The four candidates for Aspen City Council were questioned Thursday on issues that included readdressing whether traffic lanes should be built across the Marolt Open Space, or pushing for vehicles to use the West End and Power Plant Road, and the handling of the development proposal for the Lift 1A area.
In addition to hard-hitting questions, the four candidates seeking two seats on council in the March 5 election, Rachel Richards, incumbent Councilman Bert Myrin, Skippy Mesirow and City Clerk Linda Manning, performed dismally in a light-hearted trivia quiz about municipal matters.
Aspen Daily News Editor Curtis Wackerle, who moderated the council forum along with Alycin Bektesh of Aspen Public Radio, asked Mesirow whether the format in city council chambers was too stale. Wackerle noted that the candidate had created his own forum last month, initially proposing a moderator who supported Mesirow — a gathering that might have caught other candidates off-guard (the moderator was later changed to a neutral facilitator).
Bektesh asked Richards if she was a career politician — perhaps a worthy question, as the candidate has served as Aspen mayor, three terms as a councilwoman and three terms as a county commissioner.
But she said that she was proud of the community support that has allowed her to help to protect Thompson Divide outside Carbondale, among other issues.
“I tend to think of it as civil service, as civic leadership and, you know, I look at the town right now, my home, and I see a certain amount of turmoil and disarray,” Richards said.
When Wackerle asked Manning about her pro-business stance, she said in her role as city clerk she sees the difficulty new firms have getting business licenses, building permits and the like.
The city puts “a lot of obstacles in their way,” she said, something that draws questions about the lengthy process sometimes involved. “A lot of people who are starting out don’t realize you need A-B-C before you can get your certificate of occupancy. … We do need to work on some kind of express lane.”
That could involve more money for speedier bureaucracy, or “pay to play,” she acknowledged after Wackerle questioned her about such an approach. “I’m sure there are many people who would take such an option.”
Bektesh told Myrin that she had received from the public several versions of this question: You regularly brag about being the one man out, about being kicked off the city planning and zoning body, and stoking conflict between Aspen being a community versus a resort. So how do you expect to be successful in solving the community’s problems?
Myrin said there are several examples of his being “that sort of rock and grounding space for council,” including the 2016 moratorium on development. He said the unprecedented move by city officials happened because he was on council at the time.
“People have a pretty good idea where I stand because they know my principles,” he said.
Editor's note: This story was updated in the third paragraph to reflect that the moderator first chosen for the Skippy Mesirow-organized candidate forum was changed to someone who was not an avowed supporter of the candidate.