The political tone in Aspen has changed for the worse as of late, according to City Councilman Torre, who announced his mayoral candidacy Monday and stated that he hopes to encourage more “community unity.”
The two-term councilman, elected to the four-year post in 2003 and 2009, has ran unsuccessfully for mayor three times before — in 2001, 2005 and 2007. Now 43, Torre, who only uses one name, said he wants to bring his “energy, enthusiasm and hope for the future to the mayor’s seat.”
The election is on May 7, and Torre joins fellow council members Steve Skadron and Adam Frisch in the race for the two-year term. Councilman Derek Johnson also is considering a run for mayor. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote in May, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff a month later. There also are two council seats up for grabs in the election, although just one candidate has announced so far — local lawyer Art Daily.
Torre’s main campaign platforms, according to a statement he released Monday, are “prosperity and opportunity” for the town, as well as making government more “accessible and inclusive.”
The last four years have been tough in terms of civility and community discourse between City Hall critics and city officials, Torre admitted.
“The divisive tone has made it difficult to work together and succeed on community goals,” Torre said.
Asked what he thought has changed, Torre said the makeup of town is different from when he first moved here 20 years ago. But regardless, it is the council and mayor’s responsibility to bring people into the process and encourage civility, Torre said.
“I want to make it better from the mayor’s seat,” he said. “It takes respect, openness and dialogue.”
Highlights of his political service so far include passing 2005’s recycling ordinance and casting a decisive vote that allowed the Burlingame affordable housing project to go forward, also in his first term. Mostly, Torre cites his “willingness to work for people” as his political strength.
There have been fewer accomplishments the last four years, he admitted, although he said the council has done good work promoting special events and keeping the town on the forefront of winter and summer activities.
The protracted process to pass a new Aspen Area Community Plan is a regret, he said. The Castle Creek hydro plant proposal, which was defeated in an advisory vote in November, was “not a loss” for the city, Torre contended, because it has opened up a conversation about other renewable energy options and energy efficiency.
Torre said he favors a balance between preservation and development when it comes to land use matters. He voted in favor of an ordinance that lowered new downtown building heights from 42 to 28 feet, but said he supports some projects being allowed to go to three stories if there is a community benefit.
Torre is a tennis instructor at the Aspen Club and Spa, and hosts the morning show on the Aspen 82 local television station. He has had a long list of jobs in town, including snowboard instructor, waiter and event producer.
He said his first local political involvement was with the campaign — spearheaded by Hunter S. Thompson — against a plan to expand the airport so it could accommodate 737-sized jets. His first run for office in 2001 was spurred by his interest in the entrance to Aspen issue. A fan of the S-curves, Torre said he did not want to see a four-lane highway coming into town, and the council’s leadership at the time was in favor of such a plan.
Of his years of political involvement, Torre said it’s not always fun, but it can be rewarding.
“I know I’ve done good work and there is still work to do,” he said.