Six candidates running for elected office in Snowmass Village discussed issues like the economy, development and marijuana at a candidate forum Thursday night. Three people are running for mayor. Another three are vying for two council seats. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen was there and filed this report.
A moratorium on retail marijuana stores and improvements to public transit came up at the forum but the issue that got the most attention was Base Village.
The council that’s elected will enter office at a pivotal time, when a restart of the long-stalled development will likely move forward. The group Related Colorado submitted a major development application to Town government on Wednesday that includes projects like a hotel, a private residence club and retail spaces.
All six of the candidates say they support moving the project forward. Markey Butler, who serves on council but is running for mayor, says the completion of Base Village will help struggling businesses.
"It’s huge. You talk to any business in this town and I don’t know any business making a ton of money right now and they haven’t for a long period of time. So, my goal is to bring economic vitality back into this village," she says.
Candidate Bill Madsen lacks a political background but says his “real” perspective would be an advantage on council. He says Base Village is a key project for the town.
"I think Base Village is a critical component to Snowmass. I think it’s important that we move the Village forward."
But he says has questions about one component of the latest application.
"From what I saw most recently, the community benefit was supposed to be the aqua center. And, from what I saw the aqua center is now a pool for the Limelight. I don’t think that counts as a community benefit," Madsen says.
Another topic the candidates addressed was the dynamic on the board. Recently there’s been tension and a lack of constructive dialogue around issues such as hiring a new Town Manager
Mayoral candidate Jason Haber is frequently in the minority on the board but he says he tries to work with the majority. He says he’s committed to a process that brings civility to public decision-making.
"I try to bring level-headed, balanced dialogue and raising of issues, even when they’re uncomfortable or in opposition to the position of the majority, and that’s my approach," he says.
Civility broke down later in the evening when Haber and Mayor Bill Boineau disagreed about attendance at a set of public meetings.
Bill: "Show the record that you made those meetings."
Jason: "Anybody who wants to, can see that I made those meetings, and you’re just flat out wrong."
Moderator Brent Gardner Smith of Aspen Journalism broke in.
Brent: "Seems like it’s safe to say that, Bill, you’re not going to endorse Jason for mayor?"
Brent: "And, Jason, you’re not going to endorse Bill for council?"
Boineau’s time on the board has stretched over fourteen years. Now, the sitting mayor is hoping to get elected to a four-year council term. He says voters should elect him because he takes a thoughtful, “take-it-slow” approach.
"I’m not reactionary. I like to be planned. I like to be looking at things and understanding, ‘Okay, what is the future, what is the next year, two years, five years.’ What can we do to enhance ourselves and where are we going to be."
He touted his involvement in moving staff into a new town hall and taking a tough stance on spending during the recession.
Bob Sirkus chairs the Town’s Planning Commission and he’s running for a council seat. On a question about whether the Town’s sales tax should be lowered through a reduction in the marketing tax, Sirkus answered this way:
"I’m open to any ideas people have relative to how the Town finances itself. I don’t have an opinion right now, but what I see happening with our economy right now, is good and I’d be hesitant to change anything to make that decrease."
One of the last issues the candidates addressed was transparency. Mayoral candidate and former councilman Arnie Mordkin says the current board has held one too many executive sessions.
"The public’s business needs to be done in the public, not behind closed doors. I think if you go back through the minutes of the meetings when I was on Town Council, you’ll note that I was against going into executive session."
Mordkin is the former Chief Deputy District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District in Aspen.
The candidate forum wrapped up after about two hours. Voters are receiving ballots in the mail for the November 4th election this week.
A portion of the candidate forum will be aired on Aspen Public Radio on Friday afternoon at 3.