The Aspen Daily News has posed questions to the 10 candidates running for office in the May 7 election. The Daily News will run the responses of two candidates each day this week, through Friday. Today, we feature the responses from mayoral candidates Steve Skadron and Maurice Emmer.
Biggest accomplishment in life (other than your famliy, if you have one): One of my most recent accomplishments was helping to secure nearly $25 million in transit funding, from Washington, for completion of our valley’s new BRT system, on behalf of RFTA.
Have you ever been arrested? If not, what is the worst infraction you’ve made in life? No, and not marrying my last girlfriend.
What kind of car do you drive? ’04 Jeep.
Pick one: Favorite book, movie or quote: Quote: “Make it so.” (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise)
1. If elected, what is the first initiative you will bring to City Hall and to your fellow council members?
I would first look to understand the magnitude and complexity of the chamber’s economic sustainability report. I believe the real community economic issue in the report is the general statement that there is a flat wage situation (“that the real value of personal income has declined”) for employees over the past decade. There needs to be a narrative on why it is occurring. If employee real earning power is apparently going backwards, a solution must be created, collectively. A town having flat growth isn’t an attractive destination option for the next generation. That’s not healthy for our community and suggests awful social ramifications over the long run. Ultimately, we need to ensure that we’re investing properly in our own future. Aspen can’t remain a great town if we lose our economic power and are unable to perform as the engine of regional economic growth.
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. Local government could do better at: Working through APCHA to partner with HOAs to deal with common element problems that affect everyone. Since the cap on capital improvements and the fixed appreciation rate acts as disincentive for homeowners to improve their units, the city should play a role here; planning more appropriately for voter push back on the hydro plant, especially with regard to early capital investments needs; making citizens feel they have influence on decisions that affect their community. The alternative is a failure in representation and undermines civic trust.
b. Local government has excelled at: Recognizing and pursuing environmental initiatives that support our economic vitality and a quality of life that’s the envy of other communities; protecting the mass and scale of our downtown that respects our historic character; exercising strong fiscal oversight by delivering balanced budgets with healthy reserves.
3. With many of the roughly 2,800 units in the affordable housing inventory structurally aging, and with a large portion of residents heading toward retirement, should the city continue to build more housing for the next generation of the workforce? At what price?
Our capacity to produce affordable housing is not unlimited. We should support the goals of affordable housing but revisit them since the program is nearly 40 years old. We need to thoughtfully review our commitment to our past and current workers and ensure the goals of our housing program meet community need and market demand. Regardless of the direction, affordable housing has to be funded on a financially prudent basis.
The responsibility to maintain a “structurally aging” property falls on ownership. Just as the city is looking at ways to help small lodges, HOAs can be assisted to help address their needs in an affordable way. I’m committed to work with the HOAs to get something done, and I believe the city, working with APCHA, should look for ways to provide support. “Structurally aging” also implies energy inefficiency, and as the chair of CORE, I’d like to encourage homeowners to apply for energy efficiency upgrades assistance.
4. Given that the downtown commercial core is going in the direction of large buildings housing retail stores that create a Gucci and Prada lover’s paradise and knocking out locally serving businesses, do you have any ideas on what to do about it as an Aspen elected official?
The city’s overarching goal should be more locally serving businesses in the downtown core. We should stand strong to preserve those opportunities. I believe in a development program for locally serving business just as we’ve had a development program for affordable housing. The concept of the SCI zone is critical to supporting locally serving businesses and entrepreneurs. I believe in improving it to withstand the pressures of residential conversion. If locally serving business can compete, the flat wage issue the chamber report identifies gets addressed. In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses (and distinctive character) have an economic advantage. Compared to international chains, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, create more jobs locally and, in some areas, provide better wages and benefits than international chains that respond to a different and externally controlled business model.