There has to be a moment of enlightenment when someone who runs for office and gets elected looks behind the curtain and gets shocked when they see how the sausage is made.
Serving effectively on the Aspen City Council is a lot of work.
There are eight locals vying for the two slots open on council. I don't live in town limits so I can't vote, but I'm more than happy to help you decide who to vote for if that's what you need. I watched last week's Squirm Night on Grassroots Television so you don't have to. If you want to watch it, go to grassrootstv.org and enjoy.
All the candidates are sincere and love Aspen and all that good stuff. I got in big trouble once for writing a column criticizing a county commissioner candidate for their absurd campaign materials. I wrote a scathing article full of smug self righteousness and sarcasm. Her sons didn't like the piece and threatened violence … yikes. I did attack their mom, so I may have deserved that.
So everyone is really nice. I'm saying that sincerely. But not everyone is qualified. Nothing personal.
After opening statements, one of the moderators asked for a show of hands of who voted in the last election. This was by far in my opinion the juiciest question of the whole Squirm Night.
Unfortunately, the Zoom meeting was being run by Swift Communications by someone offsite and they did not have the meeting on gallery view at that moment, so no one but the moderators got to see the show of hands.
I was yelling at the set as I watched the moderator nod at the inside information. I have contacted both papers and Grassroots TV and no one can say for sure whose hand was up, which is very frustrating. From what I could deduce from follow up questions, one-third of the candidates did not vote in the last election.
That should be grounds for instant withdrawal. How can you say, “I didn't vote, but I'm asking for your vote?”
How could you skip the last election? Boebert? Trump? Etc.? A candidate that did not vote is not part of any part of the solution. They are part of the problem!
Although less squirmworthy but still notable, the candidates were asked if and when they had attended a council meeting.
Incumbent Ward Hauenstein was the only one in the field who had done so in recent years. There were exceptions for some who were appearing before a meeting on a particular issue. You can't form a good opinion if you are not informed. None of the candidates had taken the deep interest necessary to understand the job they were applying for. Not what we need.
Regardless of that inconvenient truth, Casey Endsley and Sam Rose criticized the current council for getting off topic and extending meeting lengths, which is probably true but how do they know if they are not in attendance?
As the Squirm Night continued, it became brightly apparent that Hauenstein was the only one in the room that was truly qualified and experienced and ready to serve without a huge learning curve.
Assuming Aspen wants a thoughtful, experienced, disciplined, prepared, organized council, Hauenstein is absolutely needed.
And then there were seven.
If you deduct those who didn't bother to vote in the last election, or had NEVER watched a meeting of the council, we are down to three or four at best.
You could also judge by how prepared the candidates were for the Zoom Squirm Night. It was sad to see certain candidates be asked how they would have voted on the Lift 1-A development proposal had they voted.
Jimbo Stockton couldn't answer a couple of questions about budgets and permit applications. He'd never been to a meeting and he wasn't prepared for this one. Nice guy though.
So unfortunately there was no shining star among the remaining candidates still standing. I get it. Everyone has a lot going on. Reading reports, agendas, minutes, budgets, building applications, zoning documents, public comments, legal briefs, police reports and infrastructure reports is a lot of work. But it's what you should do if you plan to run for office. Because, even though your opinion on a particular issue might be right on, being unprepared does not qualify someone to serve.
So, in my humble opinion, based on all the responses and show prep, I have to go with the most environmental candidate, John Doyle. In my interactions with him, I have found him engaged, passionate, dedicated, generous, artistic and concerned about Aspen and the environment. He will have a learning curve but he has the smarts to rise to the occasion.
When I saw some candidates patting themselves and the town on the back for being “green,” I had to laugh. Because if that's true, we are doomed.
In reality, Aspen has a huge carbon footprint per capita. There are tens of thousands of tailpipes clogging town every day. There are countless vacant mansions gobbling resources and being staffed by cleaners and maintenance workers who are driving from far, far away. Heated driveways. Bubbling hot tubs. Construction and reconstruction projects are relentless. There are thousands of heavy vehicles and construction machines coming and going every single day. If that's green, green is the new black.
Steve Skinner squirmed while watching Squirm Night. Reach him at email@example.com.