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 family, if you have one): Learning Japanese when I was 50.
Have you ever been arrested? If so, for what? If not, what is the worst infraction you’ve made in life? Nothing as exciting as an arrest. “Waxed” my dad’s new car with Oklahoma red mud and ruined the paint.
What kind of car do you drive? VW
Pick one: Favorite book, movie or quote: Atlas Shrugged
1. If elected, what is the first initiative you will bring to City Hall and to your fellow council members?
Measures to increase visitors and events. Creation of an events department. Creation of an economic development department. Focus should be given to leveraging the Aspen brand and attracting more business.
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. Municipal government, principally City Council, has permitted too much rancor; it has not proactively created an atmosphere of collaboration between government and citizens.
b. City Hall has excelled at promoting and perpetuating Saturday markets; fundamental activities such as street maintenance and snow removal; cooperating with community organizations such as Theatre Aspen and Aspen Film to enliven the cultural scene.
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?
There is no demonstrated need for a larger inventory of affordable housing units. The city just builds with only a rough idea of what is needed. Burlingame 2 is an example. The city has offered easy terms to reserve units. Yet of the 57 “reservations,” 38 (66 percent) already are in other affordable housing.
The need is for policies that make it easier for current residents to sell their units. For example, there should be a buyout program to provide flexibility to owners and the city. The city is spending $500,000-700,000 to build a new unit when it could buy back existing units for hundreds of thousands less. The city could recondition the units and sell them to new system entrants. Millions would be saved and workers needing housing would be accommodated.
If aging affordable housing communities fall into sufficient disrepair, they will be abandoned, with the burden falling on the city. The city should proactively create financing for communities to catch up on deferred maintenance.
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 has dealt with this problem through zoning, designating zones whose occupancy rules tend to make it uneconomic for uses other than small service businesses. This practice should continue.
One problem is that City Council has a record and reputation for interfering in normal zoning practice to such an extent that developers expect they can buy a parcel and persuade City Council to intercede to rezone or allow variances that increase the value of the property to the developer. This practice should stop. City Council should stick to the zoning we have, modifying it for everyone gradually with changing conditions. Further, proposed zoning changes should be thoroughly vetted through the citizens’ Planning and Zoning Commission before P&Z presents a recommendation to city council.