(Editor’s note: The Aspen Daily News has posed questions to the 10 candidates running for an Aspen City Council seat in the May 7 election. The Daily News will run the responses of two candidates each day this week, through Friday.)
Biggest accomplishment in life (other than your family, if you have one): Helping others who are experiencing personal loss.
Have you ever been arrested? If so, for what? If not, what is the worst infraction you’ve made in life?: Did not answer.
What kind of car do you drive?: 1979 CJ7 Jeep (no top)
Favorite book, movie or quote: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
1. If elected, what is the first initiative you will bring to City Hall and to your fellow council members?
Support the adoption of an efficient capital asset underwriting program for the refurbishment of small lodges in the community that may be tempted by market conditions to convert to other uses. Lodge upgrades, interior remodels, etc. are required to make a variety of additional expenditures for more community-related improvements such as curb and gutter, storm water drainage, ADA access, additional parking, etc. The city can pay for these added expenditures out of its capital improvements fund, the only condition being that the city be reimbursed if and when the lodge is converted to another use. A program of this nature would treat our small lodges as a community asset in which the city has a vested interest.
2. Two part question: What has the municipal government failed to do in representing the residents of Aspen in the past year? What has City Hall excelled at in the past year?
A. To my mind, the combination of an absence of protective zoning (big buildings) and an insufficient process that led to the Aspen Art Museum decision. The public process was not adequate to allow citizens to make their views properly known and understood. Additional public hearings and a more open process might have led to a more informed result. And on a lesser note, I was disappointed in council’s recent failure to vote on whether under-$20 campaign contributions should be disclosed. As a candidate for council I’m committed to disclosing every contribution that I receive.
B. The city has increased its financial and other support of special events that draw visitors to our community, and has approved a lodging tax that will assist in reorienting the city toward our tourist economy and away from the boom and bust development cycle. I respect this refocus on tourism as a critical component of our local economy, and it’s my understanding that sales tax revenues and other measures indicate that in the past several years Aspen has out-performed its rivals in the Colorado resort industry.
3. With the roughly 2,800 units in the affordable housing inventory structurally aging, as well as a majority of its residents retiring in them, should the city continue to build more to house the next generation of the workforce? At what price?
Of the roughly 1,900 affordable housing units in the city, maybe half are owned by individuals who have primary responsibility for the upkeep of their units. As I walk around the neighborhoods I observe a lot of units that are attractively maintained and that reflect a clear pride of ownership. And most of the affordable housing rental stock is not controlled by the city or APCHA either, but is instead maintained by the actual building owners. In other words, the percentage of units for which the city is responsible is relatively small. Structural aging aside, should we continue to build more affordable housing units? In my view, yes. In the past 15 years there has been a significant decline in the number of single-family homes and condos within the city limits that house local residents (like myself), in large part due to the continuing conversion of these properties to second home ownership and use. I believe we need to continue to develop affordable housing units to respond to this trend, and I also expect that as the economy continues to improve our employment levels will grow. Let’s also increase the proportion of larger units to accommodate families with children. At what price? We should build these units as efficiently as possible, while preserving the quality compatible with Aspen traditions.
4. Given that the direction the downtown commercial core is going in, with large buildings housing retail stores that create a Gucci and Prada lover’s paradise, knocking out locally serving businesses, do you have any ideas on what to do about it as an Aspen elected official?
With our commercial core already largely leased out at significant rents, our best opportunity for supporting locally serving businesses continues to be the Service Commercial Industrial and Neighborhood Commercial zones. The council needs to do all that it can to see that these zones retain their locally serving character, and that their use restrictions and other controls are not watered down over time. Further, as redevelopment applications come forward in these zones, the council should exercise all available zoning authority to ensure that the redevelopment continues to serve our small business objectives.