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:

Affordable business

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.

Resilience

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.

ASPEN CABINET

Art Daily

Bob Braudis

Eden Vardy

Jess Ewart

John Sarpa

Peter Fornell

Sherriff Joe DiSalvo

Steve Wickes

Steve Wilson

Gov. Jared Polis

Ashley Feddersen

Bear Matthews

Chris Bendon

Fiona McDonald

Gretchen Bleiler

Jamie Wedow

Kimbo Brown-Schirato

Lizzie Cohen

Nateal Pogliano

Nicole Birkhold

ENDORSEMENTS

John McKormick

John Sarpa

John Starr

Jon Ford

Jon Kelly

Jordan Houchenbaum

Jordan Yarbrough

Josh Griggs

Josh Meyer

Joshua Rossignal

Justin Clarence

Justin Engels

Justin Pilotte

Kat Visnevska

Katherine Bell

Katie Alderson

Katie McGrath

Katrina Ann

Katrina Devore

Katrina Gallant

Keith Goode

Kelli Roman

Ken White

Kenneth Bishop

Kevin McDonald

Kevin Obrien

Kiah Kristine

Kimberly Glathar

Kimberly Knol

Kimberly Raymond

Kimbree

Kira Heng

Kory White

Kristin Hamell

Kristine Brewitz

Kristyn White Davis

Kyle Q Hegdal

Kyle Piorkowski

Lady Fuller

Laken Diamond

Lane Johnson

Larry Spatz

Latie Wales

Laura Schroeder

Lauren Marie

Lauren Roberts

Lawrence Kline

Lea Tucker

Leag Jas

Leah Boucher

Lee Schestedt

Lianna Rose

Lindsey Smith

Linzy Upton-Spatz

Lisa Hicks

Lisa Ouellette

Lisa Sabatka

Lisa Willison

Lori Augustine

Lucia del Pilar

Lyanne Ibarrs

Lynda Fisher

Lyndsey Haynie

Lynn Merriam

Marc Ellert

Marci Michelle

Marcus Blu

Marcy Malot

Margaret Durney

Marika Kopp

Marilee Upton-Spatz

Mark Reece

Mark Shackelford

Marlena Mcgrath

Martha Wyly Miller

Mary Graham Harvey

Mases Juarez

Mateo Bruce

Matt Evans

Matt Harvey

Matt Lanning

Matt Tomlinson

Matthew Weber

Matthew White

Meghan Tackett

Melissa Dunfee

Melissa Stern

Meredith Lenk

Merideth McKee

Michael Benson

Michael Boggs

Michael Boyd

Michael Brands

Michael Check

Michael Edinger

Michael Faas

Michael Monroney

Michael Rees

Michael Rees

Michael Tullio

Michael Vamm

Michael Wechsler

Michelle Byrne

Michelle Muething

Michelle Phifer

Miguel Sosa

Mike Holmes

Mike Jahn

Mikey Wechsler

Mladen Todorovic

Molly Dodge

Morgan Cox

Nando Gutierrez

NathanielDouglass

Naveen Malik

Nicholas Devore

Nick Brown

Nick Heitmann

Nicky Byrne

Nicola Siso

Nina Jarp

Oliver Sharpe

Oscar Garcia

Otilio Avila

Paul Woznicki

Perrin Wolfe

Peter Fornell

Peter Gaston

Peter Grenney

Peter Ward

Phoebe Lloyd

Rabbi Mendel Mintz

Rachel Brisson

Rachel Burley

Rachel Butler

Rachel Hadley

Rachelle Bunker

Rally Dupes

Ramona Bruland

Randy Chase

Raymond Stover

Rebecca Crossman

Reily Thimons

Reuben Sadowsky

Richard Crandall

Rick Balentine

Ricky Buhr

Riley Tippet

Riley Warwick

Rita Hochenbaum

RJ Gallagher

Robert Lozins

Robert Wilborn

Roger Wilson

Ryan Boudreau

Ryan Walterscheild

Sally McGruen

Sam Ferguson

Sam Gemus

Sammy Tannahris

Sarah Drake

Sarah Gorman

Sarah Nininger

Sarena Pevitz

Scott Baynes

Scott Kenner Jr.

Scott Lindenau

Scott Lupow

Seth Beckton

Shannon Johnson

Sheryl Carr

Sheryl Ostrich Barto

Skip Berhorst

Spencer McKnight

Stacy Gluck

Steev Wilson

Stephanie Janigo

Stephanie Wiessman

Stephen Ilkenhans

Stephen Plachta

Stephenie Powers Smith

Steve Wickes

Steven Reynolds

Stuart Wilson

Svetlana Smolyaninova

Sydney Drake

Tal Sims

Taylor Ortiz

Thatchard Spring

Thea Chase

Theresa Hernandez

Thomas Miller

Tim Hertel

Tony Marks

Tony Mazza

Tony Saur

Travis Morton

Travis Redd

Trent Jones

Tyler Moore

Tyler Wilson

Va Les Ka

Val Brown

Victoria Thomas

Volha Kharkhal

Wendle Whiting

Wendy Mitchell

Wendy Zaharko

Whitney Justice

William Brown

Yanna

Yohan Rollin

Zach Sisson

Ziska Childs

Aaron Culbertson

Aaron Hill

Abby Sten

Adam McCabe

Adam McCurdy

Adam Olson

Adam Zhelky

Adriel Adler

Aidyn Wynn

Ajax Phillips

Alexander Dubin

Alexandra George

Alexandra Latimer

Alexandra Marie

Alexis Ahrling

Alexis Radke

Alex Schrempf

Ali Arslanyuregi

Allen Ward

Alyssa Burgin

Amanda Poindexter

Amanda Rae Busch

Amanda Vanderpool

Amber Roper

Ame Wang

Ana Lomeli

Andrea Elkan

Andrew Adams

Andrew Popinchalk

Andrew Sandler

Andrew Skewes

Andrew Turchin

Andrew Wickes

Andy Adams

Andy Pappani

Angel Ceballos

Anthony Carreno

Anthony Todaro

Antonella Bonfiglio

Arielle Gallagher

Art Daily

Ashley Chod

Ashley Devon

Ashley Pratt-Or

Ashley Wilson

Auden Schendler

Audrey Radlinski

Autumn White

Ayden Holmes

Barbara Bakios-Wickes

Barbara Elias

Barclay Dodge

Bear Matthews

Benjamin Felch

Bennett LeVine

Beyron Lindenau

Bill Eichengreen

Bill Small

Billy Carr

Billy Weismann

Bo Gallagher

Bob Braudis

Bob Perls

Brad Onsgaurd

Brenda Landau

Brett Nelson

Brian Bitterfeld

Brian Finkel

Brian Medina

Bridget Boyle

Brittany Frankel

Brittany Irvine

Brittany Rockhill

Brooke Portillo

Bryan Bennett

Bryan Daugherty

Bryan Daughrety

Bryan Spatz

Cam MacPherson

Candice Carpenter - Olson

Carlos Zaldivar

Carolyn Fields

Cary Wolovick

Casey Endsley

Casey Nay

Cassidy M. Henry

Catherine Lutz

Chad Russell

Changa Bell

Chet Feldman

Chloe Tabah

Chris Burley

Chris Klug

Chris Lane

Chris Schetzel

Chris Striefel

Christina O’Brien

Christine Benedetti

Christine Morris

Christopher Weaver

Cindy Massover

Clarity Fornell

Clayton Brooks

Conan Angelo

Corey Enloe

Cory Ann Ellis

Cotton Koehler

Courtney Gray

Courtney Smith

Damien Williamson

Daniel Elkan

Daniela Stines

Danielle Becker

Danielle Hofstein

Danielle Mills

Danielle Stein

Dave Mayer

David Elkan

David Houggy

David Mills

David Musser

David Sandman

Deborah Murphy

Dedo Nba

Denize Hoogan

Diana Short

Diane Botica

Dick Byrne

Donna Bratcher

Dri

Duncan Clauss

Dwayne Johnson

Dylan Rose

Eddie Libowitz

Eddie Liebowitz

Eden Vardy

Eduard

Eli Legate

Eliphalet Ford

Elizabeth Slossberg

Emily Marshall

Emily Phillips

Emily Sarpa

Emily Suppino

Eric Strauss

Eric Strauss

Erica Doemland

Erin Greenwood

Erin Stout

Erix Tylie

Ernest Elias

Falomi

Francisco Abanto

Frank Reynolds

Fred Venrick

Gabrielle Greeves

Garrett Fitzgerald

Gary Gleason

Gautham Dhaliwal

Gerald DeLisser

Gerald Delisser

Gilbert Sanchez

Gina Pogliano

Gina Turchin

Graham Houtsma

Greg Rucks

Gretchen Greenwood

Gudelia Cuevas

Harris Berlinsky

Hayley Lipps

Heather Boronski

Hilary Gorss

Huw Edwards

Ian Perry

Iris Lopez

Jack Linehan

Jack Schure

Jaelin Mayer

Jaimini Contractor

James Harvey

James Parker

Jamie Contractor

Jamie Larson

Jan Sarpa

Janelle Pietrzak

Janie Lemons

Jared Polis

Jarrad Goulet

Jason Kidd

Jay Schiratto

Jay Way Quinones

Jayne Gottlieb

JD Dyess

Jeff Hale

Jeff Pogliano

Jeffrey Halfeety

Jen Carter

Jen Eis

Jenna Conti

Jenna Holdcomb

Jennie Contreras

Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer Mcguire

Jerome Burt II

Jess Ewart

Jesse Da Rocha

Jesse White

Jessica Baer

Jill Teehan-Edinger

Joanne Nemia

Joe Mauricio

Joey Stokes

John Crosby

John Doyls

John Hornblower

The Aspen Times 3/6/19 - Aspen voter turnout crushes previous recent record by Jason Auslander

Nearly 60 percent of Aspen’s active, registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s municipal election, according to the city’s deputy clerk.

That number, more than 3,200 votes, demolished the previous highest voter total recorded in the past five Aspen city elections by almost 700 votes, according to numbers provided by the City Clerk’s Office.

“That’s a significant amount,” said Linda Manning, who has been the city clerk for five years but did not run this election because she was a candidate for City Council.

By the time the polls closed Tuesday, 3,220 out of 5,398 active registered voters cast ballots in this year’s election, said Nicole Henning, Aspen’s deputy clerk. That didn’t include about 20 ballots where discrepancies were detected, she said.

Previously, the largest number of voters recorded in the past five municipal elections was 2,544 in May 2009.

“It’s amazing,” said Skippy Mesirow, the lead organizer in the campaign last year to move the municipal election from May to March. “It’s better than our wildest dreams.”

Aspen voters in November overwhelmingly approved the measure moving the election by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin. Supporters claimed the May election took place during offseason when town occupancy is low, disenfranchising a segment of the population.

“(The high turnout) is because of Lift One,” Manning said. “It is not the change of election day.”

Up until two days ago, the turnout was running behind 2017 totals, the second-lowest in the past five elections, she said.

“If it wasn’t for Lift One, we would have seen roughly the same or less turnout (as June 2017),” Manning said.

Henning agreed with her boss.

“Personally, I think it was Lift One,” she said after all the votes were counted Tuesday. “That’s just listening to people coming in on a daily basis.

“I think it drove the entire election.”

Mesirow, who won a City Council seat Tuesday, wasn’t so sure.

“There’s just no question,” he said. “We’re talking about a 20 percent increase in voters. The change (of election date) has something to do with it.”

jauslander@aspentimes.com


Aspen Daily News 3/6/19 - Richards, Mesirow elected to Aspen City Council by Andre Salvail

Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow were elected outright to the Aspen City Council on Tuesday in a four-way contest for the two available seats this year.

Richards, who recently ended her third term as a Pitkin County commissioner and previously served as Aspen mayor and council member, was a clear winner with 1,729 votes, according to complete but unofficial results.

Mesirow, a relative newcomer to local politics who last fall successfully lobbied Aspen voters to move the election date from its traditional May date to March, also cleared the 1,228-vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff by pulling 1.433 votes.

Councilman Bert Myrin ran third with 1,215 votes, missing the runoff by 13 votes, while City Clerk Linda Manning garnered 1,076 votes with a fourth-place finish.

After the results were announced just after 8:30 p.m., an elated Richards spoke about her keys to victory with reporters. She said her longtime experience in local government was a likely factor in the win.

She said she felt that two candidates would emerge victorious and there would be no runoff. But she wasn’t sure who those two winners would be.

“I’m overwhelmed by this level of support, and humbled,” Richards said. “I know I have a lot of work to do now and I have a lot to live up to.”

She said despite the fact that people have not always agreed with her stance on various issues and projects, they continue to trust her decision-making abilities.

“You’re never going to get someone to agree with you 100 percent unless you’re looking in the mirror,” Richards said. “I’m a good decision-maker, and I’ll be thoughtful, patient and looking out for the long-term good of the community.”

Richards said she campaigned as hard as she ever has, from a personal standpoint, but didn’t have a very large working committee for this election.

“People were either already committed to other committees, or they were so burned out after the 2018 elections, and you just didn’t have a lot of people wanting to walk in the snow that we’ve had lately,” she said.

Mesirow, who lost a bid for council in 2017, said he felt confident about making a runoff and was surprised that he won a council seat outright. He said his campaign staff made 1,500 get-out-the-vote calls Tuesday.

“I’m always skeptical going in, because if you think you’re going to win, you’re guaranteed to lose because you’re going to stop working,” he said.

Mesirow credited a wide range of supporters for pushing him to the finish line, from young service industry workers and professionals to local political stalwarts like Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, former Councilman Art Daily and developer John Sarpa.

“It’s been the most heartwarming thing in the world to have people I grew up mythologizing, like [former Sheriff] Bob Braudis, and many others behind us,” he said. “It feels amazing.”

Turnout in the race was nearly 50 percent. Mesirow said there’s no doubt that holding the election in March instead of during the off-season contributed to the strong voter participation. More than 1,000 votes were cast in person at City Hall on Tuesday.

“That’s outstanding, almost a 20 percent increase in turnout from 2017,” he said. “That’s the biggest win of the night, even more than my win.”

The two new council members will be sworn-in to their seats in June.

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at andre@aspendailynews.com.


Aspen Daily News Column 2/21/19 - Wendel Whiting: Congratulations, it’s a ballot!


Check your mailbox, your official ballot for the municipal election should be there if you are registered to vote. This is exciting for me because finally, after many years of bending ears about the ridiculous May election timing, I have lived to see the day that reason has prevailed in Aspen and we get to vote when the citizens are actually in town to vote. Some of you may have never had the opportunity to vote in a municipal election before because of the timing. Now is your chance!

It’s a pretty short ballot, just four ovals to fill in. I am not going to tell you whom or what to vote for, but I am asking you to vote. I was very invested in the effort that got the election date changed to March, and I want to see the fruit of that labor manifested with increased voter turnout.

After the recent city council debacles, I would like to tell you whom to not vote for, however. Namely, don’t vote for anyone currently on city council.

Aspen is a very successful town, and it is a progressive town. However, our current city council has been diligently working hard and spending a lot of money to do nothing to move it forward.

Without leaders who could stand up to criticism and opposition, Aspen wouldn’t have many of the advantages it now enjoys that make it such a unique place. We currently don’t have any leaders who are able to stick to their convictions or make decisions. Mayor Steve Skadron was pretty good at that, but he isn’t running for office. Adam Frisch, Ann Mullins and Bert Myrin are. Each is uniquely able to wilt in the face of criticism and not make a decision to save their life.

Actually, Bert can make a decision, because he has just one conviction, to do the opposite of what the majority of the city council thinks is a good idea. He has flipped his stance on issues just because his first position became the majority position, so he had to make a 180 with his vote. He also doesn’t believe in representative democracy, which makes all of the money we spend on informing our governance a complete waste. He wastes our time by throwing every decision to the voters. If he really doesn’t think a council should be making decisions for the community, then he should resign, not actively pursue the responsibility he so despises.

Speaking of Bert, he seems against the city wasting money, that’s great, but he demanded that the new city hall not have a natural gas feed. Not only would that have increased construction costs by about $4 million, but it would have increased the annual operating costs of the building. How is that fiscally responsible? If you believe in fiscal responsibility don’t vote for Bert.

One of the planks of the current council’s  guiding principles is “Tone and Tenor.” Ostensibly that means having a respectful tone and tenor in their dealings among themselves and the citizens. Bert routinely calls other council members names, and in the case of the natural gas line, openly accused city staff of “cooking the books” when it came to presenting the costs of running the new city hall on just electricity. If you believe in “tone and tenor,” then don’t vote for Bert.

Adam’s vote blows with the winds of populism, or changes based on whether he is tired or not. It should be founded on what he thinks is the best for the community, not change because it is past his bedtime.

Ann spends too much energy on consensus building. That’s not leadership. The city spends an enormous amount of money bringing the information to the council that it needs to reach decisions. Consensus is not a thing that will ever happen in Aspen. As a result we are deadlocked on nearly every important issue.

Ann is running for mayor, if she doesn’t win then she still has two more years left of her term as a councilwoman. I don’t think we can afford to have a mayor who isn’t willing to hold her ground or make decisions that aren’t popular.

The city hall issue has been a textbook example of poor leadership. Had the city council just made the decision to build the damn thing the community would have saved millions of dollars. Instead they lacked any courage to make the decision, wasted everyone’s time and money, and then, years later, we get the same freaking town hall they could have just voted for and been done with it. The council literally took millions of our tax dollars and evaporated them because they lacked any courage to make a decision. Don’t vote for people who aren’t willing to do the job you are voting them into.

I don’t understand why, in this case, the vote for city hall went to the voters, and the council bound themselves to the will of the people. Whereas, when there was an advisory vote to see if the public supported the idea of converting the existing city hall into a public multi-use facility, and it passed, the city council did the opposite of what the citizens wanted. Why on earth did they send it to the people to vote on if they weren’t willing to support it if the citizens wanted it? It’s so infuriating.

Remember the Old Power House fiasco? The city council dragged dozens of people through the ringer for no legitimate reason. Thousands of hours were wasted on an elaborate opera of ineptness. The city council didn’t have the courage to make a decision that benefited the community because they didn’t have the balls to face down facile opposition.

Aspen doesn’t need or deserve to have such fickle public servants. Bert, Adam and Ann have shown themselves, over and over again, to be about as strong as a crisp pickle when it comes to making tough decisions that will benefit the community. They have snapped when the slightest pressure moved to bend their position.

Please vote. It’s easy, and this election is very important for the future of Aspen. We need new leadership, because the current crew isn’t working for us. They are working against us.

NoBertNoAdamNoAnn@wendlewhiting.org


Letter to the Editor 2/21/19 - Auden Schendler: Mesirow, Richards support environment

Aspen can play a major role in the fight to stop climate change, and this election will be crucial. Without federal leadership, but with aggressive action at the state level, Aspen can and should expand its role as a shining city on a hill, modeling new, innovative, and even risky climate solutions in housing, transportation, clean energy policy and projects, and building practices.

The best two candidates to support this effort are Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow.

In Skippy, we have what the valley badly needs, which is new, young leadership. Skippy has shown a willingness to reach out, learn, listen and evolve his positions accordingly, and will represent a new generation that cares more about climate than previous ones.

Rachel has long history and serious wonkiness when it comes to environmental policy, just when we need it.

Please vote for Skippy an Rachel.

Auden Schendler

Basalt


Letter to the Editor 2/19/19 - John Sarpa: Mesirow has fresh approach to Aspen politics

Skippy Mesirow would be an excellent new councilman. He works hard and does his research and homework on issues. He knows how to listen carefully to all opinions, including those that may differ from his own. His natural leadership tendency is to find consensus. Just ask anyone on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission about him where he was the chairman for three terms. Perhaps most importantly, once a consensus is reached, Skippy knows how to bring people together to get things done. Bringing good, well-thought-out ideas and policies to practical outcomes is one of the most important qualities of an effective governing body. Skippy will help bring that to the Aspen City Council.

For a fresh, thoughtful approach to our community challenges, vote for Skippy.

John Sarpa

Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/20/19 - Linzy Upton-Spatz: Aspen’s future is strong with Mesirow


Most older siblings make all of the mistakes first, teach you what your parents don't want you to know and set an example of things you shouldn't do at their age. However, I had the unique experience of having a big brother who taught me how to be hardworking, to care for others and to stand up for myself, among so many other lessons by being someone I could look up to and aspire to be more like. Now that same person, Skippy Mesirow, wants to lead Aspen to a better future, as he did with me.

When I started college, Skippy made a point to see me every month despite being incredibly busy and eight hours away. Despite the distance, he never failed to show up even if I just needed my big brother for a couple hours. Though he is the hardest working person I know, he has never failed to put his family first and to be there for the people who need him.

Skippy has been my rock and my inspiration for 21 years and I am confident that he could be the same for Aspen if elected to City Council. He has never been afraid to stand up for what he cares about, and there are few things he is more passionate about than Aspen. I believe in Skippy for City Council not just because he is my amazing big brother, but because he has real, important ideas that he will go to any length to accomplish so Aspen will be a better place for this generation and future ones.

Linzy Upton-Spatz

Snowmass Village


The Aspen Times 2/22/19 - City of Aspen to sell historic West End home for $3.8 million - Carolyn Sackariason

The city of Aspen is poised to sell a house it owns in a West End neighborhood for about the same price as when the government acquired it over a decade ago.

Hymanhouse-atd-022219.jpg

The city purchased the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at 312 W. Hyman Ave. in 2007 for $3.5 million.

Aspen City Council on Monday will consider approving a real estate contract with a buyer described as a Louisana-based LLC called Sopris Center for $3.8 million.

That price was a counter offer made by the city after Sopris Center initially offered $3.6 million last month.

With closing costs and real estate commissions, the city's return would be $3.6 million.

"We're basically breaking even," said city capital asset director Jeff Pendarvis on Thursday.

The property was originally listed for almost $4.9 million and then reduced last summer to $4.4 million and then again to $3.95 million this past fall.

This isn't the first time the property has been listed. The city put it up in 2009 for $3.5 million.

"During the initial listing the property generated little interest and had no showings and only two offers to trade the property," Pendarvis wrote in a memo to council. "City Council had the property appraised by Aspen Appraisal Group for $2,650,000.

"During the scrutiny of the property in 2009 it was revealed that the property only yields five (transfer development rights) and not the 7-8 previously thought," the memo reads. "Given the economy and state of the real estate market at that time, council decided to hold the property instead of taking less than the purchase price."

The city bought the property from Jordie Gerberg because he planned to sell it and have it demolished to make way for a new home.

Council then designated the property historic, which prevented it from being torn down. Historic Preservation officials noted the home's architecture reflects the history of Aspen as it became a ski resort. The chalet-style, two-story house was built in 1956.

Pendarvis said there are signs of previous ownership attempting to mask certain architectural elements on the exterior of the home in attempt to disguise its historic significance.

And while the city didn't make any money on the deal, it saved an asset that would have otherwise seen a scrape-and-replace development.

"The house is protected, so it won't be torn down," Pendarvis said.

The city had rented the nearly 2,000-square-foot property to an individual through the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority for just over $2,000 a month. That person moved out in May.

Other than as a rental, the home doesn't have much use to the city, Pendarvis pointed out in the memo.

"The property is an underperforming asset for the housing development fund and returns very little for the $3.5 million used to purchase it," he wrote. "The historic designation on the property makes it undesirable to most investors/developers. The opportunity to add onto the structure is limited by the location on the property of the existing house and the proximity to the large trees that line the alley."

However, Pendarvis said Thursday that the buyer is looking to develop a carriage house or a similar structure behind the house.

csackariason@aspentimes.com


Letter to the Editor 2/21/19 - Eden Vardy: Skippy’s the right choice for council

Editor:

I typically do not do public endorsements, but in this instance, I have been so impressed by Skippy Mesirow's plan for our town, he is the right choice for council.

Skippy won my support after approaching me when putting together a "cabinet" to help him make leadership decisions and craft policy during his campaign and in office. He asked if I'd represent sustainability, youth, food and the environment. Politicians are always claiming to have all the answers, I love that Skippy surrounds himself with leaders to help him make informed, data-driven decisions. He is a strong listener, responding to what he has heard rather than making assumptions about what people want. I would wager that Skippy has knocked on more doors than any other candidate possibly in Aspen history.

Why I support Skippy:

He cares about this town for the long term. Skippy is committed to our home for future generations; he made a five-generation-pledge.

He is a listener and collaborator. Skippy is dedicated to working together and consulting with experts to make decisions.

He has experience. Skippy has been a public servant for seven years.

He is energetic, young and committed. I am certain that no other candidate will spend as many hours on the job. He will shake things up in a good way. Skippy will engage people in the public process.

He has a global worldview. Skippy has experienced and understands solutions that create vitality without reliance on second homes.

Vote Skippy.

Eden Vardy

Aspen


Aspen Daily News 2/13/19 - Menter: Untying the Lift One Corridor Gordian knot - Paul Menter

For the better part of the last two decades, redevelopment of the Lift One side of Aspen Mountain has been one of those apparently insurmountable “Aspen” issues. Recounting the history of Aspen’s original ski lift and its halting progress toward something other than an antiquated afterthought of a low-speed double chair known as Lift 1A has been the fodder of local news and politics for many years.

Like a Gordian knot (the kind from Alexander the Great’s time, where the harder you pull on its ends the tighter it gets), Lift One redevelopment has been thrashed around over the years. Legend has it that when confronted with the original Gordian knot, Alexander sliced it in two with one blow of his sword, consequently gaining dominion over all of Asia.

Such a swift and declaratory solution to Aspen’s Lift One version of the Gordian knot has never emerged. As with many complex issues, Lift One redevelopment proposals have seemed always to eventually collapse under the weight of a multiplicity of community interests, political allegiances and economic limitations. It is as if each of these interests pulls on the knot in the direction of their perceived benefit, tightening its hold on the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to progress.

This newspaper’s online edition is replete with a virtual library of stories, columns (including some of mine) and letters to the editor regarding the current and prior proposals for the redevelopment of the Lift One corridor of Aspen Mountain. Taken collectively, it’s a multi-decade diary of Lift One drama and an opportunity in need of a radical solution. Lift One needed something that would refocus the community on a shared vision that would supersede the perceived individualized interests of the stakeholders.

At one level it’s a mystery to me as to why it’s so hard to plan and develop ski- and snowboard-serving facilities and infrastructure in a community founded on skiing. After all, Aspen still gains the largest portion of its substantial international identity from its skiing legacy. And now, its future as an international ski racing venue is at stake with the FIS’s declaration that a new lift is required if Aspen is to host future international competitions.

Yes, summer activities — music, physics, ideas and the like — all contribute to modern Aspen’s gestalt (a German word meaning the whole provides more value than the sum of its individual parts), but skiing initially, along with snowboarding in more recent decades, provide the cornerstone of Aspen’s identity. But even FIS throwing down the gauntlet on Aspen’s future as a host of international competition without a new ski lift failed to coalesce sufficient community unity to generate a solution.

If you are familiar with this history, or if you take the time to read a representative sample of the news stories documenting the long and winding path that is set to culminate with a March 5 vote on the Lift One corridor’s current redevelopment proposal, you know that there is one thing making the current ballot measure stand out from all of the unsuccessful prior efforts. That one thing is, of course, the location of the lift terminus itself.

After an almost half century of languishing at the very top of South Aspen Street in the form of Lift 1A, the new lift will begin about 500 feet down slope, near its original 1947 location at the corner of South Aspen and Dean streets. All of this depends upon Aspen voter approval of the current Lift One corridor ballot measure, of course.

When the proposal to move the lift terminus down to Dean Street was first floated by the city, I was skeptical. I considered the level of cooperation required to reach an agreement permitting such a change to be unachievable. I thought it signaled the further tightening of the Lift One corridor Gordian knot, and like previous redevelopment proposals, the multiplicity of interests would result in yet one more collapse.

The end result, I concluded, was that South Aspen Street would see the development of the four single-family homes permitted under current conservation zoning, and America’s original ski lift would cease to exist. It’s an alternative that remains the most likely outcome should Aspen voters nix the current proposal.

Pending Aspen voter approval, I am happy to admit that I was wrong. Everyone gave up something to get a lot for the community. Primary among the collaborators, the Gorsuch Haus folks gave up having the Lift 1A terminus adjacent to their planned hotel at the top of South Aspen Street. The Lift One Lodge folks, who already had development approvals in hand, reworked their building design in order to provide access for the ski return to pass through their property. The city of Aspen pushed for the community-serving amenities, including the lift relocation, a new ski museum, refurbishment of the Skiers Chalet building, reconstruction of Dean Street, and a consolidated Willoughby/Dolenisk open space, and put the capstone on the collaboration by agreeing to provide up to $4.36 million towards the completion of those community-serving facilities.

Extending the lift down South Aspen Street and back into the heart of the community to its original location was the missing ingredient in all of the previous Lift One redevelopment efforts. One final interested party holds the Lift One solution in their hands. Aspen voters can untie the Lift One corridor Gordian knot on March 5, not in the authoritarian manner of Alexander the Great, but rather in the context of placing community benefit ahead of perceived individual interests. I hope they do.


The Aspen Times 2/14/19 - Pitkin County Democratic Party chair says he was assaulted while canvassing - Jason Auslander

The 72-year-old chairman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party said Thursday he was punched, kicked and thrown down a flight of stairs by a local resident while out canvassing earlier this week.

"He said, 'If I see you again, I'm going to kill you,'" Howie Wallach said of his alleged assailant. "I've knocked on 10,000 doors. You do get grumpy people. I've never had this happen before."

The incident occurred Monday at the Centennial affordable-housing complex at the base of Smuggler Mountain. Wallach said the 68-year-old man who allegedly assaulted him did not seem politically motivated and did not bad mouth the Democratic Party, but rather appeared to be incensed that he was trespassing.

Wallach, who was not injured, called Aspen police afterward but said at the time he didn't want to press charges, Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Thursday.

Wallach called back later Monday and said he wanted to press charges, though the delay meant officers had to investigate and will present what they find to prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office, who will decide whether to charge the man, he said. The 68-year-old man Wallach accused of the assault had not been arrested or charged with anything as of Thursday afternoon.

The phone number belonging to the man Wallach accused of assaulting him was disconnected and attempts Thursday to reach him were not successful. Linn said the man denied physically touching Wallach, though Linn declined to release any other information because of the ongoing investigation.

Wallach said that as soon as the man opened his door Monday, he began screaming at Wallach that he was trespassing. Wallach told him he was not trespassing, and that it was legal for him to be canvassing for the municipal election next month.

That argument did not go over well, he said.

"He flew out the door at me and pushed me back," Wallach said. "I fell against a pillar next to the stairs and went down (to the ground). Then he started punching and kicking me. Then he kicked me down the stairs head first."

He said he came to rest midway down the flight of metal stairs, then picked himself up, retrieved his hat and glasses from the ground and told the man he was going to call police.

"He said, 'Go ahead,'" Wallach said.

Despite the intensity of the alleged attack, Wallach said he was not injured, mainly because it was a cold day and he was heavily bundled up. He said he refused police officers' offer of an ambulance and felt they were skeptical of his assault claims because he was not injured.

"The cops really doubted I went down the stairs," he said.

A local man canvassing with Wallach witnessed the alleged attack and mostly corroborated Wallach's version of events, Linn said.

Not only was Wallach not injured, he and the other man continued canvassing at Centennial after the incident, Wallach said.

"That was a good thing," Wallach said. "(Canvassing) went back to normal."

However, when he arrived home, his wife was concerned about what happened to him and took him to the emergency room, he said. And while an ER doctor didn't think he'd sustained any injuries, he decided he did want to press charges against the man.

"I'm sore," he said. "My back was twisted. But there's no real injuries."

Linn said officers continue to investigate the case and will provide the information to the DA's Office in the near future.


Letter to the Editor 2/14/19 - Scott Writer: Frisch and Mesirow have my vote

I'm voting for Adam Frisch for mayor and Skippy Mesirow for council.

In a field of excellent candidates, I am going with Adam because I see a vote for him as a twofer. One, get Adam; and two, keep Ann Mullins (who has been a great council person) for two more years.

Among the council candidates one of my votes is going to Skippy. I think Skippy gets affordable housing better than anyone of the candidates and his vision for housing appears to most align with mine: that affordable housing isn't just about putting a roof over one's head but about creativity opportunity and a possible path to the American Dream, a concept that we should embrace for affordable-housing owners. Why should this dream be strictly limited to free-market owners? The original affordable-housing goal was to create a "rung in the real estate ladder" helping locals to climb to the free market (if they choose). That goal should not be lost and in fact should be actively pursued — yes, it can be done and with less public subsidy.

Affordable housing is about community, and Aspen should not only battle to retain but build upon an already vibrant community. We can do better and I think with less subsidy by introducing free-market principles to a controlled, but active affordable-housing market. Helping affordable-housing owners move up or down creates vacancies and opportunities for everyone. Affordable housing should be spread throughout the valley in integrated ways with as many variations on the "products" and local partners as possible.

Please vote for Skippy and Adam by March 5 (in between powder shots)! What a winter. I love this place. Locals first!

Scott Writer
Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/15/19 - R.J. Gallagher, Jr.: Get out of the way.

Editor:

It’s voting time in the old mining town, again. While I cannot cast, I have been a resident of Aspen and the greater Aspen area since 1980. I have also been a very active community member by engaging in the political process on dozens upon dozens of local and regional elections. Except this one.

I have been a personal friend and professional alliance of Skippy Mesirow since the year 2014. Someone recently penned that Skippy is an acquired taste. No statement could be more accurate. I was an intimate member of Skippy’s initial campaign to serve our community two years ago. It was an unforgettable ride. A ton of heavy lifting was accomplished and a lot was learned. But the end result was short of the ultimate goal. Most would probably rethink entering the public arena after such an outcome, but not Skippy. He rolled up his sleeves and kept on keeping on. He chairs the city of Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission and even increased his already overactive community involvement by intently focusing on important initiatives that can, and will, make Aspen a better place to call home. For all.

I was humbled and honored when Skippy reached out and asked me to be a member of his “Collective” for his current run to serve. I told him that my plate was overflowing and I needed to stay focused on my tasks at hand and declined to engage. I lied. My real reason for staying on the sidelines was to get out of Skippy’s way. Let him spread his wings. Harness his energy, enthusiasm, intellect and tell his story, his way. Mission accomplished.

My father always told me that the decisions I will say no to will prove to be more important than the ones I say yes to. It wasn’t easy to say no on this one. But it was the right thing to do. For Skippy. Now get out there and vote.

R.J. Gallagher, Jr.

Basalt


Letter to the Editor 2/15/19 - Benjamin Felch: Mesirow will lift Aspen

Hello, Aspen. My name is Benjamin Felch and I want to tell you about Skippy Mesirow, an outstanding and loving person I have known for almost 20 years. Our friendship has lasted this long because he exudes one of his campaign principles of "care for one another."

When most hear this saying, they think of giving a helping hand or working the local shelter a few times a year, but with Skippy, this is a daily way of life. Skippy lives his life to make others truly full. Full of happiness, full of confidence and, most importantly, full of ambition. He makes people and communities want to progress.

I want to end with one of my favorite quotes, "Ambition is not what man does … but what man would do." (Robert Browning). For as long as I have known Skippy, he has wanted to help his community and fellow citizens, not because he seeks the fame or notoriety, but because he truly wants everyone to be ambitious.

Please, meet with Skippy, have a conversation with him and see how he will make you more ambitious. Ask him about how he will make Aspen even better than it already is!

Benjamin Felch

Glen Ellyn, Illinois


The Aspen Times 2/14/19 - Aspen City Council candidates hot, lukewarm and cold to Lift One proposal - Rick Carroll

With the Lift One proposal at the western base of Aspen Mountain going to the electorate March 5, the race for City Council has taken on a different posture than in years past.

For sure, discussions about Aspen's housing crunch and transportation woes still permeate on the campaign trail, but candidates also have gone public with their positions about Lift One, a multifaceted, nuanced proposal for the ski mountain's most historic area but one that also is dilapidated.

On Wednesday at the Aspen Business Luncheon candidate forum, held at Mountain Chalet and moderated by Chris Klug, the four contestants for the two open council seats showed support for the Lift One plan ranging from unwavering to lukewarm, or, in the case of the incumbent, not at all.

One candidate, Rachel Richards, said the Lift One issue has become a litmus test of sorts for voters, similar to the pro-choice/pro-life debate on the national scale.

Candidates Linda Manning, Skippy Mesirow and Richards have lent the support to the project; Councilman Bert Myrin, who is seeking re-election, is against the ballot question in its current form.

The multi-layered question asks voters, in one fell swoop, if they approve a city ordinance that would pave the way for two mountain-slope hotels — the 81-room, 64,000-square-foot Gorsuch Haus and the 104-room, 107,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge — and a $4.36 million taxpayer contribution that would help fund Dean Street improvements and the conversion of the near-dormant Skiers Chalet Lodge into a ski museum. It also includes adding a new lift that would go down to Dean Street and replace Lift 1A.

Klug asked the candidates to weigh in on their Lift One positions, and Myrin again positioned himself as being firmly opposed to it, while Manning showed the most unyielding advocacy, and Mesirow and Richards cited flaws in the project while verbalizing their support.

Klug, who won the 2002 Winter Olympics bronze medal parallel giant slalom and is now a Realtor, noted that "$4.36 million is coming from city coffers to support the ski museum. Good idea, bad idea?"

Manning, the city clerk, stayed consistent with her position that emphasizes a pro-business side.

"I support the Lift One corridor project and the public-private partnership of $4.36 million," she said. "I think it's more than a ski lift that's going to be the public benefit of that project. It will activate the Dolinsek property (which would be part of the ski corridor); it will be improvements to the street and the pedestrian corridor."

Manning has argued the city could do a better job of supporting Aspen's resort and business community, and she stayed true to that position concerning Lift One.

"It is bringing much-needed lodge rooms to the city," she said. "We are a resort community. We need everything that comes with the resort community. We need the hotel rooms, we need the guests that the hotels will bring, we need the improvements to the Dolinsek property, we need the improvements to the streets and the infrastructure, and the pedestrian amenities. We need all of that. That is the perfect location for this project. If we don't have it at the base of the mountain, where are we going to get it?

"I think this a great project. I think it is the perfect location. I support this project."

Myrin is on the opposite site, and has argued that the proposal sacrifices too much employee housing by reducing Lift One's previous agreement with the city to house 91 workers. That agreement, however, was hatched under a different land-use code, which now requires Gorsuch to provide housing for 21.68 full-time employees, and Lift One to house 45.6 employees, according to the city.

"I suggest voting 'no' on this and sending it back to City Council," Myrin said. "It's a rushed decision on both P&Z's part and City Council's part (putting it on the March ballot)," he said, noting the council opted not to forward the issue to the April ballot in the event of a mayoral or council runoff.

Myrin also said the public money would be better spent on affordable housing.

"Are we building for the higher peaks (the busiest times of the year for tourism) and can we utilize what we have more efficiently?" he asked. "I think we can utilize what we have more efficiently."

Myrin said he would suggest splitting the ballot question into three parts — one for the subsidy, one for rezoning Gorsuch and the final one for Lift One Lodge and the new lift.

Lift One Lodge and relocated new lift would win voter approval, Myrin said, theorizing that the other two would fail at the polls. He also predicted the March ballot question will go down.

Richards conceded the project is not perfect, but it beats the alternate scenario of the Gorsuch team building single-family homes and condominiums in its place, which it has the right to do. Lift One could still be built, but the new ski lift would be jeopardized and, in turn, the future of World Cup ski racing on Aspen Mountain, she said.

"If I had been on the council, I would not have associated that vote (for the $4.36 million) with this election," she said. "I think with that amount of money, they could have had a special election in June and spent more time negotiating with developers to come up with a better proposal."

Even so, Richard said, Aspen over the years has favored improving the Aspen school campus, the Aspen Institute and even the base of Little Nell with the Silver Queen Gondola. She also supports the public money.

"I think the financial commitment is appropriate," she said, likening money the city spent on Durant Street improvements by the gondola as well as Seventh Street to improve pedestrian safety.

Mesirow said he will vote in favor of the project, even though he's not completely satisfied with the proposal, chiefly because he said it falls short on worker housing.

"I will end up voting for the project," he said. "That said … there are things, had I had the opportunity, I would have done significantly differently. Bert talks about full housing mitigation, and I'm with him. I would have been his grounding rock had I been on that council."

Like Myrin, Mesirow also said he doesn't support the developers getting a break from taxpayers.

"City money going into a project, it's going to have $1,000, $1,500 hotel rooms," he said. "That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't think we have a lack of a bed base; I think we have a lack of diversity of a bed base. If there was something that was truly affordable that could attract the next generation of locals, that's something I would consider."

Despite his reservations, Mesirow said a "no" vote isn't in Aspen's best interest.

"Public policy is a choice, and if we vote 'no' on this, what we get is the old version of the Lift One Lodge that's already been entitled and approved and can't be extended," he said. "That goes in right away, and precludes the lift from coming down, it precludes the Dolinsek property, it precludes a lot of the vitality that will come to that area. Gorsuch, we don't know what happens, but as Rachel said, most likely, more empty single-family homes."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


Letter to the Editor 2/13/19 - Art Daily: Mesirow passionate about Aspen


Over the past several years Skippy Mesirow and I have developed an enjoyable friendship, largely over brekkie at Spring Cafe. It never seemed like we were trying to get from here to there. It was more a simple appreciation of our time together.

Inevitably, however, I've come to know and understand better where this young man lives in our world. He's smart, tech-savvy, and youthful and creative in his outlook, and yet I sense a deep caring about his loved ones and friends and a true desire to make a meaningful difference in our community and in the greater environment in which we exist.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to practice law in this wild and wonderful town during the 48 years from 1968 through 2016, and to represent an iconic cast of characters, among the more reputable being Elizabeth Paepcke (the Paepcke Center and surroundings), Edgar and Polly Stern (the Starwood environment), and Fritz and Fabi Benedict (beginning on Red Mountain between Red Mountain Ranch and the Forest Service lands to the east, and then following their hearts throughout this end of the valley). These were strong, caring and spirited folks, and the future of Aspen meant everything to them.

Quite honestly, I believe they'd find Skippy Mesirow a desirable and responsible representative on our City Council for the next four years. He's done more homework than most, including devoting the past six years to Planning and Zoning (currently the chair), and he's ready for leadership. It's not about ego; it's about moving our community in a positive and thoughtful direction.

Art Daily

Aspen


Aspen Daily News 2/13/19 - Menter: Untying the Lift One Corridor Gordian knot - Paul Menter

For the better part of the last two decades, redevelopment of the Lift One side of Aspen Mountain has been one of those apparently insurmountable “Aspen” issues. Recounting the history of Aspen’s original ski lift and its halting progress toward something other than an antiquated afterthought of a low-speed double chair known as Lift 1A has been the fodder of local news and politics for many years.

Like a Gordian knot (the kind from Alexander the Great’s time, where the harder you pull on its ends the tighter it gets), Lift One redevelopment has been thrashed around over the years. Legend has it that when confronted with the original Gordian knot, Alexander sliced it in two with one blow of his sword, consequently gaining dominion over all of Asia.

Such a swift and declaratory solution to Aspen’s Lift One version of the Gordian knot has never emerged. As with many complex issues, Lift One redevelopment proposals have seemed always to eventually collapse under the weight of a multiplicity of community interests, political allegiances and economic limitations. It is as if each of these interests pulls on the knot in the direction of their perceived benefit, tightening its hold on the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to progress.

This newspaper’s online edition is replete with a virtual library of stories, columns (including some of mine) and letters to the editor regarding the current and prior proposals for the redevelopment of the Lift One corridor of Aspen Mountain. Taken collectively, it’s a multi-decade diary of Lift One drama and an opportunity in need of a radical solution. Lift One needed something that would refocus the community on a shared vision that would supersede the perceived individualized interests of the stakeholders.

At one level it’s a mystery to me as to why it’s so hard to plan and develop ski- and snowboard-serving facilities and infrastructure in a community founded on skiing. After all, Aspen still gains the largest portion of its substantial international identity from its skiing legacy. And now, its future as an international ski racing venue is at stake with the FIS’s declaration that a new lift is required if Aspen is to host future international competitions.

Yes, summer activities — music, physics, ideas and the like — all contribute to modern Aspen’s gestalt (a German word meaning the whole provides more value than the sum of its individual parts), but skiing initially, along with snowboarding in more recent decades, provide the cornerstone of Aspen’s identity. But even FIS throwing down the gauntlet on Aspen’s future as a host of international competition without a new ski lift failed to coalesce sufficient community unity to generate a solution.

If you are familiar with this history, or if you take the time to read a representative sample of the news stories documenting the long and winding path that is set to culminate with a March 5 vote on the Lift One corridor’s current redevelopment proposal, you know that there is one thing making the current ballot measure stand out from all of the unsuccessful prior efforts. That one thing is, of course, the location of the lift terminus itself.

After an almost half century of languishing at the very top of South Aspen Street in the form of Lift 1A, the new lift will begin about 500 feet down slope, near its original 1947 location at the corner of South Aspen and Dean streets. All of this depends upon Aspen voter approval of the current Lift One corridor ballot measure, of course.

When the proposal to move the lift terminus down to Dean Street was first floated by the city, I was skeptical. I considered the level of cooperation required to reach an agreement permitting such a change to be unachievable. I thought it signaled the further tightening of the Lift One corridor Gordian knot, and like previous redevelopment proposals, the multiplicity of interests would result in yet one more collapse.

The end result, I concluded, was that South Aspen Street would see the development of the four single-family homes permitted under current conservation zoning, and America’s original ski lift would cease to exist. It’s an alternative that remains the most likely outcome should Aspen voters nix the current proposal.

Pending Aspen voter approval, I am happy to admit that I was wrong. Everyone gave up something to get a lot for the community. Primary among the collaborators, the Gorsuch Haus folks gave up having the Lift 1A terminus adjacent to their planned hotel at the top of South Aspen Street. The Lift One Lodge folks, who already had development approvals in hand, reworked their building design in order to provide access for the ski return to pass through their property. The city of Aspen pushed for the community-serving amenities, including the lift relocation, a new ski museum, refurbishment of the Skiers Chalet building, reconstruction of Dean Street, and a consolidated Willoughby/Dolenisk open space, and put the capstone on the collaboration by agreeing to provide up to $4.36 million towards the completion of those community-serving facilities.

Extending the lift down South Aspen Street and back into the heart of the community to its original location was the missing ingredient in all of the previous Lift One redevelopment efforts. One final interested party holds the Lift One solution in their hands. Aspen voters can untie the Lift One corridor Gordian knot on March 5, not in the authoritarian manner of Alexander the Great, but rather in the context of placing community benefit ahead of perceived individual interests. I hope they do.


GrassRoots Community Network - ACRA Election Forum: 2019 Aspen City Council Candidates Part 2 of 2


Aspen Daily News 2/11/19 - The Lift | Candidate Interview: Skippy Mesirow

Watch the interview:

https://www.aspendailynews.com/news/government/election_2019/the-lift-candidate-interview-skippy-mesirow/video_4586fd58-2fd2-11e9-bdd0-b378dc41aee2.html


Letter to the Editor 2/12/19 - Kim Baillargeon: A vote for Mesirow and NextGen

Editor:

My day has started with coffee and reading the local paper online since the option was available to comment. I find it more efficient to read an article without the disruption of ads and the ability to respond immediately to the article I am reading a mixed relief. It is in this online format that I met Skippy Mesirow. The NextGen was a target of my disapproval, and he responded to me, “Let’s meet.”

He greeted me with open arms and genuine feeling of gratitude. It did not take long to realize that we shared similar passion for our community but through different lenses. I also believe that we realized that we can work toward a resolution through understanding each other’s views. I was very impressed.

We have met several times since then to discuss ways to support our common goals. It is not just our meetings that have impressed me, but the way he handles himself with all groups of people and at different levels in society.

The future of Aspen needs the participation of Skippy Mesirow’s generation and those to come. I believe we need to show confidence in the next generations to design the future of Aspen. I believe Skippy is smart enough and will grow tremendously with the responsibilities required of a councilman. He is a clever and gracious young man who will find the solutions to our most controversial issues and I wholeheartedly ask all to vote for Skippy Mesirow for council.

Kim Baillargeon

Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/12/19 - Chris Bendon: Mesirow for leadership and accomplishment


Editor:

I’m voting for Skippy.  All four candidates care deeply about this community, have good ideas, and would be good stewards of the public trust. What sets Skippy apart is his record of leadership and accomplishment. Concerned about younger voices being heard – create NextGen. Concerned about growth and development issues – chair the Planning and Zoning Commission. Concerned about low voter turnout – change the election date. His ability to push past platitudes and do something about an issue is impressive. Skippy will do the work and that’s what we need.

Chris Bendon

Aspen


The Aspen Times 2/12/19 - Study forecasts how bad Roaring Fork Valley’s affordable housing shortage will be by 2027 - Scott Condon

The Roaring Fork Valley region is expected to have a deficit of about 5,700 units of affordable housing for households earning less than the median income by 2027, according to a final draft of a housing needs assessment.

But the region's blue-collar workers are far from the only ones facing problems finding affordable housing, the study said. There is a "missing middle" in the affordable-housing market that looms as a major problem for the Roaring Fork Valley and Interstate 70 corridor between Eagle and Parachute, the study said.

"(The) troubling trend as seen across the country is the disappearance of housing affordable to middle-income households," said the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Housing Study.

There was a shortage of about 700 units in 2017 for households making between 100 to 120 percent of area median income and a shortage of 1,200 units for households at 120 to 160 percent of the median income, according to the study. Those gaps are likely to intensify by 2027.

“I think the basic thrust is there’s a pretty dramatic need in all categories of affordable housing.” 

— David Myler, housing advocate

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported the median household income in Pitkin County was $98,000 in 2017 compared with $89,500 in Eagle County and $70,400 in Garfield County.

People making between 140 and 160 percent of the area median income will feel the greatest pinch over the next decade, the study said. They are priced out of the free market but make too much for many subsidized-housing programs.

The Roaring Fork Valley Regional Housing Study was funded by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, Garfield County, Eagle County and Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. It was initiated at the urging of David Myler and Bill Lamont, two midvalley residents with a long history of interest in civic issues. Economic and Planning Systems Inc. and RRC Associates, both with offices in Denver, performed the study.

The 139-page report will be shared with local governments after final revisions are made and a concise summary prepared, Myler said. His hope is that the information is used as part of a regional approach to the affordable-housing problem.

"I think the basic thrust is there's a pretty dramatic need in all categories of affordable housing," Myler said.

The study provides an abundance of information about population, jobs and housing changes in the valley and along the Interstate 70 corridor west to Parachute and east to Eagle between 2001 and 2017.

New housing between New Castle and Parachute, as well as Dotsero to Eagle, made a big dent in the housing deficit between 2001 and 2017, the study said. But surging population and job generation are expected to exacerbate the housing shortage once again, according to the study.

The region added 28,000 permanent residents over that time, boosting the population to about 103,000, the study said. More than 10,000 jobs were added over that 16-year period, though current employment still hasn't bounced back to pre-recession levels. There are about 50,000 jobs in the region now. There were 55,000 in the third quarter of 2008, the study said.

The population and job growth were somewhat offset by construction of 11,900 residential units between 2001-17. More than 60 percent of the construction activity occurred in the New Castle-to-Parachute and Eagle-to-Gypsum areas, according to the study.

"The region's workers have struggled for decades with the price of housing in the Roaring Fork Valley," the study said. "That's the main reason why the region has become so large — i.e. the down valley commute has extended farther and farther away in search of more affordable prices."

The report showed that Aspen and Snowmass Village continue to generate jobs at a greater rate than affordable housing. The upper valley had a demand for 2,500 affordable-housing units that was not met in 2001, the study said. That grew to about 3,000 units by 2017. In 2027, the unmet demand for affordable housing will grow to between 3,000 and 3,400, the study said.

Aspen and Snowmass Village import an average of 7,500 workers per day. That requires commuters from other towns.

The consultant surveyed households throughout the region to find out commuting patterns, among other things.

"Survey results show that in communities between Snowmass and El Jebel, between 62 percent and 97 percent of respondents have one or more household member working in Aspen," the study said. "Among Carbondale residents the figure drops to 49 percent, and it then falls off even more sharply among Glenwood Springs (16 percent) and Rifle (8 percent) residents. Nonetheless, a still significant 18 to 20 percent of New Castle and Silt households report one or more persons working in Aspen."

Glenwood Springs imports about 2,400 workers per day. The other locations within the region provide more workers than they require within, according to the study.

The challenge for easing the affordable-housing shortage is daunting, as illustrated by the study. The affordability gap — the difference between what an average family can afford and the median price of housing — will continue to widen, the study predicted. The gap currently ranges from $116,000 in the Eagle to Gypsum area to $290,000 in Carbondale to $1.4 million in Aspen and Snowmass Village. That's why middle-class families are finding it increasingly difficult to gain a toehold in the valley.

scondon@aspentimes.com


The Aspen Times 2/12/19 - In Aspen elections, Mesirow is top fundraiser, Frisch top spender - Rick Carroll

Newly elected Colorado Gov. Jared Polis' $250 contribution to Skippy Mesirow helped propel the Aspen City Council candidate past his three competitors in the race for campaign cash during the first reporting period for the upcoming municipal election.

Mesirow topped his opponents, as well as the four candidates vying for Aspen's mayoral seat, raising $12,604.98 in cash, as well as receiving $850 in nonmonetary contributions.

All told, Mesirow raised $13,454.98, with the 32-year-old candidate spending $5,012.72 during the first expenditure-reporting cycle, leaving him with $6,291.85.

Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch, who is running for mayor, topped all candidates in expenditures with $9,258.34 during the same cycle. Frisch also brought in $11,225 during that period, in addition to the $587.36 in funds on hand he carried over from his previous campaign.

Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to file their first campaign finance and expenditures for the March 5 municipal election. The ballot includes a City Council contest for two open seats, a mayoral race for the seat being vacated by Steve Skadron, who is term-limited, and a question regarding the development of two hotels and a ski lift on the western portal of Aspen Mountain.

In the race for City Council, former Aspen Mayor and Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards was second to Mesirow in fundraising with $8,800, securing donations from County Commissioner Greg Poschman ($50), former Aspen mayor and county commissioner Mick Ireland ($100), former Aspen City Manager Amy Margerum ($250), Sheriff Joe DiSalvo ($250), former Pitkin County Democratic Party Chair Blanca O'Leary ($250) and Jim DeFrancia ($250), one of the developers of the proposed Gorsuch Haus that is part of the ballot question.

Richards spent most of that — $8,198 — leaving her with $601 for the final three-week stretch.

Incumbent Councilman Bert Myrin raised $5,389 during the period, which he added to his leftover funds of $1,119.78 from his previous campaign. Myrin spent $3,312.59 with $3,376.12 remaining.

Among Myrin's supporters are Commissioner Patti Clapper ($150) and two lodge owners — Terry Butler of Residence Hotel ($250) and Michael Behrendt of St. Moritz Lodge ($250).

City Clerk Linda Manning drew $3,409 in contributions and $200 in nonmonetary donations, spending $2,772.33. Manning received donations from Butler ($250) Lift One Lodge developer Michael Brown ($100), Bootsy Bellows nightclub owner Andrew Sandler ($250), Escobar lounge and Grey Lady owner Ryan Chadwick ($250), DiSalvo ($200) and political gadfly Maurice Emmer ($50).

In the mayoral contest, Frisch's donors run the gamut, from Butler's $250 to the same amount from both affordable-housing developer Peter Fornell and architect Sara Broughton.

Ann Mullins, who is midway through her second and final term as councilwoman, was second in the mayor's race for campaign fundraising, bringing in $8,470 on top of the $500 left over from her previous campaign. Mullins reported having $299.52 in her campaign coffers after ringing up $8,670 in expenditures. Her donors included O'Leary ($250), former Councilman Art Daily ($200), DeFrancia ($200), Brown ($100), former Mayor Bill Stirling ($250) and Aspen Daily News columnist Lo Semple ($100).

The third mayoral candidate, Torre, a former councilman, reported raising $4,380 and spending $3,191.35. His contributors included Steve Goldenberg ($200), who has fought commercial and civic developments in town, as well as Tim Mooney ($250), also a slow-growther. Mooney also supports Myrin's re-election.

Mesirow said he got to know Polis when the Boulder Democrat ran for Congress in 2008. Mesirow was a student at the University of Colorado at the time and volunteered for Polis' campaign.

"We stay in touch, we talk semi-regularly," he said. "Obviously I was supporter of him running for governor, and it's great to have a resource and friend on the state level."

The campaign contribution limit in Aspen candidate elections is $250, and Mesirow collected that amount from such Aspen notables as developer John Sarpa, Daily, former city of Aspen Community Development director and now private planner Chris Bendon, DiSalvo and Polis, who was elected governor in November.

Former Sheriff Bob Braudis also gave $25 to Mesirow's campaign.

Other than mayoral candidate Cale Mitchell, who said he is not taking campaign contributions, the other seven candidates for the three open municipal seats have been spending their funds on yard signs, meet-and-greet social hours, campaign buttons and other means to get their word out.

Mesirow, whose expenses totaled $5,012.72 during the first cycle, also channeled his dollars toward social media and technology — including $250 for videography, and just over $1,000 for a text-messaging effort, among other expenses.

"We're getting a ton of impressions," he said, noting, however, that he would like to see Aspen lead the way in campaign-finance reform.


The Aspen Times 2/11/19 - Business Monday: Penthouse owner thwarts new Aspen business’ bid to serve booze - Rick Carroll

Operators of a recently opened gathering space in the heart of downtown Aspen hit a snag last week when the Local Licensing Authority rejected their bid to serve liquor at special events.

The business, Hunter Loft, is located on the second floor of the 535 E. Hyman Ave. structure nicknamed the "Lego building" because of its exterior design.

The 3,700-square-foot space opened in December to host special events, be they corporate functions, fundraisers, fashion shows, weddings, bar mitzvahs and other occasions, said Marcy Kneiper, who was hired by Hunter Loft, comprised of the Dallas investors who also acquired the commercial part of the building for $28 million in February 2018.

At Tuesday's LLA board meeting, however, Hunter Loft's effort to secure a lodging and entertainment license in order to serve booze met resistance from some members of the board, as well as an Aspen attorney representing NZC CO, a Delaware-based limited-liability company that bought the Lego building's top-floor penthouse for $25 million in November 2015.

It was the first time the LLA has reviewed a lodging and entertainment license, which allows a facility to sell drinks by the glass so long as the establishment is a lodging facility, entertainment facility or serves liquor on site provided it has light snacks and sandwiches.

Yet Thomas Todd, counsel for the NZC CO penthouse owners, argued property covenants don't allow cafes, restaurants and bars in the building.

"The goal was to try to prohibit these types of nightclubs in that space," he said. "It was that pure and simple."

However, because Hunter Loft doesn't serve in any of those capacities — it's a meeting space that would host roughly 20 to 30 events a year — made it eligible to serve liquor, countered Joe Krabacher, the Aspen lawyer representing the applicant.

"This is not an open venue for people to stop by whenever they want," he said. "What they want to do is have fashion shows, fundraisers for local nonprofits, that type of thing."

Krabacher said the penthouse owners' attempt to block the liquor license is another example of the "sterilization of downtown Aspen by wealthy residential owners who don't want to be bothered."

LLA board members voted 3-1 against the license on the grounds that they didn't believe it fit the definition of a lodging and entertainment license.

Hunter Loft could appeal the LLA's decision to Aspen City Council, but following the meeting, Kneiper said it will likely not do that and instead apply for special-event liquor licenses on a case-by-base basis.

"It's a space we really, really need in town," said Kneiper, who has career in event planning.

She added that "we're trying to be partners with the community and with our penthouse owner."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


Letter to the Editor 2/8/19 - Dwayne Romero: Skippy is more action, less acting

Editor:

In my six years of working with and getting to know Skippy Mesirow, I can sincerely say that he has matured, and he has earnestly prepared himself to serve us on city council. I have seen both growth and grounding, and I have seen him dedicate his energy and resources towards becoming a better representative of the people. He has moved from acting to action.

Most of all, he authentically represents a new generation, one of hope, drive and expected performance. I am not afraid to challenge him to be his best, and he is equally not afraid to meet the challenge. I love that about him. It differentiates him from the field, from the old guard and from the status quo.

Do not be afraid to invest in our future. Most importantly, do not forget to include Skippy as one of your top two picks for city council.

Dwayne Romero

Former Aspen City Councilman

Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/8/19 - Nateal Pogliano: Mesirow is best Aspen council candidate, hands down

Skippy Mesirow was, at least to me, an acquired taste. When I first met him, I was not his biggest fan. I found him to be pompous and seemingly disingenuous. This could not be further from the truth.

First impressions are not everything, a lesson of which I was reminded after our first real conversation. An impression I had been carrying with me for many years changed in an instant: It revealed that he genuinely cares a great deal about our community and our town. He has a real interest in learning as much as he can, mostly through listening.

As some of you know, I am Skippy's girlfriend, which makes me biased; but while being honored with that role, I have zero qualms with telling him exactly what I think. Even when I disagree with him, which happens somewhat frequently, I can say with full confidence that he is absolutely the best candidate to get things done. I have never met anyone who cares as much or has the amazing ability to move mountains when necessary. It's one of the many reasons I feel immensely grateful to be a part of his life, and why I feel sure our town has a brighter future than ever before. As someone whose future is this town, there is no one I trust more to make that future an amazing one.

My family helped make this town what it is, and its future is something I don't take lightly.

Nateal Pogliano

Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/6/19 - Bear Matthews: Mesirow has what Aspen needs

There's an understanding that everyone who calls Aspen home has an equal voice in defining our future. And that is why there is no better candidate for Aspen City Council than Skippy Mesirow.

If we're to truly continue this legacy of being a town that acts and evolves on brave decisions, we need a representative that is willing to adapt, to listen and to learn. As much as we need leadership, we need someone who can reinstall public ownership. Ownership of this town, our past, and our future. Ownership of the beacon of bold change that we are. And ownership of the understanding that we, Aspen, must lead. And that someone is Skippy Mesirow. So with that in mind, I urge us all to reclaim our duty in defining Aspen's future. For what is important, is that we never stop questioning, innovating, learning and publicly asserting what we believe in. Aspen, it's our time to lead again.

Bear Matthews

Basalt


Letter to the Editor 2/4/19 - Larry Spatz: Skippy Mesirow’s selfless side


I am so proud of Skippy Mesirow. No, not because he has worked so hard with intelligence and great passion to make Aspen a better place to live. No, I am so proud of who he is as a person. I speak from first-hand knowledge and perhaps some prejudice. Nobody knows him better than his mother, grandmother, sister and me, his step-father. Skippy's life has always been about family, love and giving back.

I hope you will indulge me in sharing the Skippy that you may not know.

At age 7, my mother and my wife's father were in wheelchairs. Skippy was always the first to jump up and wheel them around. He had a birthday swimming party at age 8. He had a friend suffering from a rare disease that affected movement and speech and required a wheelchair. He wouldn't have the party without her. When I was losing my father and his mom was losing her father, Skippy never left the hospital room for days, as he held their hand until the end.

Later in his life he helped found and is on the board of The Children of Heroes Foundation, which raises funds for children who lost parents in the military. He helped found Enabled Enterprises here in Aspen along with myself and the late Casey Owens, a wounded Marine hero who lost his legs in Iraq. The organization's mission is to support veterans' needs. The organization is now national and its partners are a general, an admiral and colonels.

I am sure you don't know about these efforts because he didn't do it for publicity; that's not who he is. He gives from his heart, his caring and his love.

He is a blessing to his family and everyone who knows him.

Larry Spatz

Snowmass Village


Letter to the Editor 2/4/19 - Dave Stillmeyer: Don’t skip Skippy

Editor:

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as passionate, outgoing, intelligent, curious, friendly and unique as Skippy. Very wellinformed, but also honest if there’s something he doesn’t know about. My vote is with Mr. Mesirow.

Dave Stillmeyer

Aspen


Letter to the Editor 2/1/19 - Lizzie Cohen: Non-political opinion on Mesirow

Editor:

After my first foray into politics, I decided against entering that world. To me, politics is synonymous with corruption, bad examples, ineffectual and power-hungry individuals. Couple that with being resistant to offering opinions on how others should live, and politics is not for me.

I have however gotten involved in the city council race, and have questioned, is this politics as usual? Or has Aspen politics morphed into something new and different (and welcome)? Individuals who care are raising their hands to fight for us and the Aspen Idea — and they are first asking what fights are important.

I want Skippy to represent me on city council. Skippy sees something not right, and rallies us to make it right. Craving inspiration brings us together — whether it’s from the mountain, the music, the ideas — we all want a push to be better, and live more extraordinary lives. That is what Skippy does. His smile, his attitude give me hope that we are in the right place, going in the right direction. Am I a concerned citizen? Nah. Am I an inspired citizen? Yes, 100 percent. And Skippy has brought that out in me.

Removing politics, we are hiring Skippy for a job. He has the candidate qualities of integrity, intelligence, cultural fit, creativity, and collaboration in spades. He would elevate Aspen politics, and the role of city council member, to a position of effectiveness that I believe we have not seen before.

Lizzie Cohen

Aspen


Probline 2/1/19 - 2019 Aspen City Council Candidate: Skippy Mesirow

An in-depth interview of Aspen City Council Candidate Skippy Mesirow, hosted by Reid Haughey, and filmed in the GrassRoots studio at the historic Red Brick. Aspen, Colorado. Visit http://www.grassrootstv.org/ for live streams, archived videos of interesting and engaging subjects from the Roaring Fork Valley's past and present, as well as local non-profit, entertainment, and government coverage.

The Aspen Times 1/31/19 - Aspen City Council candidates deliver their Lift One corridor positions

The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.

We are publishing one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through today.

Today is the fifth question about the potential of a redeveloped base of Aspen Mountain that the public will vote on March 5.

Question 5: Do you support $4.36 million of taxpayer money being paid to developers behind the Lift One corridor plan, which has been described as a public-private partnership to redevelop the base of Aspen Mountain's west side?

LINDA MANNING

I support the Lift One corridor proposal. Mainly because it will deliver lodging that has been a goal of the community for a very long time.

I do believe there is a public benefit provided, so I support the city contribution. The community wants the lift and we want it lowered to Dean Street. There is a huge community benefit to a new lift. What I find even more exciting than the lift is the open space enhancements to Willoughby Park, Lift One Park and Dolinsek Gardens that will be year-round public amenities.

There are also pedestrian and bike enhancements to Dean Street and 50 public parking spaces that will be located in the parking garage.

We are also getting three historic assets restored and reactivated in the Skiers Chalet Lodge, the Skiers Chalet Steakhouse and the historic Lift 1.

This project will also fulfill the agreement with the Aspen Historical Society for a ski museum. These are all wonderful aspects that illustrate the public/private benefit of the project.

We also need to remember that there will be significant revenue returned to the city via the real estate transfer tax to the affordable-housing fund and the Wheeler when the free-market units are sold and resold for the life of the property. These projects will add vitality and a much-needed public amenity to this area of town.

BERT MYRIN

I voted no at council. It was a colossal failure of council to send this to the voters with a $4.36 million cash payment as well as a discretionary reduction of affordable housing for 47.29 employees. Staff estimated this reduction as an additional $11.29 million cost shifted from the developers to the community.

The developers attempt to justify the $4.36 million as a payment from the community to refurbish the Skiers Chalet into a museum. However, the museum retrofit is not a new obligation. The museum retrofit was an obligation the Browns purchased with the original 2011 approvals for Lift One Lodge.

I suggested putting a separate question on the ballot independent of the land-use approval question asking voters whether they support giving $4.36 million to the developers.

Simple enough: ask the voters one question approving the land use and ask a separate, second question approving the cash payment.

Fearful the voters would reject a standalone cash payment question and in true "shoot-the-puppy" fashion, council insisted on one ballot question so voters would be stuck paying the cash and shorting the community on affordable housing if they wanted a new ski lift.

Vote no on the development to send it back to City Council where it can be returned to the voters without council's precedent-setting $4.36 million contribution.

If you are still not convinced to vote no, do you really think Aspen should be more crowded during peak nights? That's the only reason to build additional rooms. The rest of the year we have empty beds. If you want a new ski lift, put the $4 million directly toward a new lift and forgo converting conservation land into high-density lodging.

RACHEL RICHARDS

Aspen rightfully approaches development with trepidation as property owners and the community refurbish infrastructure and amenities.

Change is constant in life, guiding those changes to the best outcomes in a thoughtful and thorough manner is the responsibility of the City Council.

I wish they had required an independent financial analysis to vet the public contribution and allowed more time for the decision by holding a special election later in the year.

Context is important. Lodging should occur at the base of the mountain. I think of the public contribution to reinvigorate historic access and activities in the lift 1A corridor as similar to the public investment of millions of dollars for pedestrian access and safety improvement on Durant Street by Gondola Plaza.

When I first skied Aspen Mountain, it took 45 minutes and three chairlifts to reach the Sundeck.

The redevelopment of the Little Nell brought us the gondola, replacing that long, cold trip, and giving us the top-to-bottom laps we enjoy today.

While some may decry each change, Aspen has been enhanced from the redevelopment of the Aspen Institute, Country Day and Music School campus, the Music Festival Tent, the Physics Center, Rubey Park Transit Center and the library. We've replaced the old Moore pool with the Aspen Recreation Center and built first-class K-12 schools for our kids.

I want to eat in the Skiers Chalet and Steakhouse again. I want to bring back World Cup, remembering when our kids would leave school early to ride the lift with the pros during training and cheer them on during the races.

I think the Lift One Corridor plan is exciting. Perhaps not perfect, but I don't want this one-time opportunity lost. Bringing activity back to the Shadow Mountain area — where our "ski town" roots were first established, will benefit Aspen.

SKIPPY MESIROW

No. I can get to yes on 1A, and I encourage you to vote yes, but I see significant problems with the project (which are on record from Planning and Zoning meetings I chaired).

Ultimately, I believe the rejuvenation of our historic base, moving the lift down the hill and retaining the World Cup and ski culture are enough for a yes vote.

However, here is what I would have done differently:

1. I would not have sacrificed affordable housing for this project. Sacrificing housing worsens our most critical community challenge. What is the lodge for if there is no one to work in it, or patronize it?

2. I would not have put public funds into subsidizing expensive hotel rooms. Our problem is not too few tourists in town. Did anyone want more people over New Year's? Our problem is lack of diversity of tourists in town. Build an "Aspen hostel" wing and I would consider contributing funds.

I recognize that existing problems with underlying zoning and financing are how we arrived here and must be amended. What have existing elected officials done about this? Nothing.

3. The garage entrance should have been on Aspen Street despite the difficulties. Once the Dolinsek property comes to fruition, it will represent the prime concert, conference and event venue in Aspen. The Dean Street entrance forever inhibits Dean Street as an event pedestrian corridor and walkable connection to the gondola.

All that said, I will get to yes and encourage you to, as well. A no vote will elicit an immediate build of an older design of Lift One Lodge that will forever keep us from bringing the lift lower, and likely result in a few more empty multi-million dollar homes with their lights off.


The Aspen Times 1/30/19 - Aspen City Council candidates offer solutions on affordable housing

The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.

We are publishing one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through Friday.

Today is the third question and it's about affordable housing.

Question 3: What are your top three ideas to produce more workforce housing where it would make a notable difference in the problem, which is that there is not enough of it?



SKIPPY MESIROW

Housing is our most critical challenge. We must unequivocally commit to keeping our commitments to the retirees who built this community, and recommit to housing 60 percent of our workforce in town (we are at 38 percent and dropping).

This will be difficult and will require trade-offs we must accept. Without action, we will become a town comprised of 85-plus percent second homes with only the ultra-wealthy and the servant. That is not the Aspen I have come to love.

Here is what we can accomplish:

• Do something with our money! Our current council and candidates talk about housing, but have presided over a decline in our relative housing stock. Some actively campaigned against Burlingame! We have land to build on and a $29 million fund of your money depreciating every day. Let's put it to use while considering density. Younger people like me have different expectations around space.

• Buy-downs, conversions and saviors. Before we build, we must ask: What can we buy cheaply? What can we convert, e.g. old lodges, so that more development is not the only answer? What "affordable free market" can we save by changing underlying zoning and fee structures to keep from artificially inflating their value? Every time we double the price of an "affordable free market" property, we drive a family downvalley or must subsidize them for over $1 million while adding development.

• Movement within the system. I speak to people every day whose circumstances have changed, and thus would love to move to a different unit within the system; right now, they cannot because of existing rules. Granting existing owners the freedom to move units while benefiting financially is a common sense way to free up space for new workers without building new units.

It is time to stop talking and act.



BERT MYRIN

My path to more affordable housing is not in any way, shape or form to incentivize retirees who have served our community to move out of their homes. We must do everything possible to support those who have worked to make Aspen unique in a homogenized world.

Fix the code: Every job-generating square foot added to Aspen reduces the odds of finding affordable housing. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Make growth pay its way. Best case, commercial development housing mitigation is only 65 percent. Effectively every commercial application starts with a 35 percent discount. Phase out this 35 percent discount 2 percent per year over 17.5 years.

I led the code change phasing out the discount for commercial scrape-and-replace. Eliminate the other discretionary and nondiscretionary discounts, including the 100 percent discount for essential public facilities such as the art museum.

Change cash-in-lieu calculations to the market affordability gap method to incentivize the certificates of affordable housing credit program.

Persuade Snowmass and Pitkin County upvalley of the Intercept Lot to match Aspen's mitigation rates.

What do we have versus what do we want: Count the number of employee bedrooms, short-term rental and lodge bedrooms, free-market bedrooms (both year-round occupied and infrequently owner-occupied) including Snowmass and Pitkin County upvalley of the Intercept Lot.

Have a community conversation regarding those numbers: Are the ratios what we want? How much and what types of additional development are we willing to take on?

With what money: Bond a conservative amount safely covered by incoming taxes to build now versus later.

Develop the BMC parcel. Buy and build at the Smuggler Racquet Club. Wherever we build, we must build at a density no greater than nearby developments such as Smuggler Park and Centennial.



LINDA MANNING

We need to first get a handle on our current inventory and make sure the people who are living in those units are qualified to be there. If they aren't, they shouldn't be there and qualified people should. Owners and renters should have to requalify every two years. Living in affordable housing is a privilege, not a right.

We have a small-lodge incentive program where the goal is to try to preserve the existing small-lodge bed base while providing a financial incentive from the city.

I would like to explore some type of workforce-housing incentive program where the same type of creative thinking could potentially persuade a business to create some workforce housing. We already have fee waivers for affordable housing when it comes to new development, so these would have to be incentives provided to the business that is creating the housing and intending to use it.

Lastly, build more units. The city owns land at the lumberyard and Burlingame III that can be built. The lumberyard would be a great site for dormitory-style units, or tiny homes, or a combination of both.

Partner with the businesses in town and dedicate a certain number of units to them to fill with their employees. I hear all the time that housing is one of the biggest barriers for employers to attract quality workers.

If a business could know I have X number of units with my name on it, that would go a long way to retaining workers.

We need to be more creative in the ways we think about housing.



RACHEL RICHARDS

Aspen is facing a severe labor shortage created by the lack of affordable housing to compensate for the steady loss of the workers who lived in town in free-market housing, the second-home demand valley-wide pushing real estate prices out of reach for many, growing employment opportunities in the lower valley attracting folks tired of commuting and the deeply held desires in Aspen to protect our community's small-town character and surrounding rural areas.

Historically Aspen has embraced well-designed, appropriately scaled housing projects to stave off the loss of community and workers, even as Aspen has also engaged in a bit of wishful thinking about how little or how much housing the town would end up needing just to keep Aspen running.

As our program has matured, new challenges have arisen, such as the capital repairs and maintenance issues of older projects, and the potential loss of existing units from redevelopment and expiring deed restrictions.

To address the housing problem as a council member, I would involve the public to begin designing housing at the BMC West site. I would push to begin building Burlingame Phase III. I would seek public/private partnerships to find new housing opportunities, and to bring needed expertise and funding to potential projects.

I support adding seats for elected city and county representatives to the housing board to re-establish a synergistic working relationship between the three bodies concerning need, vision, projects and resources. I support clear objective enforcement guidelines and am determined to establish a fair, comprehensive and realistic program to help affordable-housing HOAs fix and maintain their homes.

Leading the way on hundreds of the housing units we have today, I know that our community's support for and pride in the housing program is predicated on the quality and fit of each complex we develop.


Aspen Daily News 1/30/19 - Council candidates share their affordable housing priorities

This is part four of an election Q&A, The first three parts can be found here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Skippy Mesirow

What are your priorities when it comes to local housing?

We must commit to two immutable pillars: keep our commitments to the retirees who built our town, and recommit to housing 60 percent of our workforce in town (we are at 38 percent and dropping fast). If we do not do both, our town will die. It will require tradeoffs, and we must discuss those together and accept some of them. If we do not, we accept the decline of our town and all it stands for. I refuse to accept that. Everyone is talking housing, but what have they actually done with their positions of power? I have a track record of identifying problems and bringing people together to solve challenging issues. At best, my opponents have done little; at worst, they have regularly voted to eliminate housing from projects and actively campaigned against Burlingame.

Does the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s governance and management structure need a shake up? What would you propose?

Absolutely. If I were the housing director I would be tearing my hair out … and he is. An employee with four bosses cannot function (has anyone seen “Office Space?” Did you get that TPS report?). We need a government structure that gives APCHA autonomy and a streamlined decision-making process. For this to happen, accountability is absolutely critical. In addition, I believe APCHA must get into managerial oversight of our entire stock — setting standards, capital reserves, maintenance, and enforcement. We must have a critical community discussion to create a new APCHA-Owner-Renter Bill of Rights. Too often APCHA mistreats renters and buyers, and too often people fail to recognize the gift the community has provided for them. We cannot expect something for nothing.

What is your current housing situation?

I rent the basement of a small miner’s cabin on South Cleveland Street with my girlfriend and our two dogs. It is one of the last affordable spots with a yard near the core. Please cross your fingers the owners upstairs never sell or redevelop. We need to protect non-historic gems like this. "Free-market affordable" is almost dead with the conversion of large properties into empty multi-million dollar homes, and we are aiding its demise with our zoning rules. We need to focus on saving and increasing "free-market affordable" just as much as subsidized affordable housing, with the goal of relieving unnecessary tax burden on citizens and eventually reconnecting the stepping stones. This will allow people to move within the affordable system and potentially even out into the free market. It will be a long path, but if we work together, we will get there.

 

Linda Manning

What are your priorities when it comes to local housing?

Aspen has a goal of housing 60 percent of our work force. We have an amazing asset with the APCHA program, but we need to implement a housing inventory management system for the affordable housing program. We need to know what our assets are and if the people who live in the units are qualified to be there. The rules need to be clearly communicated and enforced equally.

Once we have an inventory established, we can then think more creatively about solutions like a trade program for people who are in homes that are too big for them and essentially want to sell to someone else in the APCHA program who may be in a home that is too small. This would allow two families who are already qualified to exchange their housing situation for ones that would better suit their needs. While it wouldn’t free up inventory for anyone new looking to get in to the program it may help to keep working residents local.

I would also like to look at the priority system and the definition of emergency worker. I think it is wonderful that we give a priority to emergency workers, but I think it needs to be expanded to include hospital workers. It is great that it includes ambulance drivers but if there are no nurses at the emergency room when the ambulance gets there, what good does it do.  

Does the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s governance and management structure need a shake up? What would you propose?

I don’t think the governance and management structure needs shaken up until we know what asset we have to manage. Without a proper inventory I don’t think we should be mucking up the governance until we know what we have, the conditions of the units, and the status of the capital reserves for each HOA. Any discussions regarding changes in governance and management structure should involve the APCHA board. They are the experts in this area and the ones putting in the work. We should be looking to them and including them in any and all discussions regarding the restructuring of APCHA. I do think it would be helpful to have someone on the housing department staff whose sole focus is to work with the HOAs and help them manage their projects. I think it would be much more cost effective for them if multiple complexes are doing painting projects this year or replacing windows if bids could be coordinated as a unit instead of individually. It would also be nice to have an expert and a resource who knows construction and landscaping and can tell when a project may be going a bit sideways.

What is your current housing situation?

I rent an affordable housing unit. For nine years I lived in a studio. I was finally able to move up to a one bedroom this year.

 

Rachel Richards

What are your priorities when it comes to local housing?

I believe the housing program as conceived and reaffirmed in the Aspen Area Community Plan(s) is about more than just workforce needs. With unrelenting second-home demand, the program was also the community’s attempt to keep Aspen a real living, breathing community, from one generation to the next, with housing opportunities for singles, seniors and families.

Clearly there is need for more housing of all types, rental and ownership, and I’ll work to start construction of Burlingame Village phase III and to ensure public involvement planning the BMC West site. There must be city and county collaboration to keep existing housing; preventing the Phillips Mobile Home Park from replacement with second homes, and securing complexes like Castle Ridge as their affordable housing deed restrictions expire. The capital reserves and maintenance issues, addressed in a prior question, can be resolved with cooperation and compromise.

I believe how long one must have worked in our community before being allowed to retire in their unit (per Social Security’s full retirement age) should be increased. However, it’s imperative that folks who’ve dedicated their best working years to Aspen, building the community and life-long friendships, shouldn’t be told they must leave at retirement. Imagine finally winning a housing lottery just to be told you must vacate the home before your 30-year mortgage is paid off! Ownership housing is a shared-cost public/private partnership. Buying a unit is a commitment to our community. If the housing program is only about workers, why build bedrooms for children? Clearly, we won’t be able to recruit or retain a quality workforce if our programs don’t allow for their full lifecycle needs.

These issues will determine Aspen character in the future. I want to be on the council for these discussions and would appreciate your vote on March 5.

Does the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s governance and management structure need a shake up? What would you propose?

I believe the housing board will benefit greatly with formal seats for elected representatives from the county and city in terms of improved communications, efficiency and renewed collaboration. I support having a majority of citizen seats versus a majority of seats for elected representatives. I believe that the housing office’s modernizing its management with a computerized database is key to better governance.

Housing guidelines need to be updated and clarified with objective criteria for determining occupancy compliance. I’d like to see clearly-defined standards and consistency to account for real life situations, and to the hiring of a hearing officer to review non-compliance issues.

I would like for the housing board members to have more time to spend and the resources to plan for our future needs and tackling larger policy issues, such as aligning pricing of future housing units with the wages most of our town’s jobs’ pay. We should plan for the retirement of the many workers living downvalley in free market homes, homes that are already unaffordable to replacement workers. The board should contemplate ways to encourage owners to readdress occupancy like creating a conveniently-located quality complex that seniors would want to sell their larger units to move into, and then weigh the units gained from such a program against diverting resources from projects geared to younger folks. Frankly I’ve known more people who died before their time, left for better jobs or who’ve moved to be closer to family or to warmer climates then have retired in their units.

Affordable housing is a national crisis confronting rural communities, metropolitan areas and resort towns. Our housing program is the envy of many, warts and all. I believe we should address the problems that have arisen, take a hard look down the road, and build upon our past successes.

What is your current housing situation?

Arriving in 1978, I rented in the 800 building of Silver King apartments, a 13-building complex meant for workers; later nine of the 13 buildings were turned into the free market condos and renamed Hunter Creek Condominiums. In 1988, after selling my mobile home in Aspen Village I bought a deed-restricted two-bedroom in the 800 building, when my son was seven years old. I have had roommates (certified by the housing office) in the past and probably will again in the future.

I’ve lived 30 years in 740 square feet and have felt blessed to do so. Having stability in housing allowed me to participate fully in this great community and made me a strong advocate of developing new housing opportunities for others. As mayor, I led the way on the contentious annexation vote for the Burlingame Ranch property which led to the MAA seasonal housing, the Annie Mitchell housing and the larger Burlingame Village. I personally negotiated the purchase of the Aspen Country Inn which had been slated for demolition, and led my council to approve the Truscott addition — both projects to create more long-term rental apartments.

 

Bert Myrin

What are your priorities when it comes to local housing?

My path to more affordable housing is not in any way, shape or form to incentivize retirees who have served our community to move out of their homes. We must do everything possible to support those who have worked to make Aspen unique in a homogenized world.

My top three priorities are:

1. Fix the code: Every job generating square feet added to Aspen reduces the odds of finding affordable housing. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Make growth pay its way. Best case, commercial development housing mitigation is only 65 percent. Effectively every commercial application starts with a 35 percent discount. Phase out this 35 percent discount 2 percent per year over 17.5 years.

I led the code change phasing out the discount for commercial scrape and replace. Eliminate other discretionary and non-discretionary discounts including the 100 percent discount for essential public facilities such as the Aspen Art Museum.

Change cash-in-lieu calculations to the Market Affordability Gap method to incentivize the certificates of affordable housing credit program.

Persuade Snowmass and Pitkin County upvalley of the intercept lot to match Aspen’s mitigation rates.

2. What do we have versus what do we want: Count the number of employee bedrooms, short-term rental and lodge bedrooms, free market bedrooms (both year-round occupied and infrequently owner occupied) including Snowmass and Pitkin County upvalley of the intercept lot. Have a community conversation regarding those numbers: Are the ratios what we want? How much and what types of additional development we are willing to take on?

3. With what money: Bond a conservative amount safely covered by incoming taxes to build now versus later. Develop the BMC parcel. Buy and build at the Smuggler Racquet Club. Wherever we build, the density must be no greater than adjacent development and parking must be entirely onsite.

Does the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s governance and management structure need a shake up? What would you propose?

This program is crucial to Aspen’s sense of community and deserves clarity of governance that is currently lacking. Under the current governance structure, no one knows whether to hold the five members of city council, the five county commissioners, the eight APCHA board volunteers, the APCHA executive director, the city manager, or the county manager accountable for the overall goals and operation of our affordable housing program.

Unfortunately, I can count on one hand the number of hours over the past four years the 21 of us have spent in the same room discussing anything related to our housing program, including governance. The first step to improving governance is for the 21 of us perceived as accountable to spend time in the same room listening to each other.

Out of this listening we might again hear and finally implement a suggestion from a 2012 memo to council suggesting the APCHA board delegate rule-enforcement to staff so the board can take up more of the forward looking, policy making role that will improve the program for our community.

Out of this listening we may also hear suggestions on clarifying who to hold accountable for the overall goals and operation of the affordable housing program. Where amongst the 21 of us should the buck stop? With no clarity on who is ultimately accountable it has been impossible to make progress on improving the program.

Figuring out who is ultimately in charge will require the dedication of time and effort by all. This will be a top priority for me in my second term on council.

What is your current housing situation?

I live with my husband and our dog in an 1800s Victorian at the corner of Monarch and Hallam. In 1916 our home was owned by Charles Wagner who was then mayor of Aspen. In 1913 Mayor Wagner proposed converting the vacant lots formerly occupied by the Clarendon Hotel into baseball fields in what is now his namesake park between Monarch and Mill streets.


Letter to the Editor 1/29/19 - Dave Mayer: The time is now for Skippy Mesirow

There is no more dedicated, engaged and genuine candidate with a true eye toward what is best for Aspen than Skippy Mesirow.

I have seen time and time again, he is willing to listen, to learn, to understand and to make difficult decisions in challenging times. He also will own a mistake if he makes one.

If you continue to have reservations about Skippy as an ideal candidate for your town, then sit down and address those concerns. He does not shrink from difficult topics and is happy to talk about all reasonable options.

I have personally seen him grow over the years, and there's no question that now is his time to join Aspen City Council as a leader. Now is the time for you to cast your vote for Skippy. You won't regret your decision.

Dave Mayer

Carbondale


The Aspen Times 1/28/19 - Candidates for Aspen City Council share their vision for new leadership

The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.

We will publish one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through Friday.

Today is the second question getting to know the candidates and why they are the best fit for elected office.

Question 2: What attributes do we need in the new city manager and what kind of role should the city manager play in governance and community outreach?

RACHEL RICHARDS

A change in management is an opportunity to review an organization's entire structure and align its budget, staffing and procedures to the goals and policies set by the governing body.

The hiring decision for the city of Aspen position is the most important one the City Council will make.

The right manager will spend time getting to know the community as much as taking stock of city operations, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each department, getting to know the employees and their jobs.

The new manager should review the city as a systems analyst looking for ways to modernize, simplify and streamline while improving quality and services. New eyes, when experienced, always see new opportunities.

The city of Aspen's employees across all departments are smart, hardworking and dedicated to our community; one of the strongest assets the new manager will have as they take the reins.

It is important that they understand and value their human resources; employees who want clear direction and consistency from the City Council, and the support from management to deliver on community goals.

A good council manages its manager, and a good manager manages their council, helping the members sort through their differences, define their goals and measures of success. A good manager will help their council think as a team, pulling together to bring out the best in each other. They will keep updates and communications current between their council members for feedback, direction and status of issues.

I have worked through changes in management before and would like to see an open hiring process involving multiple interview panels, including citizens with Aspen roots and strong management experience, city department heads and front-line employees, meet-and-greets with the general public to help inform the City Council when making the hiring decision.

BERT MYRIN

It takes a village. We have an opportunity to start a new chapter putting our local quality-of-life perspective first with new management, a new mayor and my passion on City Council. When we put our community first, I believe everything else will follow.

LINDA MANNING

I am in a unique position to answer this question, having worked inside City Hall for the past 10 years. The most important quality is the ability to inspire and motivate staff. From a staff perspective, the city manager is cheerleader, number one. He or she should be out in the departments getting to know employees and what we are working on.

They should be approachable. Any member of staff, from a part-time summer parks worker to a department head, should feel comfortable approaching the city manager. I feel this type of communication within city staff will translate to the community and help bridge the gap we are seeing between staff, council and the community when it comes to communication.

As far as governance goes, the city manager needs to make sure the right key people are in the right positions so when they are hiring their staff they hire people who will get the work done.

We need a city manager who acknowledges the importance of employee development, knowledge transfer and having a deep bench.

The city manager should not be the gatekeeper between staff and City Council but rather ensure that the information is being transferred successfully.

Just as the city manager should be approachable by staff, he or she should also be approachable to the community.

There is no hiding the city could do a better job in the outreach department. Should the city manager be leading the charge on that? Yes.

SKIPPY MESIROW

We now have the best opportunity in generations for a full-scale reorganization of City Hall. Our new city manager must be able to take a holistic look at our governance structure, with a view towards taking action in order to streamline operations and reduce costs.

In a manager-council form of government, the city manager needs to be a vocal, visible leader. For years, the city has suffered from having the opposite, and lower-level city staff have taken the heat on manager-level mistakes. The new manager needs to be responsible and inspirational, encouraging city staff and all of us in the community to participate in our public process, and feel invested in our present and future.

As a council member, I will seek a city manager who will support council in making the hard choices needed to improve our housing system, to support local businesses, and to solve the other challenges facing our community.

I would seek someone who lives, breathes and understands the Aspen Idea and lifestyle. In my experience, much of hiring is personality and cultural fit. For this reason, I will keep my mind open, and seek out different perspectives when evaluating candidates.


Aspen Daily News 1/28/19 - Council candidates on Lift One plan, development

Bert Myrin

Do you support the Lift One corridor land use proposal? Why or why not?

I voted no at council and will vote no on the ballot. It was a colossal failure of council to send this to the voters with a discretionary reduction of affordable housing for 47.29 employees. Staff estimates the reduction of housing for 47.29 employees shifts $11,287,509 from the developers to our community in addition to our $4.36 million cash payment.

It was irresponsible to include the discretionary reduction of affordable housing and our cash payment to the developer within a single all-or-nothing ballot question. I suggested a separate question independent of the land use approval, asking voters whether they support giving $4.36 million of our money to the developers. Simple enough, ask the voters one question regarding the land use approval including the reduction in affordable housing and ask a second question regarding approval of a cash payment from our community to these private for-profit developers.

Fearful the voters would reject a standalone funding question and in true “shoot-the-puppy” fashion, council demanded a single ballot question so voters would be forced to short our community on affordable housing and pay $4.36 million if voters want a new lift.

Vote no to send this back to council where it can be reworked and returned to the voters without council’s precedent-setting $4.36 million contribution, without council’s discretionary reduction of affordable housing, and with more than two on-site 1-bedroom employee units to serve a combined 322,000 gross square feet including 10 free market units and 185 lodge keys.

Still not convinced to vote no? Should Aspen be more crowded during peak nights? That’s the only reason to construct more buildings. The rest of the year we have empty beds. If you want a new lift, put the $4.36 million directly toward a lift and forgo converting conservation land into high density lodging.

What is a development in the city of Aspen you consider to be well done that has occurred in the last 20 years and why?

The Fornell Condominiums, completed in 2014 and located at 518 W. Main St. is a great example of the private sector helping itself and the community at the same time. The developer, Peter Fornell, built 11 deed-restricted affordable housing units (nine category 2, two category 3) in a historic home and in two new buildings on the site. The units were all made available through the affordable housing lottery system in September 2014. This project was not mitigation for an existing free market development, instead, via the certificates of affordable housing credit program, the developer was provided with 24 “credits” to sell to other developers to satisfy the mitigation requirements of future development. The creation of the certificates of affordable housing credit program was led by Peter Fornell and implemented before I was elected.

There is a lot to like here: The development brought affordable housing on-line before any associated free market development. The development needed no cash payment from the government for the numbers to “pencil out.” The development is an HOA comprised entirely of affordable housing thereby avoiding the inherently different spending priorities when free-market and affordable units are combined within the same HOA, e.g. the Ritz Carlton project at Highlands where employee housing HOA dues are often more than the mortgage payment.

What is the biggest development or land use mistake in the last 20 years in the city and why?

The biggest land use mistake in the last 20 years was council passing the 2003-2005 “infill” ordinances. Infill incentivized greater height and mass in downtown. Infill gave developers an automatic waiver on the lesser of the affordable housing required for a penthouse or for the commercial portion of a building, effectively cutting employee mitigation in half.

The problem with infill was the increased height, increased mass and reduced affordable housing mitigation provided an overly excessive gift to speculators fueling the wrecking balls and putting Aspen in permanent construction mode. We would lose much of our locally serving human-scale architecture and the replacements would be expensive monstrosities forever changing Aspen.

Infill accelerated the loss of locally serving businesses such as Little Annie’s, Cooper Street Pier, the Motherlode, the Crystal Palace, Boogies, the Chart House, the Hotel Lenado, The Wienerstube and so many others.

I strongly opposed infill at the time it was drafted. I was a volunteer on P&Z back then. For nearly 15 years I remained focused on overturning the infill code reminding council they, as our elected officials, are to blame for failing to roll back the land use code to pre-infill requirements.

One of my successes during my first term on council was an emergency moratorium followed by a reworking of the land use code to eliminate the 2001 Infill Advisory Group’s ill-advised increased height, mass and pro-penthouse legislation. A prior council removed the affordable housing loophole created by infill. Our 2016 code rewrite also included increasing commercial and lodge mitigation for affordable housing from 60 percent to 65 percent and phasing out the 100 percent discount for affordable housing on previously unmitigated space when redeveloped. Second tier retail was also incentivized in the 2016 code rework to slow the loss of locally serving businesses.

Skippy Mesirow

Do you support the Lift One corridor land use proposal? Why or why not?

I will get to yes despite significant dissatisfaction. Here are the areas where I differed with the final outcome, which are reflected in Planning & Zoning minutes from meetings I chaired:

1. I would never sacrifice housing for any development.

2. I would not put city funds into subsidies of $1,000-plus per night hotel rooms. None of us thought over Christmas, “I really wish there were more people in town.” Our issue is not a lack of people, it is a lack of a diverse set of people. Build a hostel wing and I’d consider it.

3. I would have placed the garage entrance on Aspen Street. The forthcoming Dolinsek property will represent Aspen’s prime event, conference and concert venue. Placing the garage entrance on Dean Street forever inhibits the ability to use that space as a pedestrian zone for events or link it as a walkable corridor to the gondola.

All of that said, the revitalization of the historic base my grandparents first used, maintaining our ski town identity with the World Cup and the forthcoming Dolinsek area are enough to get me to yes and I encourage you to vote yes too.

What is a development in the city of Aspen you consider to be well done that has occurred in the last 20 years and why?

The Doerr-Hosier Building at the Aspen Meadows. Inspired by historic Bauhaus design, connected to the river below via art and hosting some of our community’s most stimulating conversations that attract the brightest people from around the world to our little town — it lives the Aspen Idea every day. It is also environmentally conscious and LEED certified.

Though many do not think of Burlingame as Aspen-proper, it is in fact annexed in. If you include that in your thinking, then that is clearly the best development, housing hundreds of families. Though building issues occurred and I wish it were closer to town, it is a critical piece to ensuring a vibrant, long-term community. Let’s start building part three.

What is the biggest development or land use mistake in the last 20 years in the city and why?

Our Lodging Zone District. Our lodging district allows for uses other than lodging. That makes no sense. As a result, the 26-key Mountain House Lodge is now a single, empty $16 million spec home with an adjacent empty lot. The Lenado, a former affordable lodge and housing property, is being redeveloped as a corporate retreat. In project after project, expensive lodges come forward asking for public money and free market “economic engines,” which ultimately deaden the area, suppress local business and erode our lodging base, increasing the cost of lodging due to increased scarcity. This increases exclusivity and leads to a hollowing out of Aspen over time. Without affordable beds for young people to experience Aspen and fall in love, they will never move here, leaving our town increasingly dead and vacant over time.

Rachel Richards

Do you support the Lift One corridor land use proposal? Why or why not?

Perhaps it was the change in election dates from May to March, but I can’t help but feel that this ballot question is premature.

Yes I want to see World Cup return and appreciate the time the developers have spent finding a corridor to bring Lift 1A down the mountain, and no I don’t want empty second homes at the base of the mountain.

Yet, an independent economic analysis should have been required by the city to fully assess the appropriateness of a multi-million-dollar taxpayer investment, and to look at other potential funding mechanisms such as a special improvement district, or use of tax increment financing.

It is unfortunate that this important project will face a “take it or leave it” vote on March 5, with no opportunity for further refinement. I’d have preferred the city holding a special election later in the year and that they’d taken the time for a more thorough public vetting. The taxpayer investment may well be appropriate, but many of the public’s questions are unanswered.

Are there assurances about the completion of the project to avoid hosting an abandoned construction site, a’la Aspen Club or Base Village? Would the project be viable if the buildings were smaller? Is the public contribution the right amount and should it be raised by other means? What will happen if the voters say no; more second homes or a modified proposal? Your guess is as good as mine.

I’ve always taken a hard look and raised the difficult questions to make projects better. Weighing the good and the bad, I cannot hold the lift 1A project hostage to a less-than-thorough process by the city, and will cast my vote to support bringing World Cup skiing and life to the Shadow Mountain side of town.

What is a development in the city of Aspen you consider to be well done that has occurred in the last 20 years and why?

The Aspen Recreation Center and campus (ARC) is one of this community’s greatest amenities. It required a public vote to fund initially and a second campaign to vote for funds to include the Youth Center in the ARC, as well as significant private fundraising for the ice rink. The ARC was conceived as a place where all of the community, regardless of age or income, could mix and mingle and get to know each other; a safe place for our kids to go after school, to recreate and enjoy the support they need to grow and thrive. I was proud to be the mayor of Aspen as we worked through several years of planning, design, fundraising and public votes to see this community vision turned into reality.

Additionally I believe the new county administration and sheriff’s office building is a well-done development within the city, respectful of its historic surrounding and Veterans Park, modest in scale while allowing for the efficient and timely delivery of services to residents. The design process was open, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of the neighbors. It fits in nicely with the Obermeyer Place project, also a successful private sector project that involved significant public participation.

What is the biggest development or land use mistake in the last 20 years in the city and why?

Other than not securing more sites for future needs like childcare and small-scale neighborhood affordable housing, I count the loss of the Motherlode Restaurant building and property, which could have preserved the historic building (not just the façade) and used the large back yard for needed adjunct facilities for the Wheeler Opera House (space for set-building, smaller audience performances and rehearsals). Continuing to find ways to support and enhance our arts and cultural organizations and attractions is fundamental to Aspen’s DNA and our continued success as a community and resort.

The outcome of “infill” legislation has been disappointing, destined to fail given the truism that “there are two things the public can’t stand — one is sprawl and the other is density.” Infill was driven by the notion that if Aspen financially incentivized (via free market condos) adding affordable housing to all of its downtown buildings then projects like Burlingame would never have to be built, and it would also address the very real issue of losing small businesses and services to unaffordable office space.

The triple-win goals of maintaining our character, small businesses and services while housing our workforce to prevent sprawl through infill soon presented visually to our community, and the trade-offs were unacceptable. Reconciling the differences between what we want, need and can live as with as a community will continue to take thoughtful, thorough discussions, deliberation, cooperation and compromise.

Linda Manning

Do you support the Lift One corridor land use proposal? Why or why not?

Yes, I support the Lift One corridor proposal. We need revitalized lodging. This is an appropriate place for it. Yes, it is big, but if not here, where? It will also deliver the lift our town so desires and the return of World Cup skiing. I do believe there is a public benefit provided so I can get behind the city contribution. What I find even more exciting than the lift is the open space enhancements to Willoughby Park, Lift One Park and Dolinsek Gardens that will be year round public amenities. There are also pedestrian and bike enhancements to Dean Street and 50 public parking spaces that will be located in the parking garage. We are also getting three historic assets restored and reactivated in the Skiers Chalet Lodge, the Skiers Chalet Steakhouse the Historic Lift 1. This project will also fulfill the agreement with the Aspen Historical Society for a ski museum. These are all wonderful aspects that illustrate the public/private benefit of the project. The employee generation and housing mitigation gives me a bit of heartburn, but it is permitted by the code and they are mitigating what the code requires. The projects will be audited and if additional employees are generated, they will be mitigated for. If we have issues with the mitigation, we should change the code, not penalize the developers.

What is a development in the city of Aspen you consider to be well done that has occurred in the last 20 years and why?

The Muse building (625 E. Hyman Ave.). It has commercial on the ground floor, office on the second and a penthouse on the third. I think there should be residential use in the core. Overall, it adds to the vitality. This building is beautiful from the outside and illustrates when done well, new has a place in historic Aspen.

What is the biggest development or land use mistake in the last 20 years in the city and why?

Referendum 1. Land use does not belong in the charter. City council is elected to represent the interests of the people who elect them. Not all growth is bad growth and there are times when a variance can make a project better for the community. Not everything should have to go to a vote. Waiting for an election can take time. When it comes to construction, time equals money. There are mechanisms to refer items to the voter if the citizens are not happy with the outcome. If council members are making decisions that do not reflect community values there are also ways to remove them. Referendum 1 is just another unnecessary obstacle to development. We have not had any Referendum 1 votes since it was added to the charter. Some might say, see it is working, developers are not asking for variances. They are designing projects that fit within the code. I ask are we getting the applications for the projects. We need an appropriate amount of growth in our town to stay relevant and keep our status as a world class ski town. Our historic character is wonderful and makes us special, but we also need the new and modern. Aspen has room for both, and we can be respectful to our heritage while allowing for development that is thoughtful. I think Referendum 1 has stifled creativity and some of the more exciting solutions have been avoided for fear of a public vote.


The Aspen Times 1/28/19 - City Council candidates tell their Aspen story and why they should be elected

The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.

We will publish one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, today through Friday. Next week, The Aspen Times will publish the mayoral candidate responses.

Today is the first question getting to know the candidates and why they are the best fit for elected office.

Question 1: Tell us your Aspen story: How you got here and why you stayed; age, occupation and government experience. Also, name a person who is dead that you'd like to have dinner with and why. Finally, what makes you the best fit for council?


LINDA MANNING

I moved to Colorado sight unseen to open the Lowes store in Glenwood Springs, having never been farther west of the Mississippi River.

I'm originally from western Pennsylvania and the folks at Lowes were opening a few stores in Colorado and asked if I was interested in jumping ship. All it took was a quick Google search to see I would be going from 80 days of sun a year to 300 and I was hooked. Next thing I knew I was driving a U-Haul across the country.

I spent a few years with Lowes and then went to work for the lumberyard at the (Aspen Business Center) for a couple years. Ten years ago, I applied for a job with the city of Aspen as the utility billing supervisor. Thus began my career with the city.

That job morphed to include sales tax and business licenses with the Finance Department. I eventually moved into the Clerk's Office as the records manager, and then became the city clerk when Kathryn Koch retired. It's hard to believe it's been almost five years. I'm 41 years old.

If I could have dinner with a dead person, I would choose my father. He died when I was 14. My dad worked in the city during the week and pretended to be a farmer on the weekend.

Most of my memories are of him on his tractor and us behind it pitching rocks or baling hay. I would like to have a conversation with my dad now that I am grown up and hear from him about meeting my mom for the first time and what it was like in Korea during the war.

I think I'm the best fit for council because I've seen the government function from the inside everyday for the last 10 years. I know what we do well and what we need to improve on.


SKIPPY MESIROW

My grandparents first came to Aspen in '52. Stein Eriksen taught my mom to ski, and she extended me the favor at 15 months. I moved here 14 years ago.

I am grateful to live in the best place in the world. I have immense respect for those that came before me and did the hard things required to have a full community — downzoning, open spaces, walking malls, affordable housing.

Once again we are at a tipping point. Our middle has been eroding and no society survives with only the ultra-wealthy and the servant class. This is our fight now and I feel compelled to work tirelessly to do the difficult things our current officials have not.

At 32 years old, I come to this challenge with both a fresh perspective on solving difficult problems and the experience necessary to accomplish our goals. As the GM of a vacation rental business, I understand the working community of Aspen. In three terms as chair of our Planning and Zoning Commission, I have been successful in reforming process and have gained the expertise needed to approach land-use decisions. In two terms as chair of NextGen, I have demonstrated the ability to lead successful, public-engagement processes, and have driven important initiatives to support local businesses and improve housing. As a leader of 2A to change our local election date, I demonstrated the ability to organize and win on an issue our community had been trying to solve since the '80s.

If I could have dinner with one dead person, it would be Teddy Roosevelt: his energy, zest for life, strength of character, and willingness to buck party and convention to defend the best interests of the people are qualities I admire. Then I'd hopefully accompany him on safari in offseason!


BERT MYRIN

In 1986 I graduated high school from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. I have lived in Aspen ever since, except for college and law school. I'm 51 years old and this year I will celebrate 24 years together with my husband, Walt Madden.

For the past 15 years, I've been a volunteer organizer of citizen initiatives and citizen referendums within the city of Aspen. I'm a past volunteer on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission. I'm currently on Aspen City Council, a licensed real estate broker and a licensed attorney.

During the past four years we have lost several voices that spoke for Aspen the community — Su Lum, Junee Kirk, Maggie and Nick DeWolf, Carl Bergman and Pitkin Board of County Commissioners members Dwight Shellman and Jack Hatfield. I miss their energy and passion, and wish they were still here contributing to our community.

I didn't know John and Frank Dolinsek but I would be very curious to hear first-hand how they would vote on the proposed hotels on South Aspen Street.

There are plenty of people speaking for the resort; we need leadership speaking for our quality of life in Aspen. I have been that voice at the council table for the past four years and I ask for your vote so I can continue to be that voice for the next four years.


RACHEL RICHARDS

After high school I researched moving to Colorado for a "skip year." Seeing the "Power of Four" on the state map, I chose Aspen. Sold my Mustang and took the Greyhound from Maryland. Spent my first night in the un-refurbished Hotel Jerome and began working the next day. Was amazed at the paradise I had found — great skiing, new friends, rewarding work and independence. Soon I was working multiple jobs, as so many people do here to survive.

My political involvement began with Snowmass's Burnt Mountain expansion, concerned with the elk migration and calving areas. Concurrently a CMC/Pitkin County sponsored series, "Unlimited Demands, Limited Resources = Hard Choices" stirred my desire to help resolve the issues confronting our community.

I am 58 now and can proudly recount lasting successes for our community from each of the 25 years I've been honored to serve in elected office.

I've worked diligently as a Pitkin County commissioner, and former Aspen city council member and mayor, locally and statewide on issues that impact our people, town and environment. I believe cooperation and collaboration are key to developing solutions, and that hard work and consistency are what turn big goals into reality, like creating the regional transportation authority, securing Burlingame housing or developing the Aspen Recreation Center.

Currently, I believe the City Council should refocus on stability and restoring public trust in their public involvement and decision making processes.

Hiring the right manager, reviewing budgets for wise use of resources and alignment with community goals, supporting the frontline staff who deliver great city services every day and who hope just for consistent, clear direction.

My dinner party would include David Bowie, Anthony Bourdain, Greg Allman, and Tom Petty, just because I don't think about politics all the time.


The Lift 1/26/19 - Skippy Mesirow

Click here to watch Skippy being interviewed on The Lift on 1/26/19


Aspen Daily News 1/24/19 - Council candidates on city leadership and decisions

Linda Manning

Do you agree with council’s recent decision asking City Manager Steve Barwick to resign? How would you have handled the situation? I do. As someone who has spent every day inside the walls of city hall for just about the last 10 years, I see first hand the effects of city leadership on employee morale and productivity. I believe leadership’s attitude toward employee development and our organizational values have a direct impact on retaining quality employees. We need a city manager who is more than just smart and knows their way around a set of financials. We need someone who will inspire staff and the entire community. Our city manager should be approachable.  Any member of staff from a part-time summer parks worker to a department head should feel comfortable approaching the city manager. I feel this type of communication within city staff will translate to the community and bridge the gap we are seeing between staff, council and the community when it comes to communication.

As a city employee it is the city manager who hired me and on paper it is the city manager that I work for and can ultimately fire me. I believe that I work for the citizens of Aspen. I am a public servant, as all city employees are. I think this very basic philosophy that the government is here to serve the public has been lost by upper management within the city. I like Steve, but I think to be an effective city manager means holding people accountable and it all starts with the city manager.   

Name one instance where you thought the city made a good decision on a difficult issue.Putting the breaks on the mobility lab. This project is not fully baked yet. Council could have pulled the trigger on the Lyft contract but they listened to the community feedback and asked for more options. We’ve already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants and data gathering contracts for this project before we know what it really involves. This shows what can happen when the community comes together and voices their concern. We had more public comment at the council meeting when the Lyft contract was considered then when the Lift One project was discussed. Council was thoughtful and asked for more community involvement. This was the right thing to do with this project. It was not at a stage where it was ready to move forward with such a large financial commitment.

Name another instance where you disagreed with the direction taken at city hall. The decision to not permit any additional sandwich board signs. I understand the Supreme Court ruling where the city cannot regulate the content of the sign. However, I do not feel that there will be a proliferation of signs in the core or on the malls. If we are concerned about signs on the malls or sidewalks there are things we could do like regulate the placement of the signs so they all have to be along one side of the mall or sidewalk. This way they wouldn’t create an obstacle course for all the bike riders on the mall. There were discussions at council that business A could sell their sign space to business B and signs all over Aspen could say ski Vail. I know these business owners and they have their sign to promote their business and drive business to their stores. It is very hard to operate a business in this town and many in basements or second floors would love to have a sandwich board to let people know where they are. If you are a new business, this option is no longer available to you. It is one more obstacle we have put in the way of doing business instead of removing them.  

Skippy Mesirow

Do you agree with council’s recent decision asking City Manager Steve Barwick to resign? How would you have handled the situation? Yes. My only wish is that it had come sooner and in a more professional manner. We have tremendous talent in our middle management at city hall. I have watched them be beat down for years. It is time to let them shine.

I began witnessing clear mismanagement as many as five years ago. That this has come up now demonstrates lack of awareness of our current city council. Had we acted proactively, we could have overseen a smooth transition rather than compounding the loss of an assistant city manager with the dismissal of the city manager. I would have applied the proactive leadership needed to navigate this process in a way that would have been better for city employees and the community years ago.

Name one instance where you thought the city made a good decision on a difficult issue.The walking malls represent positive, bold decision making. We often forget that one of our most cherished spaces — the walking malls — were far from a sure thing. Those who pursued that effort were brave and should be applauded. The effort was contentious, there were protests and business owners filed lawsuits to block it. It took a long time and there were three separate “tests" in ‘61, ‘66 and ‘73, and it took 21 years to complete. It also took citizen involvement to pass, finally requiring the circulation of a citizen petition for a tax to fund the project, which passed by a small margin. Vision and consensus need not be synonymous for historic results, and strong leadership like that is something I intend to bring back to city council.

Name another instance where you disagreed with the direction taken at city hall. City hall itself. In over a decade, we have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in a failed process that ultimately put two bad options on a ballot to an electorate ill-informed to make a decision. This represents both a failure of process and leadership. We need to work to create a better process with stronger proactive community outreach through bold leadership.

Bert Myrin

Do you agree with council’s recent decision asking City Manager Steve Barwick to resign? How would you have handled the situation? The recent issues raised by others on council were not why I advocated for a change at the top. I asked for change as a part of my council campaign four years ago. Four years ago there were already a number of troubling issues with the city management:

1) In December 2007 without an appraisal, the city spent $18 million for the BMC lumberyard.

2) The city spent $1.5 million on a custom turbine for a not-yet-approved project (the project was never approved).

3) The city lost over $600,000 in revenue from a widely-known loophole left open for multiple years allowing debit cards with zero balance as a parking payment method.

4)  The city gave a departing department head and his wife guaranteed housing for the rest of their lives which was and remains an unprecedented exception to city-owned-housing policy.

Overdue as this action may be, and though I did support it when others on council were finally ready to join me for their own reasons, I wish it had not been done 35 days before ballots are mailed and five months before a new council will be seated. Because no one will accept Aspen’s city manager job without knowing the composition of the new city council, there will be an extremely long transition time before a new city manager is in place. I also should have insisted on a follow up public meeting later the same week of the resignation to avoid the cliffhanger that left our community and staff wondering who was in charge while council hired an interim city manager.

Name one instance where you thought the city made a good decision on a difficult issue.The 2016 emergency moratorium followed by council’s reworking the zoning regulations in Aspen’s commercial zones eliminating penthouses and encouraging second-tier retail was a good decision. Moratoriums are always a difficult issue.

An honorable mention goes to Referendum 1 passed by the voters four years ago. This charter amendment fundamentally changed the way city council spends its time. Instead of one-off negotiations with developers in Aspen's commercial zones regarding how much affordable housing and parking to waive, or how much additional height and mass to gift, city council now just sets these 4 parameters for each commercial zone and any variance on those four parameters requires the double hurdle of a council vote to approve followed by a community vote. Now sellers, buyers, developers, neighbors and our community can rely on the code when negotiating transaction prices and predicting what might be built. Never again will the mass and scale of the Aspen Art Museum be duplicated without approval from both council and the voters.

Name another instance where you disagreed with the direction taken at city hall. Every two years, city council has a two-day retreat where a “top 10” list of goals is set for the next two years. During the retreat in July 2017 I tried to get the top item on my personal list added to the council top 10: Inventory where we are and determine where we want to be in regard to “Aspen the community” versus “Aspen the resort.”

Using bedrooms as an example: First, inventory how many employee bedrooms, short term rental and lodge bedrooms, free market bedrooms (both year-round occupied and infrequently owner occupied). Next, have a community conversation about the ratios of those numbers and how many and what type of additional bedrooms we are willing to take on to adjust the ratios.

Our current approach that looks at individual projects without considering the effect accumulating development has on the overall health of our community ecosystem is broken. Whether it be free market or affordable, residential or commercial, demand for the “Aspen brand” is boundless. We cannot build our way out of our most pressing problems.

I call this a carrying capacity discussion. Our most pressing problems all revolve around carrying capacity. I was, and continue to be, extremely disappointed that the majority of council choose not to include this item. Instead, we’ve had only a “top 9” list for the past 18 months.

Rachel Richards

Do you agree with council’s recent decision asking City Manager Steve Barwick to resign? How would you have handled the situation?

Given the extended ‘lame duck’ period created with our new election date, I question whether top-tier talent will apply for the city manager position. With city hall’s apparent turmoil, and a lame duck council doing the hiring for an undetermined new council (one not yet coalesced around priorities or vision), the manager vacancy is what’s known as a “good job for the next guy,” meaning the first hire is inheriting a mess and won’t last long.

Whether the request to resign was justified or not, the perception mirrors the old saying “when the team is losing, fire the coach.” The action seemed more about shifting blame for the lack of clear consistent council direction and meaningful public involvement, resulting in a community disconnect and dissent on the Hopkins Avenue bike lane, new city hall building, Power Plant proposal and mobility lab.

Council’s responsibility is to evaluate their manager’s performance and set clear policy, goals and outcome measures that serve the community. Council has an obligation to “manage their manager” continually, not just at annual performance reviews. It is unfortunate corrective actions/direction weren’t given over the years to engender greater faith in city hall and avoid this abrupt conclusion in the midst of an election. Far more time should have been invested thinking about where the council and administration shortfalls have been, what attributes the city should seek its management and how to set up a recruitment process that would attract the best and brightest applicants.

I have worked through changes in management before and would like to see an open hiring process involving multiple interview panels including citizens with Aspen roots and strong management experience, city department heads and front-line employees and meet and greets with the general public to help inform the city council when making the hiring decision.

Name one instance where you thought the city made a good decision on a difficult issue. I think the city has made many good decisions: increasing the density of the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing site, rebuilding Rubey Park, increasing its renewable energy supplies, participating outside of city limits in the purchase of former Droste property (now Sky Mountain Park), resolving the water rights issues on Castle and Maroon creeks, partnering with the county to build a safe trail to the Country Day School/MAA campus and continuing to contribute to community healthcare non-profits and senior center.

Name another instance where you disagreed with the direction taken at city hall. I believe that the city’s intractable position on the affordable housing capital reserves and maintenance problem (support our proposal or “we will dissolve the housing authority”) has been a stumbling block to resolving this critically important issue. Pitkin County suggested that the “governance structure” of APCHA could be improved two years ago and presented an alternate proposal on capital reserves. The city rejected the county proposal and after two years of sub-committee meetings and threatened to dissolve the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority unless the county acquiesced to the city proposal (spending up to $16 million creating individual escrow accounts for thousands of ownership housing units, to be overseen by the housing office, released for capital repairs only with APCHA approval, with the goal that all problems would be fixed within one year by requiring all homeowners to sign new deed restrictions to access the funds).    

“Governance” became a city fallback position as the housing board also did not endorse the city’s capital reserves approach. Only in preparing to dissolve APCHA did the city realize that such action would result in the city controlling less than half of all the inventoried housing units; and that such a move might be politically unpopular during this spring election.

Resolving the capital reserves and maintenance issues for properties such as Centennial in a fair, reasonable and precedent setting way will take compromise, cooperation and collaboration. The first steps, which all have agreed on, to implement an accurate computerized database is underway, and should provide a fact-based platform from which to analyze and move the program forward. Aspen will face many issues in the future and we need a council willing to listen to and work with other entities, public and private sector, to move forward with solutions on this and other challenges.

Aspen Daily News 1/22/19 - Know your candidate: Council hopefuls share their Aspen outlook

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Rachel Richards

Age: 58

Education: Springbrook High, Silver Spring, Md. and Aspen State Teachers College graduate; John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Senior Executives in State and Local Government Seminar; Aspen Institute Executive Seminar; Rocky Mountain Leadership Program at the University of Colorado-Denver; and American Leadership Forum at Colorado Mountain College.  

Occupation: With my 12 years as an elected representative for Pitkin County ending earlier this month, I’ve not yet sought new employment as I am now running for a seat on the Aspen City Council. I plan to pursue additional work opportunities that match the council hours once the outcome of the March 5 election is determined. I always worked full time during my past service on the city council as the advertising distribution manager for Aspen Activities Center.

Describe a formative experience in your life: The death of my father when he was 57 and I was 28 was a wake-up call about how short one’s life really is, that the ‘here and now’ is one’s only chance to make a meaningful difference in our world and our children’s future. My father was an attorney who often performed pro bono work; his respect for all individuals, honesty, integrity and sincere desire to help people have been guiding principles in my life.

When and why did you move to Aspen? I sold my ’69 Mustang and took a bus across the country to Aspen in September 1978 to work, ski, have my independence and take a “skip” year before going to college. With $1,000 in my pocket and solid cooking experience, I began working my second day in town at the Souper Restaurant on the Hyman Avenue mall. I knew I had found my forever home here in the mountains, putting down permanent roots after my son was born in ’81. With his future in mind — and perhaps from growing up in the D.C. area with daily exposure to the turmoil of the era, and the many social and civil initiatives of the ’60s such as the Civil Rights Act, Earth Day, the Endangered Species, Clean Air and Clean Water acts — I began involving myself with local efforts to ensure a healthy sustainable community and to protect our natural surroundings and wildlife.

What do you enjoy most about living here? I take great delight in watching our community’s children grow up and use the skills and support they have received here as they begin their adult lives, having their own kids, starting businesses, leading good causes, contributing to and helping define the community. I love our community’s unique mix of hard-working, caring people, engaging in the arts, social activities, recreational and civic pursuits at simply extraordinary levels, all surrounded by majestic public lands, historic structures and modern amenities.

If you could change one thing about Aspen, what would it be? The overall unaffordability of the community, for finding a home, starting a family, opening a business, or vacationing here. If I could change one thing about the city council, it would be to have them raising their voice and be more involved in the many larger public policies that directly impact our residents and workforce, from the weakening of national air and water quality, to the high cost of individual healthcare and attempts to privatize our national public lands.   

 

Bert Myrin

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Age: 51

Education: High school at Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) in Carbondale; A.S. in flight operations, B.S. in aviation management, Daniel Webster College; J.D. in law, William Mitchell College of Law; Roaring Fork Leadership class of 2010.

Occupation: Husband of Walt Madden and dog parent of Nutmeg. Volunteer organizer of citizen initiatives and citizen referendums in the city of Aspen. Past volunteer Aspen Planning and Zoning commissioner. Currently on Aspen City Council; licensed real estate broker, licensed attorney.

Describe a formative experience in your life: Two experiences come to mind that helped form my core principles of putting community before self and working to ensure a sustainable future:

1. As a new high school student at CRMS in Carbondale, my school year began with a backpacking trip where we maintained and improved backcountry trails as a service project with the U.S. Forest Service. That first week in high school helped instill a sense of service to the community and stewardship for the environment.

2. My first job in Aspen was at the ticket counter and gate for Continental Express Airlines. The opportunity to live life “backwards” by having unlimited travel opportunities when just starting out rather than toward the end of life let me experience more of the world than I could have ever expected at that age. The result was twofold: first, a realization that a sense of place is invaluable and can only be created by a local community of residents, and, second, the challenges Aspen faces are not unique.

When and why did you move to Aspen? In 1986 I graduated high school from CRMS in Carbondale. I have lived in Aspen ever since except for college and law school.

What do you enjoy most about living here? Aspen is the smallest town in the world everyone has heard of. Our sense of place – a small-town community with world class amenities and activities – is not only Aspen’s competitive advantage over other resorts, it’s why Walt and I enjoy living in Aspen.

If you could change one thing about Aspen, what would it be? I would hire a city manager and elect a city council and mayor that will prioritize decisions from a local’s quality of life perspective over tax revenue generation. When we put our community first, I believe everything else will follow.

 

Skippy Mesirow

Age: 32

Education: BA, communications, University of Colorado at Boulder, where I was also the freeride ski team captain. While I’ve been lucky to study in a classroom, I’ve learned far more from experiences with a backpack alone in places like Iran, North Korea and Haiti. I’ve learned that people are people and that influences my leadership style and my desire to listen and care for everyone.

Occupation: Managing director, SkyRun Vacation Rental & Property Management.

Describe a formative experience in your life: I ran for Aspen City Council two years ago and lost by 102 votes. Losing that election was a wonderful learning experience. During that campaign, I was a nervous, scared-to-offend, ill-prepared candidate. Losing taught me that the worst thing that can happen is that you lose. The next day I still lived in paradise, I still had great friends and I still cared about the direction of our community. Because of that loss, I feel liberated: loose, full of conviction and ready. Now, I am pulling no punches and nothing is off limits. I am 100 percent open to answer anything and everything personal, political, or otherwise. If the community agrees with me, then we will have a mandate to work together to accomplish difficult things. If the community disagrees, then I will listen and continue to grow and improve. After three terms as chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, two terms as chair of Next Generation Advisory Commission, a successful effort to change the municipal election day, and two more years witnessing a lack of leadership from our city council, I feel more ready than ever. It’s time for new leadership.

When and why did you move to Aspen? My grandparents first came to Aspen in ‘52 and bought property in Snowmass Village before the lifts opened in ‘67. This is the only place we ever went during school breaks. I begged my parents to let us move here but they weren’t having it (there were drugs here, you know!?). During my junior year in high school I learned that I had the chance to graduate early. On Nov. 30 of the following year I turned 18. On Dec. 4, I graduated a semester early, and on Dec. 5 at 4 a.m. I was driving to Aspen to teach skiing and live in the Club Commons. That was over 14 years ago now. It was the best decision I ever made and my first year was a blast. I left for a bit to pursue a “real job,” but when I no longer needed to be place-specific, I moved back. Now I’d have to be dragged away. I frequently say that I came for the skiing but stayed for the community.

What do you enjoy most about living here? The people. Aspen has more hugs-per-minute than any place on earth. I think of Aspen as the world’s smallest big city. It lives like a small town. You know everyone and there is a huge sense of community, yet we have the access and culture you normally only get in the world’s great cities. It’s incredible. I love small ski-town life, but I could not exist without the intellectual stimulation Aspen provides. Plus,  if you are able, you can travel in the off-season and grow personally. It’s a town that travels with a world that stops by to say hello. I can’t think of anything better than that.

If you could change one thing about Aspen, what would it be? Our housing system. We must absolutely commit to two pillars: keeping our commitments to the retirees who built this community and recommitting to housing 60 percent of our workforce in town (we are at 38 percent and dropping). This will be difficult and will require tough trade-offs, but if we are unwilling to accept them, then we accept the demise of our town. Without serious action we are on track for a town comprised of 85 percent second homes. No society of only the ultra-wealthy and servants thrives. That is not the full community I’ve come to love and it’s a future I refuse to accept.

I have been asking people to take the five-generation pledge with me: to leave this community better for our grandchildren than our grandparents left it for us.

 

Linda Manning

Age: 41

Education: Bachelor’s degree in archaeology, minor in geology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Occupation: Aspen city clerk.

Describe a formative experience in your life: When I was in college my best friend, who was quite a bit older, thought we should learn how to ride motorcycles. After passing a class, I inherited my brother’s hand-me-down Honda and she got her Harley. That bike taught me patience, gave me confidence and made me trust myself. I now have my own Harley and no matter what is going on in my life, when I’m on my bike all is right with the world.

When and why did you move to Aspen?  In 2004 I moved to Glenwood Springs to open the Lowe’s store but in my heart, I was chasing the sunshine. I moved to Aspen four years later to work for the city.

What do you enjoy most about living here? We are a small town that wants to be a big city. From nature to nightlife there is always something to do and someone to do it with.  

If you could change one thing about Aspen, what would it be? Aspen is a very inclusive community.  Everyone is welcome here and our community reflects that. I would like to see our city council also reflect that diversity. I am a young, single, independent woman who has to work full time to pay the bills. I live in affordable housing. I would like to see someone who represents the working class Aspenite have a say in our future.


Letter to the Editor: The case for Skippy Mesirow 1/21/18 - Chris Striefel

I have known Skippy Mesirow for years, my first impression was of a young impassioned, bright and charismatic gentleman. Aspen politics is overdue for a fresh perspective. If you have any doubts about him, simply review his cabinet and endorsements full of longtime Aspenites known for their leadership. This is certainly a case where one should be judged by the company they keep.

Chris Striefel
Carbondale


Aspen Public Radio’s Meet the Candidates 12/31/18 - Skippy Mesirow

— with Alycin Bektesh of Aspen Public Radio

https://www.aspenpublicradio.org/post/meet-candidates-skippy-mesirow


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 curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.