Aspen’s new City Council got right into it Tuesday with some fire from new councilmen and veterans, as well.
New Councilman Bill Guth went on at length over his issues with the spring supplemental budget presented to the council by Finance Director Pete Strecker.
“I’m highly opposed to the $200,000 supplemental budget request for upgrades to interiors of Armory for a five-year lease term to ACRA for their offices,” Guth said. “This building should be redeveloped into a food hall, functioning as an incredible community gathering space. Tying it up as office for the next five years would be a tragedy.”
“Bill’s presenting this as if no one thought about making it a food court in the past,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein remarked. “We’ve been working on this since 2017, and the advisory vote goes back to 2015.”
Guth went on: “While I’m supportive of the planning department utilizing third-party, private-market providers to provide better service to customers, I did want to acknowledge that it’s not coming with a commensurate reduction in departmental FTEs.”
His last issue with the spring budget was of the maintenance tech and landscape architect full-time equivalent requests.
“I believe the community could be better served by subcontracting out these positions both from a cost and efficiency perspective,” he said.
“I think it’s typical for new council members to have a naivete about how ordinances are passed,” said Hauenstein. “On the first reading, we don’t usually have this much discussion. It’s more a thorough discussion on the second reading.”
Guth also had remarks about updates to the municipal code concerning the voter the short-term rental tax voters passed last fall by 62%.
“I am supportive of taxation of STRs but think the structure approved by voters is unnecessarily complex, cumbersome and unfair to renters (a.k.a., customers of our community). We should have a simple, flat tax on all rentals less than 30 days,” he said.
New Councilman Sam Rose was more circumspect.
“This approval at first reading last night was just an approval to change the municipal code to match the new STR tax,” he said Wedneday. “My focus is making sure that tax does what it intends to do and not create a complexity that has negative consequences.
“As far as the rest of the budget goes,” he said, “although there were some great clarifying questions, I look forward to learning more when we have a second reading and get deeper into the minutia of each potential issue.”
Rose not only embarked on a new political career Tuesday evening, but he is also transitioning in his professional career.
“I haven’t started my new job yet, but I have verbally agreed to do financial accounting for Mike Marolt and his accounting business. I plan to start in May at the earliest and July at the latest,” he said. “My contract with Pitkin County Public Health ends at the end of June, so I am in no rush but will be excited to start the new job when it happens.”
His bid for mayor pro tem didn’t go very far, and even he voted for Councilman John Doyle for the position in the end, making for a unanimous vote.
“As far as mayor pro tem goes, I talked to City Manager Sara Ott about it, and it sounded like there could be an opportunity to take that position from a figurehead position to one with actual roles and responsibilities,” he said. “I would have loved to do that, but I completely understand why most of the rest of the council insisted on giving the role to someone with experience.
“One step at a time,” he said, “but I believe taking certain positions and running with them will keep me on top of the issues and all the minutia knowledge needed to be successful in the role of city council and potentially beyond.”
“I don’t want to be critical of Sam,” Hauenstein said. “There’s a lot more to City Council then reading a packet and going to a meeting. I believe succession planning is important for governments. It’s important that we have someone that can step in for a board member, step in if the mayor is unavailable, but that comes from experience.”
He said Doyle was the natural fit: “It’s premature for somebody, at their first meeting, to think they are informed enough to be the mayor pro tem. This is our mayor in waiting, our mayor in an emergency. It’s rushing things for Sam. He might be ready in two years.”
Boards and Commissions
Guth got a lot quieter when it came to volunteering for government boards and commissions, roles routinely shared by City Council members. He told the council he would not accept any posts for his first year, preferring to focus on the main council role and keep from overextending himself.
“In reference to the board appointments, this is your duty on City Council. For Bill to refuse to be on any board is a disappoint. It puts a lot more stress on council,” said Hauenstein said. “John Doyle took a lot more on his plate with board appointments. It’s important for people to understand what the job entails. Bill and Sam are not aware of it this point.”
Mayor Pro Tem Doyle said, “I was aware when I was elected that I would be juggling council duties with my primary job and being a parent to a teenage daughter. Being on council is much more than just showing up on Monday and Tuesday nights.”
He added, “Council will be revisiting board appointments; it is my hope our new members will be more active participants.”
By: Julie Bielenberg | The Aspen Times\ April 14, 2023