Because of its ugly and messy nature, the passing of laws is often compared to the process of making sausages. Although it comes in many forms, the saying goes something like this: Laws are like sausages. You don’t want to see them being made.
Unfortunately in Aspen, it seems the aptly fitting analogy has been taken and twisted like an all-natural casing. The entire City Council has turned into a sausage fest and it looks like it could remain that way for years to come.
With less than two months until Aspen’s May election, several familiar faces have declared their intentions to run for office. With most contenders interested in the mayor’s seat and two signed up to run for council, I noticed something shared by the candidates that prompted me to ask a question that is most often asked by single men in bars or at bad parties: Where are all the women?
So far, no women have tossed their hat in for mayor or council. For the past two years, Aspen’s City Council, including the mayor, has been a body of men. If no women choose to run that will guarantee another all-male revue. It’s as if the City Council is turning into some sort of papal conclave.
It is a highly unusual occurrence for Aspen. In a town with a history for having so many successful female mayors, this seems like some sort of step backwards in time and politics. Perhaps even more puzzling than the list of candidates is the length of time that has passed since the voters of Aspen last elected a woman.
If I’m not mistaken, it was back in 2005 when Helen Klanderud got the go-ahead for a third and final term as mayor. That was nearly eight years ago. That seems crazy for an overwhelmingly progressive place like Aspen. And it is not for a lack of trying. There have been plenty of qualified candidates who have run for mayor and council over the last few elections, yet the voters of Aspen did not elect them.
Despite the election results, women have not been completely kept off the council. Several women have served on council over the last several years because of vacancies created for various reasons. But they weren’t elected, they were appointed. Jasmine Tygre replaced Rachel Richards in 2006 after Richards won a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. Jackie Kasabach replaced Judge J.E. DeVilbiss after he passed away, and Ruth Kruger replaced Dwayne Romero back in 2011 after he left for a job with the state. Richards is still in office and does represent a district in Aspen but she was elected at the county level. Richards is the last woman standing.
What is going on in Aspen? Ideally, a community’s elected officials are somewhat representative of the general population but Aspen is all out of whack. Although mountain towns are often known for their lack of women and overwhelming guy-to-girl ratios, Aspen is fairly equal when it comes to distribution of the sexes. According to census figures from 2010, Aspen is around 52 percent male and 48 percent female. For a single man out on a Tuesday night during the off-season this could be hard to believe.
It’s interesting to see who has been elected in other towns. Carbondale, Basalt and Snowmass Village all have women on their town councils. According to its website, the only other town in the valley that is all men is Glenwood Springs. Who knew? Aspen and Glenwood Springs do have something in common. That probably makes both of them unhappy.
What makes it even more of a quandary is the fact that Aspen is replete with all sorts of amazing women who would be great for government. Whether it’s running a private business, a nonprofit, a household, or a combination of the three, there is no shortage of success stories for women in Aspen. But for some reason there are no women on Aspen’s council, and since no women seem to be stepping into the race for public office it looks like the trend could continue. Maybe the women of Aspen are just too smart to run for political office.
With the deadline to turn in the official paperwork to be part of the May election just a few weeks away from Friday, the clock is ticking for all potential contestants. In the end it will be interesting to see who ends up on Aspen’s ballot. We’ll see if the good-old-boy network keeps running things in Aspen.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.