I am proud to be running for Aspen City Council.
I was fortunate to move here 14 years ago, and to be on skis at Snowmass at 15 months. My grandparents came here in ‘52. My girlfriend’s grandfather helped build our town. They, and so many of you, worked hard to make it what it is. The result is living in the most amazing place in the world. Like you, no matter where I am, I am always ecstatic to come home. There is something magical about that.
It was not easy shaping Aspen into what it is now. The walking malls were deeply contentious. The creation of the RETT, the lodging tax, the Red Brick, the Wheeler, and keeping the straight shot out of Aspen, twice, were all decided by less than 85 votes. But the community had a vision, we fought for it, and in the end, we all prospered.
Now again, we face big challenges. This council has lost its vision and its backbone. Our middle is eroding. The middle classes, middle ages and affordable businesses are vanishing. We are not doing enough to plan for our climate future. If we do not rebuild our middle, Aspen as we know it will cease to exist. No town thrives with only the ultra wealthy and the servant; we need all walks to thrive.
I believe these trends can be slowed and reversed if we unite and work together. With belief in one another and a collective willingness to do hard things, we cannot fail. We may try solutions that do not pan out, and there will be trade-offs, but we must try, and eventually we will succeed.
I have taken the five-generation-pledge: to leave for my grandkids a town better than the one my grandparents left me, and this goal drives me.
I ask you to join me in this effort, guided by these seven principles:
Housing comes first. Everything else is moot if we don’t live here. We must insist on housing retirees and 60% of our workforce. There is no community of character without the characters who live in it.
Affordable business matters. It’s not just about inexpensive clothes. It’s about year-round jobs and businesses that are uniquely Aspen. Let’s get there, whatever it takes.
Think long term. With climate change impending, our landfill almost full, and fires on the rise, we need to invest in our resilience.
Care for one another. I have your back, you have mine. That is how Aspen was built, and what makes it special. We can disagree and still care about each other’s well-being.
Be brave. No more changing paths with the winds. We must be bold enough to stand up to vocal minorities when their interests do not align with the spirit and the majority of Aspen.
Lead by example. Rather than complaining about what is wrong elsewhere, let us fix it here and show the world how it can be done. Truly local energy and food, 100% voter participation.
Do the work. Our time is spent on what we value. I pledge to you to be the hardest working person on council, as I have been on NextGen and Planning & Zoning, despite being a candidate with a full time job.
I launch this campaign with my Leadership Collective: people with 10, 20, 50 years of knowledge that help me, and can help us all, learn, evolve, and think through issues. I am grateful to have led the effort to change our local election day, ensuring more participation and better representation. I am grateful for my two terms as Chair of NextGen and three terms as Chair of Planning & Zoning. I am grateful to be young, with a fresh perspective on chronic problems. I am grateful that I have been able to help move the needle on housing, entrepreneurship, wellness, and voter participation. I am grateful to call Aspen my home.
We have a simple question in this election: do we pull up the drawbridge, turn off the lights, and give up on the Aspen Idea, or do we double down on 70 years of tradition and do the bold things required to ensure that Aspen’s best days are ahead? I insist on the latter.
To learn more about me, the Leadership Collective, and our plans, visit www.SkippyForAspen.com, and please feel free to email me at Skippy.Mesirow@gmail.com to continue the conversation.
I ask for your vote and the opportunity to do more.
It’s time to LEAD again!
To solve critical problems, we must cure root causes, not treat symptoms. By applying focus, hard work and a collaborative approach, we will move fundamental issues forward.
Below is my proposed plan of action, should I be elected on March 5:
Years 1 - 2: My focus will be on our two most fundamental needs: providing more affordable housing and transforming our public engagement process.
We must recommit to housing our community.
Without housing, all other issues are moot. Solving anything, from transit to signage, is irrelevant if we cannot live here. Every single dollar spent should be weighed against its expenditure on housing.
We will recommit to housing 60% of our workforce and honor our commitment to retirees in Aspen. We will reform governance, increase funding, and create a new owner/renter/APCHA bill of rights. We will buy down expiring deed restrictions and create movement in our existing units. We will fix build quality and capital reserve problems. We will rezone residential free market to encourage smaller affordable units. We will embrace modernity and build to today’s demands. We will not waste money.
We must transform public engagement.
Our public engagement process is broken. From SHIFT, to City Hall, to Castle Creek Bridge, to the Power Plant, to our $60,000 expenditure on a logo, things need to change. We waste decades and millions of taxpayer dollars, then reverse decisions at the eleventh hour. We must substantially amend our engagement process or none of our future goals can succeed.
Building off the success of 2A (the election date change), I want to make Aspen the first city in the country with 100% voter participation. I will work to achieve this goal with staff and partners, taking the best ideas from around the globe and implementing them in Aspen. Throughout this effort, we will study and re-make our public process while presenting a workable solution for our nation’s fundamental problem: democratic decline.
I will work through the following issues during year three and beyond:
If the box costs 50K per month, we will not get what the community desires. The city of Aspen should get into the business of creating cheaper boxes.
Long-term thinking is required to ensure our community is here for our children. Waste, climate change, food, fires and water rights must be a primary concern.
Throughout this process to make a better Aspen for today and tomorrow, I pledge to you dogged commitment, care, and courage to achieve our goals.
We are in this together. No one person has all the answers. I am grateful to have as friends and advisors community members with expansive experience and expertise. I have learned from them for years and will call on them continuously for guidance.
Gov. Jared Polis
Amanda Rae Busch
Candice Carpenter - Olson
Cassidy M. Henry
Cory Ann Ellis
Jay Way Quinones
Jerome Burt II
Kristyn White Davis
Mary Graham Harvey
Sheryl Ostrich Barto
Stephenie Powers Smith
Va Les Ka
Aspen Public Radio’s Meet the Candidates 12/31/18 - Skippy Mesirow
— with Alycin Bektesh of Aspen Public Radio
Aspen Daily News 12/22/18 - Mesirow announces bid for city council
Aspen Daily News 12/22/18 - Mesirow announces bid for city council
Skippy Mesirow officially joined the race for Aspen City Council on Friday, offering a campaign he said will focus on housing and “rebuilding the middle.”
“If we do not rebuild our middle, Aspen as we know it will cease to exist,” Mesirow wrote in a candidate announcement letter.
Mesirow, 32, who came up 102 votes short of making the runoff in the 2017 council race, said there is wisdom to be gained from losing and that he would run with more vigor about his positions. He described his instincts last time around as “nervous and scared.” This time, he said he is “more frustrated than ever as a voter” and readier to take on the role. He invited anyone who saw him as off-putting or arrogant last time around to grill him and “challenge that perception,” promising “100-percent unvarnished honesty on anything anyone asks.”
Mesirow serves on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, which conducts land use reviews on many matters before they reach city council, and he helped found the Next Generation Advisory Commission, which aims to advocate for the 20- to 40-age group. He led a successful campaign on the November ballot to move the municipal election from May to March as a way to get more voters involved.
Housing is the number one challenge facing the community, he said. There was once a goal of housing 60 percent of Aspen’s workforce in the town and surrounding environs, something that seems to have fallen by the wayside, he said, adding that he wants to revive that mission. He sees the first step as shoring up the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s management and governance, strengthening its mandate and its funding so it can get things done, and completing a detailed study of the inventory to ensure its optimal use. He wants to see more buy-downs of existing free-market units, as well as policies that encourage lights-on density over empty second homes.
“If you are not willing to accept trade-offs on a housing project, then you are willing to accept the death of the community,” he said.
Higher affordable housing mitigation rates should also be pursued in certain cases, he said, and the city should not be in the business of cutting breaks.
Mesirow, who runs a vacation rental company, lives on the east end in the bottom half of a miner’s cabin that he described as one of the last affordable free-market leases in town. He said he would like to see more opportunities for attainable free-market homes.
His platform also includes keeping promises to retirees, reflecting a thorny issue that NextGen stepped in a year ago when its members advocated for policies that would enable retired people in affordable housing to downsize to smaller units. Some people saw this as a not-so-gentle suggestion for older folks to get out of the way. Mesirow insists that is not the case, but he said that a conversation about how worker housing policy should handle future retirees is overdue. The rule that allows someone to retire in their APCHA-ownership unit after working in the community for just four years should be re-examined, he said, perhaps requiring more time before that right would be assured.
“We need to have a conversation about what’s reasonable,” he said, suggesting that the best solutions may have yet to be put on the table.
Commercial, communication, carbon emissions
He also said it is time for the city to get involved in creating more affordable space for local businesses.
“As long as the box costs fifty grand the community is not going to get what it wants,” he said of the high cost of most commercial spaces. “I think the city should get in the business of creating cheaper boxes.”
He said such a plan could use existing public property, with a citizen board of some kind setting the rules for who gets in. He does not want city administration picking winners and losers, he said, and pointed to a fraught history when such “shark-tank” style selections take place.
Mesirow also had harsh words for the current council, writing in his announcement letter that the body “has lost its vision and its backbone.”
The mobility lab, the discussion on building new city offices, the failed Old Powerhouse tenant-selection process and the proposed Restaurant Row bike lane are all examples of issues that took large expenditures of staff time and public dollars, only to be reversed entirely or bogged down. In some cases the council showed a lack of willingness to stand up to a vocal minority, but all are indicative of a fundamental failing of the public process, he said. Unless changes are made, expect more of the same, he added.
One remedy would be to improve outreach with the most critical stakeholders earlier on. Instead, people now are inclined to sit on the sidelines until the 11th hour, rallying the troops or threatening lawsuits. That process should be flipped on its head, he said.
Building resilience toward climate change should also be a focus, he said, along with insisting on best practices when it comes to energy efficiency, waste diversion and local food and energy sources. He said he is “open to any solution” on local energy, when asked if he would support revisiting the Castle Creek hydropower project the city initiated in 2007 but was scuttled a few years later.
Mesirow joins a council field that already includes incumbent Councilman Bert Myrin, who is running for a second term; former councilwoman and mayor Rachel Richards, who is about to step down from the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners due to term limits after serving 12 years; and the current city clerk, Linda Manning.
Two sitting council members — Ann Mullins and Adam Frisch — are declared mayoral candidates.
More candidate announcements are expected before the end of the day Wednesday. That is the deadline for potential candidates to turn in a petition with 25 signatures from registered city voters, which is all one needs to qualify for the March 5 election. Ballots will be mailed out on Feb. 11.
— Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.