A survey launches today to collect data on the concerns and interests of the 18- to 40-year-olds living and working in Aspen. The Next Generation Advisory Board was commissioned in 2012 by the Aspen City Council to represent the younger demographic.
Morris Hogan, board chair, said the newest version of the survey is in part at the request of council, as well as the seven-member board, to get a clear understanding of the demographic they represent.
“There's such a wide array of individuals, we are hoping to build a picture based on information we can gather,” Hogan said.
The survey is available through the city’s website in both English and Spanish. It asks questions such as the age and profession of the respondent, and to identify factors that limit the ability to live or work in the Aspen area for long term. It also asks respondents to indicate if they have plans to move away from Aspen.
“Are we harboring a transient population of 18- to 40-year-olds or are we actually building a community?” asked Hogan.
The Next Generation Advisory Commission is made up of representatives that either live or work in Aspen, with the requirement that at least half of the members reside in town. Hogan said one thing he is interested in gleaning from the survey is if that breakdown amount that matches up with the 18- to 40-year-olds in the community.
“A lot of our work force commutes,” he said.
The survey link is live now, and will likely remain up through mud season to make sure to capture as broad a range of the young professional demographic as possible.
“That might be one of the harder points to gauge because we are all victims of our own tiny communities,” Hogan said. “So spreading the survey further in other sectors that we don’t normally talk with. It will be interesting to see what we get back.”
Hogan said there may be a lack of cross communication between different sectors of the workforce, or those who live outside of Aspen and commute in.
“Yes, I know a lot in my immediate group, but I don't know ones farther away from me,” he said.
In 2015, the advisory board put out a series of surveys that were used to focus the initiatives pursued by the board over the next several years. Of the 247 respondents to a survey at that time, 92 percent indicated they want to live in Aspen long term, but identified housing as the greatest barrier to remaining a part of the community.
The group then partnered on a series of housing forums and suggestions, including working on a measure that would recommend an incentivised downsize program for retirees in the affordable housing system. They have also been consulted heavily by the city as the Lumberyard housing project moved into a conceptual stage.
The group also led the push to change Aspen’s municipal election date in an effort to capture more of the city’s working population by placing the date during winter season, not May’s off-season when many businesses are closed and the workforce diminishes.
Hogan said the 18- to 40-year-old demographic doesn’t necessarily have separate issues from the population at large.
“I don’t think it’s so black and white, it’s very situational, I mean some of us never grow up,” Hogan said.
But when the commission was first created, the elected officials did not fit into that demographic and leadership at that time thought it would be beneficial to create a group that could funnel the 18- to 40-year-old voice in legislative decision making.
“They wanted to break down that barrier because for a while city council was a majority of significantly older folk, and there wasn’t a representation of younger folk,” he said.
Hogan said Mayor Torre, 50, has been attending NextGen meetings and is supportive of their work. Additionally, former NextGen board member Skippy Mesirow was elected to city council in March, the first iteration of the on-season election date.
“It’s slowly becoming more unified than maybe it was in the past,” Hogan said.
Once the survey closes, the group will present information about age, employment and barriers to city council.
“The biggest outcome will be for council to understand who is in their jurisdiction and doing what,” Hogan said.
NextGen will then be able to set a new priority list to focus on addressing the barriers that residents list as keeping them in Aspen long term.
“So with this survey we can hopefully narrow down some interests and concerns that 18- to 40-year-olds have, and we can appropriately represent them to city council and we can fulfill being a true voice of that demographic,” Hogan said. “We just bring the voice to issues that are circulating.”