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Adam's Media Interviews / Q & A

Adam's Op-Ed for papers: How Does Aspen Remain Authentic in a Less Authentic World

How does Aspen remain authentic in a less authentic world?

This is the question I have asked myself since Katy and I moved to Aspen to plant our roots, to build a community, and to start and raise our family.  While enjoying the honor of representing our community for the past eight years, this question has been foremost on my mind.  I believe the next Mayor, working alongside the Council members and a dedicated, high-quality City Staff, needs to lead through inspiration, dedication and communication to focus on this question.  Our community’s concerns and aspirations, including our indispensable affordable housing program, our land use code that emphasizes sense of place, the importance of a healthy community, and a continuation of our progressive environmental policies are all affected by our answer.

From day one, l viewed my leadership role at City Hall as elected community service.  I have a proven track record of delivering, not just talking about, community goals, and would be honored to be able to continue to serve this community as everyone’s Mayor.  I have made some mistakes in the past; I am certain to make some in the future.  I am not running to be a perfect Mayor, but one who listens and learns from our community’s shared wisdom, and then delivers decisive and efficient action through our legislative process.

Of course, it is impossible to produce community goals single handily.  Support from fellow elected officials and implementation by our dedicated staff are necessary elements of the process.  However, community goals are typically initiated by individual members at the Council table.  I have been effective in introducing legislation during my eight years at the Council table and am confident I can be even more so as your Mayor.  Some of my most successful initiatives that received support from my fellow elected officials and were effectively implemented by our skilled staff were:

  • May 2012 – Steered a proposed plastic bag tax to a ban on plastic non-reusable bags from our supermarkets.
  • Fall 2012 – Initiated a two-day, joint work session on affordable housing with the County, APCHA, and the City to focus on a demand study, future needs, opportunities, and challenges to the program.
  • November 2015 – Initiated the balanced and thoughtful downzoning of 2016 by bringing the Mayor, City Attorney, and Director of Community Development together to layout my goals and a process for a moratorium, solidifying a two-story downtown, mandating 2nd tier spaces in new buildings, and adding further protections for our important view planes.
  • Fall 2017 – Spearheaded a tobacco tax to City Council, which received 75% voter support.

To be an effective leader and to implement successful initiatives, I believe Aspen’s Mayor must have their pulse on the true diversity of this community.  That understanding of the diversity of the community will not come from only reading letters to the editors, listening to public comment for three minutes at City Council meetings, and reading staff memos.  While it might take me a bit longer than most to shop at Clark’s Market, or enjoy dinner out on the town with my family, or do a bowl lap, I learn more from these encounters leading my daily life than I do sitting in City Hall or reading memos.  I have always been committed to being out and about and available to the community.

Besides our common desire to live in a small town focused on the outdoors, I believe there are 5,000 reasons why people move to town.  This diversity needs to be better understood and appreciated with true humility and championed from the Council table.  As Katy and I raise kids and experience our lives in Aspen, we have met and befriended so many different people, with different incomes, different needs, different reasons for moving here, and different longevities of living in town.  From SkiMo races, to the Backcountry Marathon, to years of our joint non-profit board service with entities such as AVSC, Aspen Public Radio, Wildwood School, to hut trips and outdoor adventures, Katy and I have met so many unique individuals with unique stories and needs.  From Felix’s theater and music, to Quintessa’s skiing, figure skating and lacrosse, we see a huge diversity of families and people working and living in our community.  It’s been a generation or more since we had a Mayor with young kids.  It is time the diversity of our community, and the future of our community, is understood and represented.

I am humbled to be raising a family in this authentic town.  It has been even more humbling to help lead our community forward.  I ask for your vote for Mayor this election season.   I promise I will continue to listen, learn and lead.

Adam's Q & A - Aspen Daily News - 2019

ASPEN DAILY NEWS CANDIDATE Q & A – 2019

DAY 1

Age:

51

Education:  

B.S., CU-Boulder, Economics & Art History — Dean’s List

Occupation:

  • Aspen City Council
  • Full time Dad (Katy works full time, travels a week a month)

Describe a formative experience in your life:

The top two formative experiences by a longshot are the births of my children, Felix and Quintessa.   Raising them with my wife, Katy, is full of challenges and rewards, and keeps me grounded as to what is truly important in life.  Hard to believe it has been 13 and 11 years respectfully.

 

When and why did you move to Aspen?

November 15, 2003

My first Aspen visit was 1977, as a 5th grader with my Dad.  Growing up ski racing on the 300 vertical feet of Buck Hill in Minnesota, I still remember my feeling of awe at any ski run that lasted longer than 25 seconds, as well as the pricey $16 lift ticket.  I was lucky for return visits in high school with Minneapolis friends who I still thank every time I see them.  I fell in love with everything about Aspen, and even back then I knew my long-term goal was to end up here.  Attending CU-Boulder to focus on ski racing allowed more time in Aspen – too much time according to my parents.  My trips to Aspen were not just for the skiing but also for Ruggerfest and the Motherlode Volleyball tournaments.

Fast forward, after eleven years of living in New York — going from waiting tables for a year to stumbling into the banking industry — I was fired a month after 9/11.  I loaded up my car for a winter sabbatical to visit friends in Aspen and a few other ski towns.   In January of 2002, I met the proverbial girl in Vail.  A year later, after getting engaged on backcountry ski trip in Chamonix, I suggested to Katy we should move to Aspen.  I proposed if we wanted to make a go of it in a mountain town, I thought we would have a much better chance of building community and raising a family here.  I had high hopes that have been vastly exceeded.  I am continually awed by the depth and variety of the community, the breath of outdoor and cultural experiences, and the opportunity to raise two great kids and build friendships.  We live in a tightknit and supportive community.   We thank our lucky stars every day.

 

What do you enjoy most about living here?

Oh my, where to start? Raising my family in a funky ski town.  Building true friendships, with more formed daily.  Skiing Bell Mountain.  Skinning Ajax, especially on Saturday mornings.  Running the Hobbit trail.  Family hut trips.  Hiking the bowl with my kids.  Hanging at burger night at the Elk’s.  Completing challenging races like the Grand Traverse and Power of Four.  Chris Klug’s Summit for Life Uphill.  Volunteering at school.  Relaxing on summer Sundays outside of music tent.  Waiting tables with my family at Eden’s Thanksgiving community dinners.  Watching Quintessa ski race, figure skate, and play lacrosse.  Watching Felix perform on many a stage.  Attending community events at The Institute.  Hiking the Ashcroft valley.  Biking the Bells.  Dining outdoors across from Wagner Park in June.  Listening and learning from the old-timers.  Trying to stop our dog Padme from jumping with excitement on people on Sunnyside.  Taking pictures during fall foliage.  Catching my breath in May and November.  Focusing on what is important in life.

 

If you could change one thing about Aspen, what would it be?

More affordable housing within the roundabout.

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DAY 2

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

Yes on decision.

No on process.

My email to the Mayor on December 19th asking to move up the City Manager’s review from late February to an executive session on January 8th started these discussions.  My suggestion was for the five elected officials to discuss his review among ourselves then going to needed public discussions.  Unfortunately, that never happened, and the decisions played out as we all saw.

While I highly doubt it would have, or should have, changed the outcome, I think the path I suggested would have enabled better internal HR discussions, not in the public realm so early in the process.

The City Manager and his family have been important members in this community over the last 25 years and that should be recognized and appreciated.  I wish him well on his next endeavors, here in Aspen or elsewhere.

 

Name one instance where you thought the city made a good decision on a difficult issue.

I believe City Hall handled the decision to protect our water rights very well.   It was a difficult and complicated legal process, with a myriad of environmental, legal and logistical factors, as well as a lot of differing opinions from the community.  Given the City currently has less than half a day of water storage, compared to months and even years in other cities, it was a vital issue to pursue, and a good decision on behalf of the long-term sustainability of our community.

Through a lot of great work by City staff, especially City Attorney Jim True and the City’s Water Department’s Margaret Medellin, the City was able to come to agreements with landowners and organizations to protect the community’s water rights while focusing the storage solution in the Woody Creek area.

On December 16th, I was proud to attend an ACES hosted event, with Tillie Walton’s sponsorship.  The evening celebrated the collaboration that protected Castle and Maroon creeks via the signed agreements with the City of Aspen and American Rivers, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, and Wilderness Workshop.   It was truly an example of a great outcome from a difficult decision, one that I am proud to have been a part of during my tenure on Council.

 

Name another instance where you disagreed with the direction taken at city hall.

In one word, outreach.  There is an ongoing culture among some at city hall that tolerates ineffective communication with our community that needs to change.  To be clear, outreach does not mean buy-in from every individual or even a majority.  There are many times where leaders need to challenge the view of the majority of citizens to do what is in the long-term best interests of the community.  But clear communication and outreach with all citizens is a requirement of good government.

I believe outreach is mandatory when Aspen wants to continue to push forward on its long-held views of progressive policies and initiatives.  The low hanging fruits of community goals are gone; Aspen already excels in many aspects of what is considered a wonderful community.  We are left with very lofty goals and I am excited to help lead the community to keep pushing forward.  The communication plan, however, must be at the same high level as well.

While the vast majority of the City’s hard working and dedicated staff wish more outreach had been done regarding outreach to our local business community on the mobility lab (and other projects), when a few senior people in City Hall either believe it is actually counterproductive to seek community input, or enable projects to move forward without it, we have a cultural problem.  Culture starts at the top; both at the staff and elected roles.  I feel for all the hard-working city workers that had their outreach preferences squashed.  One of my top priorities as Mayor will be to lead this cultural shift in our local government.

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DAY 3

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

Yes.  I believe the reactivation of the Lift 1A corridor is vital to our community.  This project presents a unique opportunity that requires us to be creative in our compromises.  No one is getting everything they want, but overall the community wins.

Throughout this long process, the lift location has remained my focus; the lower the better.  I believe a thoughtful development on the west side of the mountain is critical, a onetime opportunity that the community needs to get right.  At the start, the applicants wanted to have a development conversation about individual projects, including retaining the current lift location.  I felt the vast majority of the community wanted to have a lift location discussion.  By asking the Gorsuch Haus to put its initial design on hold, I was able to steer the focus for all of us to a better lift location for everyone.  We should be thankful to both lodging applicants, the Aspen Skiing Company, and the City of Aspen staff’s work with SE Group, the site planning consultants, to bring the lift down to where even a year ago, many thought was not possible.

Two council members wanted to decrease the initial development fees upfront; I believed holding the developers accountable to meet certain milestones, and to incentivize them to meet those milestones was a better path.  I persuaded the two council members of the latter and was the tiebreaking vote to send the Lift 1 Corridor project to the voters.  The agreement on our ballots only rebates a partial amount of the total fees, and only rebates these fees when the new ski lift is ready to spin, and the Skier’s Chalet building is refurbished.  I believe this compromise is in the best interest of the community and provides additional incentives to complete this project, especially the lift, in a timely fashion.

 

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?

White House Tavern.  The historic structure on the corner has been beautifully refurbished and activated (from office use).  Inside is a wonderful restaurant that is busy all the time with a mix of visitors and local.  The business employs several locals, adds to the community’s tax base, and enhances the diversity to Aspen’s thriving restaurant scene.  The small brick addition in the back fits in nicely to our small-town, historic downtown core.  A true winner across the board in my humble opinion.  Hats off to the Historic Preservation Committee, the City’s Historic Preservation staff….and the chef and staff of White House Tavern.

 

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

Our biggest mistake over the last 20 years has been reacting to economic cycles with land use code changes.  Aspen needs a land use code based on our community values, NOT our current economic times.  Aspen’s values have been consistent for generations; our local and national economy gyrate every 5-10 years.  During boom times, the community slams on the breaks; during economic down turns, the community expands development rights.  If we could focus on our core values and have the confidence to not be concerned with short-term economic swings, we would save a lot of community angst.

The desire for a balanced and thoughtful land use code led me to initiate the 2016 downzoning moratorium by reaching out to the Mayor, City Attorney and Director of Community Development in November of 2015. I expressed my reasons for a moratorium, what I hoped for the outcomes, and an overall plan to implement.  I then reached out to my fellow Council members to make sure they understood the process and my top levels goals prior to enacting the moratorium on March 14th of 2016 at the Council table.  Process was important, as I did not want to unleash a flood of land use applications as was done in 2012, the last time these discussions were initiated.  City Staff, with significant outreach to the community, spent a year working with a variety of stakeholders, and did a wonderful job in processing the needed changes to have the land use code better represent the values of the Aspen Area Community Plan.  In March 2017, the moratorium was lifted.  I believe this willingness to pause and reflect to discuss how to match the AACP with the land use code has resulted in a better environment for businesses and a downtown more matched to our values.

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DAY 4

What are your priorities when it comes to local housing?

Our affordable housing program is the foundation of what makes our town a true community.  It has been my top priority since 2009 – prior to my election to City Council in 2011.  It will be my top priority as Mayor.  I have worked diligently to improve our housing program for ten years.  For six years, I served on the Housing Frontiers Group, meeting weekly to twice a month.  Our mission was to study the long term and strategic issues facing the housing program.  We implemented education sessions for the residents and homeowner associations and executed a capital reserve study for over 20 HOAs.  This work led to productive, ongoing APCHA governance discussions with the County.  I also spearheaded the 2012 housing work session which included the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and the APCHA Board, focusing on demand studies, future needs, opportunities, and challenges to the program.  Enhancing our affordable housing program has been the most meaningful result of my community service over the last decade.

Based on my experience and many conversations with numerous stakeholders in the community, my priorities regarding affordable housing are:

  • Prioritize construction of Burlingame III; we can deliver 80 new units; many of which will be occupied by families. We have the land, we have the design, we have the entitlements, and we certainly have the need.
  • Finalize a new APCHA governance structure that supports workers and retirees.
  • Implement a capital reserve program that is financially attainable for our APCHA residents.
  • Update our housing mitigation policies to protect future housing funds.

 

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

Not only do I believe some changes need to be made in APCHA’s governance, but I am already leading on this issue.  In December, I initiated a joint work session between the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners, the two equal overseers of the governance of APCHA.  We are in a review process to look at the governance and management of APCHA.

However, I am not advocating for a “shake up” but rather suggesting we seek an updated governance model that better reflects the realities of our most important community program.  Our 40+ year affordable housing program has been a huge achievement.  The governing documents and management structure, however, have not significantly changed as the program has evolved and grown and become more complex.  We need a structure that serves our entire population, including workers and our retirees, both of which are fundamental for an authentic community.  The current governance structure allows for decisions to be caught in either a stalemate situation or a prolonged process, even when there is total agreement between the Council, the BOCC, and the APCHA Board.  Under no circumstances am I looking to take stakeholders out of the process, or for hastiness in decisions, but rather to find a simplified governance model where decisions get made, and the decision makers are fully invested and focused from the start.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the following people for helping me bring these discussions to fruition: Jon Peacock, the Pitkin County Manager, BOCC member George Newman, and former BOCC member Rachel Richards, Mayor Skadron, and Steve Barwick, from the City.  I am excited for the community to make some real progress on a more responsive and efficient governance structure for our community’s most important program.

 

What is your current housing situation?

Katy and I feel very fortunate to have moved here over 15 years ago after years of long, big city work hours, and to now be able to raise Felix and Quintessa in a house off of Cemetery Lane.  Our neighborhood is full of kids and full-time families in all stages of life, the essence of a true community.

Adam's Q & A - Aspen Times 2019

1-Bio info: Tell us your Aspen story: how you got here and why you stayed; age, occupation and government experience; a dead person you’d like to have dinner with and why, and what makes you the best fit for council/mayor?

My first Aspen visit was in 1977.  Growing up ski racing in Minnesota, I still remember my feeling of awe at any ski run longer than 25 seconds.  Attending CU-Boulder to focus on ski racing allowed more time in Aspen.  I am 51.

After eleven years of living in New York I loaded up my car for a winter sabbatical.  In January of 2002, I met Katy in Vail.  A year later, after getting engaged on backcountry ski trip in Chamonix, I suggested to Katy we should move to Aspen; a better place to build community.  I am continually awed by the depth and variety of the community, and the opportunity to raise my family here.

My grandfather on my Dad’s side would be my choice for a dinner companion who is no longer with us.  He passed away when I was 5.  He fled Europe to a small mining town in northern Minnesota.  I wish I had the chance to hear his story directly from him to have a deeper understanding of my family roots.

I think the most critical question facing Aspen is “how does Aspen remain authentic in a less authentic world.”  I believe the core of our community’s enthusiasm and angst comes from this seminal question.

I believe Aspen’s Mayor need to lead this discussion and must have their pulse on the true diversity of this community.  Too often leadership has looked at the community through a narrow, personal prism.  It’s been a generation since we had a Mayor with young kids.  The diversity of my experiences prepares me to listen and to lead.

My experiences, along with a proven track record of delivering community goals such as a thoughtful and balanced downzoning, improvements in our affordable housing program, and introducing the tobacco tax, makes me the best fit for the community to be our next Mayor.

 

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?

The foremost attribute I am seeking in a City Manager is the ability to create and manage a cohesive culture within City Hall.  Trust in government is at historically low levels across our nation (see Pew Research Center data).  The new manager must create a culture that focuses City Hall on representing our entire community and visitors.  We must work to rebuild trust with the community.  Being a public leader – elected or hired — is not easy in this national environment.  It is especially hard in Aspen given our long history of delivering goals and services at a very high level.  This is why outreach and communication are key.  While empowering department heads with independence is important in any organization, it needs to be balanced to ensure internal coordination between employees is as good as the external communication with the community.  There have been some great examples of outreach from City Hall; we need to instill that belief across the entire organization.

We need the new City Manager to help steer the decision-making process back to the intent of the City Charter; Council sets community goals and empowers the staff to deliver using their professional recommendations.  This will include some needed pushback from staff to Council on how the decision-making process has operated in the past, but it is needed to deliver community goals in a better and more effective manner.  In addition, we need a Mayor and Council members who understand the important balance of this process.  My management background in working in very large and diverse organizations before moving to Aspen, combined with my involvement in this community raising a family, interacting with a variety of organizations and people, and my experience of delivering community goals at the council table, offers the leadership skillset City Hall needs.

 

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?

Affordable housing is the foundation of what makes our town a true community.  I have actively worked to better our program for ten years – prior to my election to City Council in 2011.  For six years, I served on the Housing Frontiers Group, meeting weekly to twice a month.  Our mission was to study the long term and strategic issues facing the housing program.  We implemented education sessions for the residents and homeowner associations and executed a subsidized capital reserve study for over 20 HOAs.  This work led to productive, ongoing APCHA governance discussions with the County.  I also spearheaded the 2012 housing work session which included the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and the APCHA Board, focusing on demand studies, future needs, opportunities, and challenges to the program.  Enhancing our vital affordable housing program has been the most meaningful result of my community service over the last decade.

If elected Mayor, affordable housing will remain my focus.  There is more work to be done, including additional outreach to all stakeholders.  As with all the initiatives I lead at the Council table, I will also seek the input of my fellow elected leaders, and know where they stand, so we can implement, not just discuss, community goals.

Based on my experience and many conversations with a wide variety of stakeholders in the community, my top three goals to produce more affordable housing are:

1-Prioritize construction of Burlingame III; we can deliver 80 new units; many of which will be occupied by families.  We have the land, we have the design, we have the entitlements and we certainly have the need.  Update our housing mitigation policies to protect future housing funds.

2- Update our housing mitigation policies to protect future housing funds.

3-Start the long-awaited discussions on developing the BMC West land, purchased before my time on Council.

 

  1. Does Aspen have a traffic problem? If yes, what’s your solution? If no, why do you believe that?

Yes, and not just in Aspen—every desirable community has traffic issues.  Traffic is a valley wide issue that needs valley wide solutions.  Like most complex issues in this town and elsewhere in the nation there are no silver bullets.  I do not believe the traffic problem can be so much as “solved,” but it can be improved, and we must continue to work on it with intention.

Our vital affordable housing program has taken forty plus years to build an inventory of 3,000 affordable units; they were not built in a single year.  Just as this has evolved, our traffic management program needs to evolve.  While it is not much solace, including me when I am stuck in traffic, we have already done great work.  On many aspects of traffic management, we are a leader in the nation.  We have eight times that national average of bus ridership for commuters, a growing and respected bike share program that offers last mile solutions for some, and a trail network that is in the envy of many.  However, we still have work to do.

Life is complex, and the need to shuttle kids, visit multiple job sites, pick up groceries, and a myriad of other needs contribute to traffic.  The majority of people who work, live, play, and visit our community need to use a car.  Solutions will come in incremental steps, not all at once.  Transit ideas like direct bus service from the intercept lot to multiple locations around town or working with the schools and youth organizations to find drop off or pick up traffic solutions should be explored.  Further focus on traffic solutions will ensure Aspen operates at the high service level we all expect and continues to work towards a better quality for life for those that live, commute and visit Aspen.  We owe that to everyone.

 

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?

The City is not paying the developers $4.36 million in taxpayer money.  Two council members wanted to decrease the initial development fees upfront; I believed holding the developers accountable to meet certain milestones was a better path.  I convinced the two council members of the latter and was the tie-breaking vote to send the Lift 1 Corridor project to the voters.  The agreement on our ballots only rebates a partial amount of the total fees, and only rebates these fees when the new ski lift is ready to spin, and the Skier’s Chalet building is refurbished.  I believe this compromise is in the best interest of the community and provides additional incentives to complete this project, especially the lift, in a timely fashion.

Throughout this long process, the lift location has remained my focus.  I believe a thoughtful development on the east side of the mountain is critical, a onetime opportunity that the community needed to get right.  At the start, the applicants wanted to have a development project conversation, I felt the vast majority of the community wanted to have a lift location discussion.  By asking the Gorsuch Haus to put its initial design on hold, I was able to steer the focus for all of us to a better lift location for everyone.  We should all be thankful to both lodging applicants, the Aspen Ski Company, and the City of Aspen staff’s work with SE Group, the site planning consultants, to bring the lift down to where even a year ago, many thought was not possible.

Adam Q & A - The Red Ant 2019

Adam

Thank you for throwing your hat into the ring!

Below are several questions that I am specifically asking you to respond to.  Other candidates will receive other questions.  I would like to have your answers back by 5p on Tuesday, February 5.  (I will send you an email confirmation once I have received them.)  The Red Ant endorsement issue will go out to my readership the week of February 11, and, as always, will include a link to your completed questionnaire, as submitted.  Please do not miss this opportunity to address my 2700 readers.

You are welcome to respond to this email with your answers added below, or, preferably, cut and paste the following questions onto a word document so that my questions and your answers are all on the page, and you can submit a pdf file.

I look forward to hearing from you.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Many thanks,

Elizabeth

 

During your 8 years as a member of city council, what can you specifically point to that would or would not have happened if not for you?

It is impossible of course to produce community goals single handily.  Support from fellow elected officials and implementation by our dedicated staff are necessary elements of the process.  However, community goals are not initiated out of thin air, they are typically initiated by individual members at the Council table.  I have been effective in introducing legislation during my eight years at the Council table and am confident I can be even more so as your Mayor.  Some of my most successful initiatives that received support from my fellow elected officials and were effectively implemented by our skilled staff were:

  • May 2012 – Steered a proposed plastic bag tax to a ban on plastic non-reusable bags from our supermarkets.
  • Fall 2012 – Initiated a two-day, joint work session on affordable housing with the County, APCHA, and the City to focus on a demand study, future needs, opportunities, and challenges to the program.
  • November 2015 – Initiated the balanced and thoughtful downzoning of 2016 by bringing the Mayor, City Attorney, and Director of Community Development together to layout my goals and a process for a moratorium, solidifying a two-story downtown, mandating 2nd tier spaces in new buildings, and adding further protections for our important view planes.
  • Spring 2017 – Steered Lift 1A corridor discussions to focus on a lower lift location – prior to then, it was an assumed a fait accompli the lift would need to remain in its current location.
  • Fall 2017 – Spearheaded a tobacco tax to City Council, which received 75% voter support.

 

If elected mayor, what are THREE significant programs/initiatives/priorities that you are personally committed to bringing forward, championing and seeing through to fruition, if viable?

Thank you for realizing that effective leadership is not just talking about community goals but leading them through a legislative process to fruition – vision is the start, not the end.  City Council is a legislative body that needs to implement, not just discuss, community goals:

  1. The next Mayor’s number one responsibility in my mind is to help lead a cultural change in how City Hall communicates. Not only communication between City Hall and the community, but how it communicates internally: between staff departments, between different levels of staff seniority, between staff and Council, and yes, among the five elected officials.
  2. Complete the build out of the Burlingame affordable housing project. Stage III will see 79 new units, plus a few single home sites.
  3. Finalize the affordable housing governance upgrades to APCHA. The City, County, and the APCHA Staff and Board are currently in discussions to provide a more responsive and accountable organizational structure to modernize our most important program.  It is imperative the current housing complexes last as long as possible.

 

You have been committed to “housing issues” for your entire time in office.  How do you intend to resolve “the Centennial issue” and APCHA governance?

Affordable housing is the foundation of what makes our town an authentic community.  I have actively worked to better our program for ten years – prior to my election to City Council in 2011.

The “Centennial issue” is a capital reserve issue faced by every ownership unit in the system, not just Centennial.  The original rules set up 40+ years ago under-appreciated some of the consequences of capping the sale price of a very desirable asset, creating a disincentive for our homeowners to provide ongoing maintenance for their units.  While pride of ownership is very important and needs to be appreciated and respected, it is financially irrational to invest hard earned money into something that will not see a return to the homeowner.  I cannot fault people for acting in their own financial interest, but we have placed people in a bind who want to do the right thing by keeping their own homes in good condition but are disincentivized to do so.  With my leadership, the City has had a plan in place for years to address many of the issues the entire ownership program is facing on capital reserves.  However, implementation has been sidetracked by a lack of engagement from our partners at the County, which leads to your next question on APCHA governance.

The City, County, and APCHA are currently in discussions to modernize ACPHA’s governance model both at the Board and administrative level.  These are the first major discussions in a generation.  Under the current governance model, when the City and County have a difference of opinion on an issue, one side can detach from the discussions and produce a stalemate—to the detriment of the program and most importantly, the citizens.  I believe any partner who controls a program needs to be responsible and continue to engage until a compromise can be worked out.

As Mayor, my first goal with a new APCHA governance model is to continue to focus on the much needed and long overdue capital reserve plan.

Enhancing our vital affordable housing program has been the most meaningful result of my community service over the last decade.  As Mayor, this will continue to be my number one focus; not just the construction of more units but making sure we have the best and most sustainable program in the country, not just the oldest and largest as a percentage of our full-time residents.

 

You have mentioned curbing construction in Aspen in order to create a better quality of life.  Please describe what you have in mind and how it might work.

The curbing construction discussion referred to public projects.  Aspen is not about to crumble if we take some time to relax on future government projects.  The city is currently in design phase for a big upgrade to our pedestrian malls.  I have made it very clear I have zero interest in starting any mall construction until we are at the point where the underground utility upgrades will be vastly more expensive if we wait.  When that happens, the project will need to focus on sounds infrastructure.  I have yet to meet a local or visitor – ever – who walks down our beautiful and historic malls and says, “you know this space really needs a total remodel, so let’s tear up the entire mall, completely disrupt the businesses located here, and have yet more construction happening in town.”  Perhaps it’s time to do nothing for a while.

 

If at all, how would your tenure as mayor differ from that of outgoing mayor Steve Skadron?

First, I want to thank Mayor Skadron for raising the bar of decorum at the Council table.  His openness to take public comment from a wide variety of people with a sincere interest in listening is a commendable trait.  He always showed people respect.  His evenhandedness in treating his fellow Council members at the table is another attribute I will carry forward.

My biggest difference might not be on issues, but on process for managing the agenda and how and when items come to the Council table.  I have seen too many issues make it to the Council table that should have been discussed at the community level in more depth.  Sometimes going slower through the legislative process will see community goals accomplished more efficiently, with less public angst.

Helping set a new culture for City Hall, including working with the new City Manager and senior staff will also be a key goal of mine.  The communication breakdown that is being discussed is not just between City Hall and the community, but within city hall staff, from staff to Council, and even among the five council members.  I will make sure to always have the pulse of not only the diverse community of Aspen, but of my fellow elected officials.  Clarity before agreement is a favorite quip of mine, but always made with sincerity.

Besides our common desire to live in a small town focused on the outdoors, I believe there are 5,000 reasons why people move to town.  As Katy and I raise kids and experience our lives in Aspen, we have met and befriended so many different people, with different incomes, different needs, different reasons for moving here, and different longevities of living in town.  This diversity needs to be better understood and appreciated with true humility and championed from the Council table.

Another difference will be the issues I champion; mine will be affordable housing, as it has been for my last eight years at the Council table.  I intend to not only focus on the production of more units, but also deeper dive into governance and capital reserve issues to ensure a sustainable housing program.

 

In your opinion, does the fact that someone has moved to Aspen and wants to stay here serve as rationale for the community to house and employ them?  Please explain.

We have 3,000 units in the ACPHA system.  We are housing over 50% of the Aspen population.  This should be celebrated as a success as it has led to a desirable community for all, APCHA residents, free-market locals, and visitors alike.  Everyone wants to be in an authentic community and our affordable housing program is the foundation of our authenticity.

Having said that, we cannot provide subsidized housing for everyone who wants to live here.  As I have been saying for years, if we were to build 10,000 units, we would have 30,000 people wanting to live here.  We need to balance housing production with other community values of density and open space.  Talking to my friends who are small business owners, a lack of housing for employees is their largest concern.  We should finish the Burlingame built out and then work on BMC, but we are then left with small pockets of opportunities.

 

If elected, will you personally commit to supporting: (YES or NO, and BRIEFLY explain)

Selling the custom $1.5 million custom turbine, forged before federal approvals were granted for the Castle Creek Energy Center, even as scrap metal, to put an end to this chapter?

Yes-I believe staff plans to come back to Council in the spring time to seek direction, and an option is to sell at whatever price the City can obtain, take the write-down, and move on.  Sunk costs are never fun to manage, but sometimes a cold-hearted reality.

 

Changing and implementing policies that govern CITY-OWNED employee housing (bought by the public for use by city employees) whereby units are RENTED to city employees (not sold) and tied specifically to their employment by the city?

City of Aspen employees in City housing have up to six months to vacate their property after end of their employment with the City, regardless of whether it is rented or owned by the employee.  The housing is directly tied to their City employment.  While I am supportive of a mixture of rental and ownership, the timing of a former employee vacating the unit is not affected by rental or ownership housing.

 

Removing the authority of the city manager to autonomously dictate how city-owned housing is allocated to employees in favor of a more fairly administered system?

Yes-I think a three-person committee, including a senior HR department person and the City Manager, would be a better structure to help administer a very important asset of the City.

 

Undoing the illegally approved (in an executive session, 2007) sweetheart “housing for life” deal provided to city utilities director Phil Overeynder?

Never again “housing for life.”  This should never have been part of anyone’s deal, nor ever again – period.  It is a true management failure to ever be in a situation where any employee is truly indispensable, or even thinks that is the case. Trying to undue a legal contract from 12 years ago is not productive, but I do not support any similar deals going forward.

 

Killing the $2.6 million “mobility lab” in its current form?

Yes-I support staff’s current direction to put this on ice until further notice.  However, there are ideas from this larger mobility lab that are worth exploring.  There was Council support, and more importantly, community support, for the micro-transit component (i.e. incentivizing commuters to turn left into the intercept lot, which should be named the Aspen-Snowmass Park & Ride and providing direct small bus service to a variety of destinations in and around Aspen).  But given the larger “Mobility Lab” was shelved, it will be up to the next Council to decide which, if any, aspects should be looked at again to work on our traffic issues.  Many times, chipping away at a problem is better than trying to implement a host of components simultaneously.

 

Approving a reasonable employment contract for a new city manager that does not incentivize the next one with such a valuable severance package that might intimidate a future council and keep them from removing this manager, if necessary?

Yes-I was not in office when Mr. Barwick’s contract was activated.  I will rely on Alissa Farrell, the City’s top-notch HR Director, for guidance to make sure we offer a competitive contract that will enable us to hire and retain the best person for the job, without putting the City at a financial or staffing disadvantage.  I hope other Council members, either now serving or former, were not influenced on retention of the City Manager based on severance details that are typically paid except in the most extreme circumstances.

 

Lightning Round:  no explanation, just the number (1 – Starving, 2 – Kinda Hungry, 3 – No Thanks, Just Ate, 4 – Barf, That’s Food Poisoning)

    1. Subsidized rental housing development at the BMC lumberyard 1
    2. A large underground parking facility somewhere TBD in town 4
    3. A real plan (not an expensive, half-baked experiment) to actually “intercept” vehicles at the Intercept Lot 2
    4. A re-vamped APCHA that includes new policies such as:
        1. Buyers paying the RETT to have some “skin in the game” 3
        2. Buy-outs of for-sale units for future use as rentals 3
        3. Buy-downs of under-utilized larger units while moving those sellers into smaller units 1
        4. Changes to the guaranteed appreciation rate to encourage taking care of one’s unit and funding one’s HOA 3
        5. Offering TBD “incentives” to increase housing inventory turnover 2

While I appreciate seeking brevity, our affordable housing program is the most important asset in our community, and a primary aspect of what differentiates Aspen from many other desirable ski towns.  I would be remiss if I did not add some context.  Affordable housing has been my #1 focus, even before serving on Council.

 

    1. BG-III will be built first.  A larger discussion on BMC being 100% affordable housing, including possible partnerships, or adding a mixed-use component of commercial to help subsidize expense will be on the table.
    2. If I thought it would free up parking spots in town, I would be open to discussing.  However, professional transportation engineers will argue the new lot will fill up, and the street parking demand will remain consistent as demand adjusts to an increase in supply.  We will just have more cars searching for parking.
    3. See response to question ‘d’ on mobility lab above

 

  1. While I understand the idea of having APCHA owners pay the same tax as free market homeowners, the total paid by anyone entering the system should be +/-1/3rd of take-home pay—same as on the national level of subsidized housing program. If we were to charge the transfer tax, we would need to decrease the total paid in another area, resulting in the same amount of revenue coming into the system and same amount of expense to the homeowner.
  2. I think the broader question is what the balance is needed by our community for rental verses owned housing. The 45 units we are starting to construct this spring will be rentals.  There is a current discussion about BG-III starting as rental housing for a few different reasons.  As to converting from ownership to rental, there are detailed deed restrictions and HOA rules and regulations that make it complicated, and in some cases illegal, to turn specific units of an ownership HOA into rentals.
  3. There have been discussions on incentivizing people in larger units to trade down to smaller units as their needs change. While money should be part of the discussion, it should be combined with allowing people to have priority to move within their complex.  Most people in this situation have been living in their units for years and are part of the micro-community of their complex and their neighborhood.  Their sense of place is very important in their decision-making process and should be respected.  Dollars and cents will not be the only consideration.
  4. This gets into the much-needed changes on the capital reserve issues. Currently, the community has no legal ability to change the appreciation rate without the homeowner’s approval.  Changes will need to be negotiated, a negotiation I have tried to initiate with the County, who shares reasonability over APCHA governance, with no interest in discussing from them.  Without engagement, it impossible to bring the negotiation to residents.  In addition, the community has no legal right to force people to fund the HOA’s capital reserve accounts unless they have purchased a recently constructed unit with a mandated capital reserve account in their deed restriction.  This mandated reserve was an outcome of six years of work and leadership on the Frontiers Housing Group.  For the vast majority of deed restrictions without mandated capital reserve account funding, we will need to negotiate with individuals and HOAs.
  5. Our focus regarding turnover should be on balancing the needs of our newer, working community members who provide vital employees to local businesses with the important, long time ACPHA community members who are entering or will be entering retirement age. It’s a complicated and emotional discussion for all, but one that needs to happen with all constituents represented.

Candidate Forums ACRA 2015 Election Forum at the Limelight - Aspen City Council Candidates

http://www.grassrootstv.org/view?showID=13184

Pitkin County Democratic Party 2015 Aspen City Council Candidate Forum


http://www.grassrootstv.org/view?showID=13194

Adam's Q & A - Talking Dirt with Gus Kadota and Michelle Sullivan -April 10, 2015

Here is link to Talking Dirt recorded Friday, 10 April, 2015: https://vimeo.com/126530638