators, respectful adversaries and friends ever since.  This is not to imply that we always agree - we don't.  But we have a seven-year-long running dialog about all things Aspen, and have worked to understand each other's viewpoints when we come at things differently.  We seek each other out on the issues, as much due to mutual respect as to learn.  Ward is a trusted confidante who always listens before making a decision.  We teamed up to defeat the Hydro Plant in 2012, and when he led the anti-variance bandwagon as it related to the Base 2 hotel project in 2015 and later championed Referendum 1 which amended the Charter to legally stop the "variance" trend, I didn't necessarily agree with him, but based on his sound reasoning and consensus building, I modified my stance to a mere lukewarm opposition.  (Simply put, he made a lot of sense -- and took the pulse of the community to heart.)  
When he prevailed, I smiled.  He'd done it again.  He showed up (as he always does), made the case, worked tirelessly toward his goal, built yet another diverse coalition and whooped the opposition at the polls.  And no spiking the football for Ward.  That just isn't his style.  It was simply on to the next thing he cares about, including, most recently, an impassioned desire to find a legally binding method to protect local small businesses from predatory "clients" who blow into town and stiff the locals when bills for their services come due.  He knows all about it firsthand, owning a respected small computer company that serves many businesses here. 
As a 40-year resident, Ward has seen and lived through the changes in Aspen.  He is known for acknowledging the reality that "the only constant is change."  This is not at all to imply that he is pushing for change for change's sake; quite the opposite.  It's just that he is a responsible realist, and strives to deal with substantive issues in a substantive manner.  It will shock Aspen's political system to have a representative who listens as completely and cares as deeply up there at the council table.  

I have long encouraged my friend to take his interest in and commitment to Aspen civic matters to the next level by running for elected office.  Now is the time.  We need his insight.  We will benefit from his thoughtfulness.  Let's get Ward elected on the first ballot.  Please join me in "bullet voting" for Ward Hauenstein.
The Red Ant sent each of the candidates a questionnaire several weeks ago that touches on what I consider issues of the day.  I am thankful to 7 of the 8 candidates for their time spent on these questions.  YOU deserve to hear from each of them in their own words.  My 12 questions follow, with excerpts and snippets from the individual responses.   (The candidates' full and unedited responses are linked at the end of this issue.)  And, I know, it's truly remarkable how several of these candidates could not manage to actually answer the questions asked.  I'm really not sure why.  Can't read?  Don't understand?  Don't care?  You decide.  
1.  Please describe specific experience from your (professional) career that has impacted/influenced you in such a way that it contributes to your qualifications to be a City Council member.
ART DAILY: It's time to put what I've learned during my first term to work.  I believe I bring a balance to the council, which can be a meaningful contribution in a strong-minded community.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: I started my computer business over thirty years ago.  There was no internet.  Computers came with DOS 1 and dual floppy disk drives.  Windows were in your house or car.  Every step of advancement I have adapted to, learned, absorbed and moved forward.  I had to discern what technology to support and how to integrate it to solve the business needs of my clients.  The first step is to identify the problem.  I start with what is the desired outcome.  Then I work through how to get there.  I have had to think outside the box because the box was not yet invented.  The challenges the city of Aspen faces now and in the future require the same rational and logical assessment of problems and solutions.
LEE MULCAHY: My vision of Aspen is a place where its community members still shake hands even if we disagree, of one where artists aren't evicted from their self-built homes and where whistleblowers aren't banned from public lands for passing out a living wage flyer.  I promise to be the voice of the working man, of the community, of freedom and liberty.
ANN MULLINS: The accumulation of business experience (as a landscape architect and urban designer) through upturns and downturns, and the experience and knowledge gained through working on numerous different projects in many different places has affected my role as a council member.
STEVE SKADRON:  I have an MBA, experience in the corporate world, and a successful entrepreneurial record creating a thriving small business. 
SUE TATEM:  I attended CU (biology), Rice U (graduate work), UT Austin (PhD), NIH (postdoctoral fellow), and was a professor of biology at Temple U for 22 years. I have published 4 science books and other nonfiction about Michener. I am a plein air artist with a studio in the Red Brick.  I have experience writing and reviewing grants, administering a laboratory, budgeting and public speaking.
TORRE: I have a broad range of work history here (snowboard instructor, race crew, concierge, retail manager, waiter, bartender, restaurant manager, construction, maintenance, housecleaning, tennis teacher) that has given me a great perspective on the lives of Aspenites and our visitors, and the challenges we face.  I have also learned the business and personal skills from these jobs to understand hard work, team work, economics, decision making, negotiations, collaboration, leadership and other skills that make a good representative.
2.  In your opinion, what is the single most important issue facing the city today? How would you approach dealing with this issue?
ART DAILY: The single most important issue facing our town today has remained unchanged since the mining days - how well do we watch over and take care of one another, and how thoughtfully do we protect and preserve our natural environment.  Let's do all we can to understand and to support the values and principles set forth in the Aspen Area Community Plan - and to improve upon them when feasible.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: Forced to name one thing, I would say sustainability.  What threatens the sustainability of Aspen?  Congestion, traffic, over-development, workforce housing and parking are all issues individually worthy of being the most important issue Aspen faces.  To focus on any one without seeing the connection between them is short-sighted and will produce solutions but not solve problems.  Beware of simple solutions.  The duty of city council is to set policy.  My approach to setting policy will be to view all through the lens of sustainability.  City council must make decisions that will ensure that Aspen will survive and thrive economically, while preserving it as a desired place to live for locals.  My approach will be to solicit divergent voices to fully explore the challenges and possible ways to assuage them.
LEE MULCAHY: The bigger the government, the less the liberty. The growth of the city of Aspen is the single most important issue facing the city. If elected, I would: fire the city manager and pass a city hiring freeze, curb local government's unrestrained growth by killing the "Taj Mahal" office building, and pass a property tax cut.
ANN MULLINS: Climate change and its effects.  Aspen city council must take an active role in protecting our environment and meeting the needs of our people.

STEVE SKADRON:  Aspen is drowning in automobiles. I want to leave the transit landscape forever changedby providing viable alternatives to cars, and building on technologies that are not reliant on more lanes and more parking garages in town.

SUE TATEM:  Transportation in and out of Aspen, difficulties on 82 and parking in the city.  I would attempt to address this by gathering all responsible parties and soliciting suggestions from citizens.
TORRE: The most important issue facing the city is this council election.  We have seen a disconnect most evidenced by the repeated citizen referenda on council decisions.  I was disappointed by the power plant process, the failed lodging incentive package, a land use code rewrite that discourages affordable housing downtown, and the recent dam and reservoir applications.
 3.  There is widespread belief that fraud and abuse are rampant in our subsidized housing program.  Do you see this as a problem?  Do you support an independent and comprehensive audit of the entire APCHA subsidized housing program portfolio that would clearly determine:
a)   What do we have in our inventory?
b)   What is the physical condition of each unit?
c) Who specifically lives there?
d)  Do they comply?
Why or why not?  If yes, will you commit to furthering this as a Top 10 Council Priority for 2017?  If not, why not?
ART DAILY: I'm not part of the "widespread belief that fraud and abuse are rampant in our subsidized housing program," but it may be that I simply don't know enough about it and I definitely want to understand the situation better.  Hence, I do support an independent and comprehensive audit of the program and its portfolio.  It can only serve to make the program more fair, more up to date, and better understood, and I do support making such an audit one of the council's top 10 goals for 2017.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: Workforce housing is perhaps the largest single asset the city and county own.  We paved the way in workforce housing.  It is vitally important that we dedicate our energies to address abuse and optimization in the program. I do support an independent and comprehensive audit of the program.  With information in hand, we can determine to what degree abuse and fraud exist.  Top 10 goal, yes.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, yes and yes.  As mayor I would propose an independent commission to investigate the cronyism and corruption at the Housing Department.
ANN MULLINS: One of the next Top Ten Goals will be a comprehensive review of the Affordable Housing Program to address assets, non-compliance and aging inventory.

STEVE SKADRON: Important topic, but I disagree with the general premise. While there are problems, the belief that there is rampant fraud and abuse is overblown. Yes, I'm willing to look at all of it and make improvements to the program as a Top 10 priority.

SUE TATEM: The suspicion of employee housing was the second most mentioned issue when I was collecting signatures.  Most of the employees are afraid to speak out. Definitely top ten.
TORRE: Yes, any distrust or compliance issues can undermine the effectiveness of our housing program.  An accurate inventory of our housing can only help us plan for future needs, opportunities and adaptability to changing circumstances.
4.  As it currently stands, those who purchase subsidized housing units (categories 1-7) from APCHA have no "skin in the game" because they do not pay the 1.5% Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT).  Recall, the funds raised by the RETT go toward the subsidized housing fund (1%) and the Wheeler Opera House (0.5%).  Given that the average 2016 APCHA-brokered sale was $318,000, (making the hypothetical average RETT contribution from these sales $4770) would you support subjecting all future purchases of subsidized housing to the 1.5% RETT along the lines of "What's good for the goose is good for the gander"?  Why or why not?
ART DAILY: I'm not persuaded as yet that such a requirement would be consistent with the principles of subsidized housing.  We're trying to make this housing as financially accessible as possible to qualified buyers.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: Yes, I think workforce housing purchases should be subject to the RETT.  I think it is fair.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, I would, for the common sense reason you state: "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."  Local government is drunk with power and frankly, out of control.
ANN MULLINS: This question and other specific questions will be better answered after we complete the comprehensive assessment of the housing program.

STEVE SKADRON: No, I don't support AH transactions paying the RETT. It simply makes affordable housing more expensive and places an additional burden on a workforce we are trying house.

SUE TATEM: I don't fully understand the complexity of this one and wondered why the Wheeler is getting any of it.
TORRE: I will be willing to have this conversation if elected.  I do know there are other areas for improvement in the facilitation of buying and selling AH units.  I foresee our housing program landing on the Top 10 goals for this coming year.
5.  There is no Council oversight of actual spending by the city.  In most other cities (and especially given our $100+ million annual budget), there is a Council designee or committee that reviews each "payables" batch with the city finance director (or designee) prior to the issuance of payments.  This would typically be a printout of payables, sorted by size and vendor.  The Council designee or committee would review this list and could ask for backup on any proposed payment to review the details of any transaction to sample city spending and ensure it is in line with Council's budget policy approvals, and as a way to limit wasteful staff-driven discretionary spending.  Would you favor the implementation of such an oversight role?  Why or why not?
ART DAILY: I have no reason to believe that the city is a victim of "wasteful staff-driven discretionary spending."  That being said, I do think the budget process and the council's understanding thereof (and public confidence therein) could benefit from an up-to-date analysis and summary from the city manager's office of council's role in the process.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: Our governmental structure is a strong city manager, weak council. By charter, council directs staff through the city manager. I believe council needs to give the city manager specific expectations and trust him to implement them.  With expectations in place, accountability is possible.  I do not advocate council micro-managing staff.  I would support random audits where wasteful spending is suspected.  If wasteful spending is found, the city manager is responsible.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, transparency and sunshine are the best disinfectant for government policy.  Cronyism and corruption run rampant in our city manager-dominated local government.
ANN MULLINS: Currently city council reviews any expense over $25,000.  And of course, council can review any expenditure at any time.

STEVE SKADRON: Every contract over $25k is reviewed by the city council. This is council oversight of actual spending and I've insisted that this policy be maintained.

SUE TATEM: I would like to have oversight of the spending and might do that or be on the committee myself if I'm elected because I have experience checking on expenditures.
TORRE: I think that budget transparency is a top three goal.  There should be more discussions throughout the year instead of just end-of-year budget sessions.  A citizen budget committee would be a good way to involve the public and get more eyes on the issue.
6.  The current council has approved the potential future construction of large reservoirs in the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys. The necessary final decision would merely take a majority of Council (3 votes) to approve what would be considered an administrative matter.  As such, there is no possible citizen recourse to reverse the decision.  Do you favor a change to the Aspen City Charter that would require a vote of the citizens to approve the construction of a dam or dams in the Castle and/or Maroon Creek valleys, or at the very least, make the decision a legislative one that could be subject to citizen over-ride if desired?  Why or why not?
ART DAILY: For the past 45 years or so, the then-sitting council has supported a continuing effort on the part of the city to maintain diligence for two conditional water storage rights in the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys.  In 2016, council directed staff to implement certain water management measures to improve resiliency against future climate change impacts.  I don't think anyone on the council has any current desire to build the subject dams.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: One of my stated top three goals is to ensure that if a future council approves the construction of a dam on either or both Maroon or Castle Creeks that the citizens have to approve construction via a vote.  I favor changing the Charter to require a dam vote.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, at the very least.  Say "no" to dams at the Maroon Bells.  If you care about conservation, wilderness, healthy rivers or our rural lifestyle, you need look no further than the mayor and the incumbent council's plans to build a pair of 15-story dams in the shadow of the world-famous Maroon Bells as reason to clean out city hall. Get the dam plans off the books.
ANN MULLINS: The Aspen city council has not approved the potential future construction of large reservoirs, but has submitted an application to protect the conditional water rights of the city of Aspen.

STEVE SKADRON:  Wrong. Citizens do have recourse. They can recall or not re-elect a councilmember. Any decision on actual construction of dams requires more than one election cycle.

SUE TATUM: I have not seen the full "use" planned for the reservoirs. Are they to be available for recreation? Will they be drained every year leaving ugly mud? There should be an opportunity for citizen override.
TORRE: Dam No!  Dam Never!
7.  The proposal for Gorsuch Haus, a new hotel at the top of South Aspen Street, is likely to be one of the first matters of business for the new Council.  Do you support this project and what it will bring to the western portal of Aspen Mountain?  Why or why not?
ART DAILY: I've been conflicted from participating in Gorsuch Haus deliberations because of my partnership status un the law firm that represents the applicant.  At the end of 2016 I retired as a partner and if re-elected I plan to consult with the city attorney regarding my ability to participate in Gorsuch Haus matters.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: The latest submission of Gorsuch Haus (GH) is stunningly beautiful.  I think this hotel would be a treasure for Aspen, however issues still remain to be resolved. The challenge of getting people from Dean Street to GH remains unresolved to my satisfaction. The current council gave away a portion of Aspen Street to the approved lodges on the east side of the street.  This short-sighted decision combined with the Dolinsek agreement makes a people mover to the base difficult at best.  Piecemeal decisions do not serve the community well.  An integral solution considers not only the building but also the lift alignment, getting people to GH and the historic character of the area.  If elected, I will work for a complete solution that considers all the above-mentioned factors.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, I do.  The time for Gorsuch Haus has come.
ANN MULLINS: Since this is an active application, I cannot speak specifically about it.

STEVE SKADRON: I support efforts to move the lift the lower, make a great public space and modify the building size.

SUE TATEM: I am not yet familiar with the Gorsuch Haus project enough to comment yet.
TORRE: I am supportive of a new lift and the appropriate services that it can support.  There are still many unanswered questions.  South Aspen Street is undergoing many changes. We need to get all the players in the room together and resolve the vision for this side of the mountain.
8.  Do you support the new Chain Store Regulation ordinance?  Why or why not?  Please describe how you see this impacting opportunities for locals to open downtown businesses, as well as how you see it affecting commercial lease rates.
ART DAILY: The new chain store regulation is modest in its language and in its anticipated impact.  I supported it for the simple reason that I believe it sends a message that Aspen cares about the make-up of its retail environment and that high end exclusivity is not a community objective.  Hopefully it will serve to encourage a more balanced mix of retail uses and will over time improve opportunities for locals to engage in downtown businesses.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: I believe it is symbolic only.  I think it creates a false sense of hope.  Attempts to control the free market largely meet with more unintended consequences than real benefits.  The ordinance attempts to place blame on chain stores for change that some do not want to accept.  The only constant is change.  I see this ordinance doing nothing to decrease rents.  Locals on a shoestring budget will find it very difficult to open businesses in the core, chain store or not.
LEE MULCAHY: No, I do not support it.  Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."  As a libertarian, I believe the less the government interferes in the free market, the better.
ANN MULLINS: I was unable to be at the city council meeting where the final version was reviewed and voted on.  I had questions that would have informed my final vote, some of which were unanswered, so I don't know what my final decision would have been.

STEVE SKADRON: The goals it set out to achieve were meritorious.

SUE TATEM: I would rather have chain stores than empty storefronts.
TORRE: I do support the ordinance, but keep in mind there are other missed opportunities that this council failed to act on that predicated this action.  We still need action on other opportunities for local businesses and diversity support.
9.  Please describe a recent decision by the Mayor that you did not agree with, and why.  (Mayor Skadron, please describe a recent decision that you regret, and why.)
ART DAILY: I supported the One-Roof City Hall solution (the Galena option).  The mayor supported the Three-Roof solution, including continued use of the Armory building.  This was the prevailing solution.  I had a range of reasons for my perspective on the issue, including a significantly lower cost, less construction time and risk, lower traffic and parking impacts, and greater efficiency and effectiveness as a municipal headquarters.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: I did not agree with the mayor placing the chain store issue on the city council agenda.  I question the process the ordinance took getting to council.  It came from a member of the public, not from staff or anyone on council. The proponents said put it on the agenda or we will via a citizen petition. I would have told the proponents to go ahead and get the signatures, stand in the cold and do the work.  This decision by the mayor sets a precedent.
LEE MULCAHY: Wasteful spending and uncontrolled government development.  The mayor's empire building now includes a 45'9" tall "Taj Mahal" city office building. (It's awesome to be the city so you can erect a 17' taller building than anyone else!) Transparency and secret executive sessions.  The cronyism and corruption displayed by the mayor and city manager create much of the divisiveness from people feeling they're completely shut out from the non-transparent process.
ANN MULLINS: I supported the one-roof option for city hall.  The three-roof option was approved instead and the mayor cast one of the supporting votes.

STEVE SKADRON: I regret letting the Powerhouse decision take as long as it did. In retrospect, I would have set a hard deadline sooner, say 3 months.

SUE TATEM: I was very unhappy and blamed the mayor for the fiasco with the Power House.  If the city needs space, they should have kept it to begin with.  The nonprofits competed and then had the rug pulled out from under them for the awful idea of a beer garden.
TORRE: I disagreed with the approval of the new city hall on Rio Grande.  I thought that the mayor and council members should have defined the office and space allocations better and reinforced that the mayor's office and managers should remain in the Armory building that currently houses them.
10.            Please evaluate the current City Council's job of holding the city manager accountable for running the city, given the numerous scandals (parking, hydro plant, fiscal irresponsibility, lack of transparency, subsidized housing favoritism and abuse, etc.) that keep occurring on his watch.  He has just completed Year 7 of his 10-year, $170K+/year contract.  In your opinion, can anything Barwick has done be considered "gross negligence" or "malfeasance"?  How can Council improve in its duty to supervise the city manager?  What steps should the new Council take in the next 2 years to prepare for replacing the city manager in 2020 when his contract is up or conducting the proper public review and evaluation for offering him a new contract?
ART DAILY:  I believe Steve Barwick does a good job for the community in his role as city manager.  He receives periodic reviews from city council, including most recently in January of this year.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: The city manager must be given expectations.  Without these, the city manager cannot really be held accountable.  I met with the mayor 2.5 years ago and asked city council to put these in place.  His reply was that nobody had ever done that.  It needs to be done. I do not believe in witch hunts but I do believe in accountability.  If elected to city council I will do everything in my power to put expectations in place.
LEE MULCAHY: Yes, council should put the city manager's office "on notice."  If elected, I would explore steps on reducing the city manager's power.
ANN MULLINS: The health of the city is a reflection of its council and city manager, and the council continually judges the effectiveness of the city manager in maintaining the well-being of the city.

STEVE SKADRON: The premise of the question is false and unfair. Council evaluates the city manager appropriately. We think he does an excellent job. Consistency at the city manager's position is a challenge for many cities. We're fortunate to have a qualified, hard working, professional serving the Aspen's interests.

SUE TATEM: I am supposed to meet with the city manager and have not yet done so.
TORRE: I think there is a lack of accountability on our current council.  We need a better system of communication and oversight on the managers' offices. I look forward to working with council and staff to mend the broken chain of responsibility.
11.            With the abundance of marijuana shops and their significant financial impacts on the local commercial real estate landscape as well as the city's sales tax revenue, which of the existing "pot shops" should be held up as the gold standard for future pot shops in town?  (I asked this question to gauge the knowledge, experience and exposure of the candidates to the burgeoning "pot" industry in Aspen.)
ART DAILY: While I wish I could say otherwise, I'm simply not in a position to judge which of the existing pot shops in town meet the "gold standard" for future pot operations.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: I am not an expert on pot shops.  I do however know that they are closely regulated.  I did discuss pot shops with the chief of police.  Based on that, I feel comfortable that pot shops are safe and that is my main concern.
LEE MULCAHY: Honestly, I don't know.  But my most important concern is that we as a community discourage and make it very difficult for young people to access cannabis.  The problem for tourists is the prohibitions from smoking cannabis in public or in local accommodations.  If elected, I would support legalization of cannabis clubs.
ANN MULLINS: Currently there are seven shops in town and one more approved, but not open yet.  They are all strictly regulated and all compliant with the city ordinance.

STEVE SKADRON: Generally, all shops have met the letter of the law and have been good corporate citizens.

SUE TATEM: I did not vote for marijuana legalization nor have I ever been in any pot shop.
TORRE: I have not done a shop-by-shop comparison.  I do support the valley wide organization - Valley Marijuana Council - and their initiatives for safe, educational, informed pot sales.
12.            Please describe your latest and greatest experience in the past 12 months at any one of the following local establishments: (I asked this question to understand the experience of the candidates at popular and lively establishments frequented by our tourist guests as a gauge of how they relate to contemporary Aspen visitors.)
  • Ajax Tavern
  • Bootsy Bellows
  • Belly Up
  • Cloud 9
  • Cache Cache
  • Matsuhisa
  • Caribou Club
  • Campo De Fiori
ART DAILY: Matsuhisa is my son Rider's favorite restaurant in town.  He loves the sushi.  Some of my own most memorable experiences took place in the Pub and similar outlets, all long gone.
WARD HAUENSTEIN: I really enjoy people in an atmosphere conducive to conversation, so I would say the greatest experience at the listed spots was a dinner with my wife and three other people at Cache Cache.  After involvement in one of the issues I was deeply engaged in, I became estranged from a friend of 30 years.  At this dinner we started talking again.  In a way it was a therapy session with great food.  I believe people should be able to disagree and still be friends.
LEE MULCAHY: Bootsy Bellows - Fantastic. Went to an African fundraiser - always a blast.  Belly Up - Attended several fundraisers, reasonable prices at the bar and great service!  Cache Cache - love the bar menu and the atmosphere, a lot of the servers are longtime friends.  Caribou Club - great music.
ANN MULLINS: Belly Up - Clint Black concert a few years ago.

STEVE SKADRON: Cloud 9 for a birthday party. Yep, I danced on chairs and was sprayed with champagne. But I kept my clothes on.

SUE TATEM: I have not been in any of the establishments in the last 12 months, though I did dine in some of them in years past.  I am sorry to lose Little Annie's, the Wienerstube, McDonald's and the Main Street Bakery.
TORRE: Ajax Tavern - I had a great late lunch with friends on the deck after skiing.  Bootsy Bellows - Snoop Dog just came through for what seemed like 3 days.  Belly Up - the Aspen Cares benefit.  Cloud 9 - A quick beer and lunch on the deck, and back to the lifts!  Cache Cache - Yum! I have cut down from almost once a week to once a month. Campo De Fiori - Adam's birthday, details not available.


SKADRON: Steve and I don't agree on much.  Whether it's his unabashed support for city manager Steve Barwick who effectively leads him and the current council around by their noses, past advocacy for the hydro plant (which I always fear might again rear its ugly head), anti-car zealotry, lack of understanding of (and support for) the issue of dams of Castle and Maroon Creeks, lack of confident leadership, closed mind and inability to even contemplate the other side, "godfather" role in the failed "brewery at the Old Power House" decision and eventual retraction, and recent Land Use Code re-write that courts the Law of Unintended Consequences with VIP tickets to Aspen's hospitality tent, simply put, we see the governance of Aspen through very different lenses.
A walking contradiction, Steve, as echoed in his campaign materials, espouses an improvement to our subsidized housing program with better management and controls, yet his answers to the questionnaire illustrate his lack of acknowledgment and acceptance of the very real problems that exist.  He talks a lot about vitality and small town character, yet supports ardent no growth legislation that only serves to further restrict development and drive costs (of everything) upward, not the least of which are barriers to entry for locally serving (and owned) small businesses.  Steve's desire for "a healthy resort-community balance" prioritizes an enormous new city hall development higher than a well-founded vision for the future of the western portal of Aspen Mountain.  In other words, none of it makes basic common sense.
As consolation (because his third term is all but assured), Steve has been far more of a gentleman than his predecessor, Mick Ireland.  We often share a laugh on the Hunter Creek bus which we both take to the lifts.  While set in his ways and rarely open to new ideas, at least he's not a flat out jerk about it.
ART:  Thanks for your service, Art, but it's time to go.  This well-known and well-respected local attorney with a compelling personal story was elected to council four years ago by employing a strategy of minimal campaigning and guarded public responses.  It should then come as no surprise that Art kept his viewpoints to himself in order to get elected, and today, his political gestalt remains a mystery.  He never brought forth new ideas nor legislation, and rarely coughed out a remark. He is also well known for never responding to emails.  Art's palpable disinterest for his role was astonishing to witness, but not nearly as astonishing as his unexpected decision to run for re-election. Art is a big City Manager fan, clueless about the chain store regulation impacts, and, being a lawyer, it's remarkable his lack of understanding of the whole Castle/Maroon Creek "dam" issue.**
ANN:  Thanks, Ann, for your service.  Now it's someone else's turn. Like Art, Ann favors a decision solely by council on the dams** matter, illustrative of a blindness to all pursuits seemingly environmental and complete lack of understanding of the issue at hand.  The former Historic Preservation Commission chair represents a "same old, same old" ideology and "bring back the quiet years" constituency that do not accurately represent the evolving needs and values of our community.
** Dams: The three incumbents just don't get it.  By deciding to "maintain the conditional rights" to build the dams, the city has filed papers with the state representing its intent to build the dams.  But politically (and in the questionnaire), Steve, Ann and Art are less emphatic about building them.  That's not the point.  LEGALLY, to maintain the right to build the dams you must intend to build them.  You told the state you do intend to, but you told voters the opposite.  So, which is it?  FISCALLY, this puts the city in the position to defend itself against no less than 10 entities that are challenging the city's intent - because one does not exist.  We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum that are going to be spent cleaning up this mess.  And these three don't even understand what it is they agreed on.  Good grief!
I had originally planned to suggest you check the "use by" date on Torre, who has twice served on city council in the past.  I had planned to point out, "Expired."  And while I have strategically supported Torre in the past (as a potential foil to Mick when he attempted a comeback in 2015), I viewed his current candidacy, in short, as one word, just like his name: NO.  But alas, context is everything.  We don't agree on much.  Never did.  But given the competitive set and my hopes of defeating both council incumbents, Torre just may be the man to watch.  I still advocate a "bullet vote" for Ward to get him in with the first ballot, but if Torre advances to the run-off, I promise a hard look at how his past decisions and vision for Aspen's future might just work for us.  Stay tuned.
I certainly don't dislike Lee.  But I cannot support his candidacy.  We all make decisions in this world and fall on the swords of our choosing.  Lee has his reasons for taking on SkiCo, the Aspen Art Museum and the Housing Authority, and whether or not you believe him or support him or avoid him, he feels aggrieved and has sought remedy in both the court of public opinion as well as the courthouse.  He'll fill your inbox with his cases and reasons for fighting for what he feels is his, but unfortunately it's not just the facts that matter, tactics do too.  His troubles with each of the aforementioned entities are now in the courts, and I only wish that each grievance had been addressed differently.  Lee is nothing if not committed, and has thrown his hat into many rings beyond just these local "fights": school board, state office, and now the mayoral race.  It's a shame that so many past controversies and transgressions will likely forever color his name, but I am grateful for his interest in and thoughts on local matters, and willingness to try to make a difference.  He has some very good ideas.  I've told Lee that a little contrition can go a long way.  And I hope that somehow he and his adversaries can come to agreements where the vitriol ends and life in Aspen for Lee can resume anew.  His would be a valuable voice in the public square, but unfortunately today it is still distorted by the chaos that surrounds him.
With an interesting and diverse background, Sue would certainly bring a new perspective to council, however, she comes across as woefully uninformed on local issues.  The Red Ant likes to encourage people to become civically involved and hopes that Sue pursues a volunteer commission post in the near future.  There is a lot to be said for enthusiasm, so it would be terrific for an aspiring elected representative to dive in and gain local political experience this way.  Sue, I hope we haven't heard the last from you.
All hat, no cattle. There is no lack of charm, energy and enthusiasm from the current P&Z chairman and joiner of numerous community organizations primarily targeted to Aspen's millennial constituency (See Issue #129) who vows to "rebuild trust in government" and "create a more livable Aspen."  I recently spent an hour with him.  Questioned about the nature of the "distrust" and specifics on his "livability" concerns, and pressed to describe detailed ideas for real-world solutions, the candidate was vague - and intentionally so. Instead, I got a host of flowery platitudes and a glittery view of utopian Aspen from 20,000'.  There are large doses of either naivety or intent to manipulate.  A self-described "community builder" and "connector," Skippy has a proven record of gathering folks together.  To what end, I am still not entirely sure, and I worry A LOT about form over function.  I am troubled by his idealistic sense of how the world works. 
"Professionally," Skippy is the creative director of Aspen Entrepreneurs, a newly-formed non-profit that seeks to educate and support entrepreneurs and local businesses.  Sounds noble enough, so imagine my astonishment at the group's vision of Aspen as "a shared city, a place with thriving, vibrant, profitable local businesses, where we treat each other as family, invest in one another, live the Aspen Idea, and prioritize health and happiness.  We believe in inclusion, collaboration, big hugs, #givefirst, open doors, long hikes and powder days, because we know it makes us better, stronger, healthier and more profitable." WHAT?!? REALLY?!?  I laughed out loud. Furthermore, I just can't sign on to his belief that "direct democracy doesn't work" and "the whole concept of democracy is in question." (It's actually rather shocking coming from someone who is running for a democratically elected office!!  And it calls into question not democracy, rather the candidate's intentions.)
Skippy no doubt loves Aspen, and really wants us to become a more integrated and diverse community.  He's not at all opposed to the government's role as social engineer, as long as it stems from a diverse mix of people coming together, discussing, interacting and determining the make-up of the community we want to be and what that would take ("actionable goals"), then deciding if and how we make that happen - the classic utopian myth that community is synonymous with consensus (it is not).  Personally, I'm much more concerned with tangible hot-button issues on planet earth, such as the Gorsuch Haus debate - arguably the most important issue facing a new council in the immediate term, and one that, incidentally, Skippy's current role on P&Z precludes him from participating in. 
Skippy's flamboyant rhetoric is FAR too "kumbaya" for a town of 6000 with pressing development, traffic and housing issues, not to mention an annual budget surpassing $100 million.  Besides, the social engineering focus makes me nauseous. But, there is much to be said for the personal brand Skippy has successfully built for himself, ironically without saying much at all.
But, again, by opting not to submit his answers to The Red Ant's candidate questionnaire, you know that Skippy does not want your vote. Based on this alone, do him - and the city of Aspen - a favor: Don't even think about voting for Skippy!

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