Editor's Note: This interview is the first in a series on the Basalt mayoral race, taking place on April 7. Aspen Public Radio Morning Edition host and reporter Molly Dove sat down with all three candidates, Bill Kane, Rob Leavitt and Bill Infante, in their favorite place in Basalt.
Sitting at a small table in CC's Cafe, Kane, a Roaring Fork Valley resident for 46 years, said his previous experience as Basalt's town manager, paired with other leadership and communication experience, makes him the best candidate to be mayor.
MD: What is one thing you love about Basalt?
BK: I love that we have access to outdoors. It is a wonderful sort of neighborhoods. I think we have some great diversity in the community, social and physical diversity, and just a great place to live.
MD: What is one thing about Basalt that you would want to change?
BK: I think in recent years we've had some very bruising, difficult issues [like] working through the Pan and Fork project. I think it is now Basalt’s time to shine. I think we have a great chance to move forward and make great improvements. We have a spectacular setting and it's a wonderful place. I want to lead us through a bright future.
MD: What is the Pan and Fork Project?
BK: The Pan and Fork is now also known as the River Park Project, and it's right across the street from us and has been winding its way through a land-use review process with many sharply-divided opinions on both sides. As mayor, I would like to bring parties together. Hopefully, this will be behind us before I would ever take office. I think we can fashion new ways of talking to one another to avoid some of this acrimony. It's kind of a cliche, which is if we have to disagree, let's not be disagreeable.”
MD: What do you think qualifies you to be the mayor of Basalt?
BK: Well, [I am a] 46 year resident of the Valley. I served as planning director in Aspen and Pitkin County. I've had a variety of work experiences, all of which called for leadership and communication and teaming and bringing people together in a collaborative way. So [I] did public planning, I worked for Design Workshop, I was a partner and principal in a large planning and landscape architecture firm. I worked for Aspen Skiing Company for 10 years in charge of planning and development, and then I was the town manager in Basalt for three-and-a-half years during the toughest years of the recession. So I really know how city government works. I would love to work with [the] bright new faces running for council. [I would ] love to participate in that and help shape a new direction for the town there, which would take away from these divisive politics that we've had to deal with for the last few years."
MD: What would be one of your top priorities if you were to be elected?
BK: I would say one of them would be to initiate something I'm calling the Basalt Community Forum. It may take a different shape or different name. I've had some initial conversations with the Aspen Institute to help us formulate a program to take difficult issues before they become wedge issues and are taken into the council meeting room where there are stringent rules for public hearings. I think we can come together as a community and talk these issues through with outside assistance and consultants and experts in the area and citizens that would volunteer and participate. I think there are new ways to engage with our citizenry and participate in a more participatory government.
MD: What would be an example of something that you would want to talk about in that forum before going to council?
BK: Well, I just think there are a lot of them. I mean we're looking at 5G coming up, that's going to be a conversation there. I think we have important priorities in working with our school district to make sure the town is supporting the school district and education of our children. I think there are some really interesting transportation options out there. I worked on a community outreach program with the [Aspen] Institute on mobility for the Valley. We have the opportunity to initiate a rideshare program that could be very effective, reduce travel times on Highway 82 and congestion. It's time for Basalt to develop its own cultural institutions. There are just so many topics out there that are really germane to our town.
MD: Why should voters vote for you over the other two candidates that are running?
BK: The reason I'm running [is because] I think I would bring experience leadership to Basalt. I've just been at this for a long time. I've worked through very difficult and potentially divisive issues in Aspen and other communities. I was the planning director in Fort Collins for a number of years and implemented a whole host of new environmental protections and land use controls.
I know the town, I know how it works. I have steeped in kind of the educational and professional experience. I know a ton of people in town, both folks that have moved here, some moved Down-Valley, I've made new friends...I just love the place. I would give it my all and [I] think I'm well suited to be the guy.