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Unofficial Rifle city election returns

City Council

The 3 candidates receiving the most votes will be elected for a 4-year-term

Brian Condie — 341 | 41.9 percent

John Max Doose — 206 | 25.3 percent

Joe P. Elliott — 388 | 47.7 percent

Ed Green — 368 | 45.3 percent

Clint Hostettler — 310 | 38.1 percent

Raquel Mendisaba — 291 | 35.8 percent

Dana Wood — 305 | 37.5 percent

Ballot Issues:

A: Change the date that terms or newly elected Councilmembers will begin.

Yes | No

697 | 88 | 88.8 percent

B: Coordinate City Election dates with State/County Elections.

Yes | No

656 | 128 | 83.7 percent

Rifle election day is coming

With ballots due this coming Tuesday, the Citizen Telegram wanted to get to know the candidates for Rifle City Council, sending each candidate the same five questions.

Rifle electors will be voting on who will obtain or retain seats on City Council and two ballot questions.

There are seven candidates running for three Council positions: Brian Condie, John Max Doose, Joe P. Elliott, Ed Green, Clint Hostettler, Raquel Mendizabal and Dana Wood

All council seats are at-large positions and the top three candidates receiving the most votes will be elected to serve four-year terms.

The two ballot questions voters will decide relate to procedural provisions of the current Rifle Municipal Code.

The first is an effort to move the municipal elections to November to coordinate with the state of Colorado elections.

The second ballot question addresses the issue of the commencement time for newly elected Council members. The current city charter provision mandates that the term for each newly elected Council member shall begin at 8 p.m. on the first Monday following the municipal election. The new language would move that date to the first City Council organizational meeting, which is set by ordinance.

Ballots were mailed out last month for the Sept. 10 election, and must be received on election day.

Meet the Candidates

How long have you lived in Rifle and what made you want to run for City Council?

Brian Condie: My wife and I moved to Rifle with our five children in 2002 when I accepted the position as airport director of the Rifle Airport. We have been very grateful to raise our children in this area. I wish to show my appreciation by serving on the City Council and preserving as much as possible the small community feeling we now enjoy.

John Doose: We moved to Rifle from New Castle in 2006. I was born and raised in Glenwood.

Joe P. Elliott: I’ve lived in Rifle my whole life, and basically I was guilted to run for city council a couple years back by a friend. My friend said all I did was golf, go to work and go skiing, and I took that as giving nothing back. So I felt bad and applied and once I got on I really realized how important it was.

Ed Green: Linda and I came to Rifle in 1998, the year in which I became the Garfield County Manager. I first ran and was elected to the Council a year into my retirement in 2015. At that time, Mayor Jay Miller asked me to run since there were five vacancies on the Council and Jay felt my background in both private industry and in local government would be of benefit to the Council.

Clint Hostettler: Twenty years; grew up in Silt and attended Rifle High School.

Raquel Mendizabal: I’d love to share a little bit about me. I was born in Puebla, Mexico. Moved to Rifle when I was 5 years old; lived in Rifle collectively for 20 years. Throughout the years I have lived in Rifle, I have learned to love and appreciate the city and community. Being a member of Rifle’s Down Town Development board and Grand River Hospital board of directors, I have learned so much and I am thrilled to share my knowledge of tools and resources the city has to offer for our community.

Dana Wood: I’ve lived in Rifle for eight years. I was on City Council from 2015-2017 and really found it to be a great experience. I decided to run again because I firmly believe that the best way to make positive change in the world is at the local level. I have great relationships and connections with lots of folks in the community and I want to the person that can best represent their interests to make Rifle an even better place to live, work and play.

Where would you like to see Rifle improve?

Condie: I believe the Rifle city strategic plan is very well thought out and gives the City Council the correct direction to proceed. The improvements I would like to see are as follows: an employee capital management plan that goes beyond simple salary as compensation for the city staff’s hard work and dedication; providing the community need services; road maintenance; water service; waste management and law enforcement within a prudent budget; continuing to invest in the recreational welfare of the community with continued and expanded services offered by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Doose: I would not make huge changes. Rifle has great leaders and citizens who genuinely care about their community. I hope to continue this trend.

Elliott: We are beginning to look at a need for transportation to south Rifle, looking at how we can ready to address that. We are applying for a bus grant for this next year for the senior center. If we get that it is gong to help us look at how may it possible to provide transportation to the area.

We need to keep improving on our streets, we have a couple project in the works. We are going to be making improvement on Railroad Avenue from First to Fourth Street. We are also going to be looking at the whole downtown area as far as parking and infrastructure in the downtown corridor. I also think we need to strengthen our relationships with the county and surrounding communities.

Green: To continue to build an organization and community ready for future challenges, I believe we need to focus on the following, strategic planning, new merit pay system, infrastructure improvements, City Hall, streets, waste treatment, affordable employee housing, fee incentives, coalition, and money resources.

Hostettler: Always infrastructure. I feel like it is the councils job to make sure that we have good streets to drive on and adequate water and sewer for all our citizens. We also need to upgrade our City Hall building.

Mendizabal: I’d love to see Rifle become a stronger and more united community. I believe communication and involvement is key. Rifle needs strong leaders who are willing to put people first by giving them the tools and information to improve their quality of life. We have various goals and dreams but without the tools we cannot succeed.

Strengthening the community will automatically build a better city where we can all live happier. Rifle has over 40% Hispanic population, and I believe we also need to improve our communication and involvement with the Hispanic community.

Wood: I would like Rifle to continue to take advantage of the enormous economic opportunities we have related to our outdoor recreational amenities. I would also like to see beautification improvements at the entrances to the city gateways and neighborhoods as well as the I-70 exits to push people downtown and North.

Condie: As a City Council member, I will focus on unity within the City Council so we can address the diverse needs of the citizens of Rifle. I know we have no control over the national state of politics and the divisiveness it perpetuates. However, we all have the ability to live in a community that transcends this distasteful national trend and respects all aspects of one’s ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, religion-free status, political affiliation, choice of recreational activities and economic status to treat each person with respect and dignity in this place we all call home.

Doose: My focus would be to listen and learn the details of city government. My background and experience will be beneficial to the city of Rifle. I am looking forward to work with the many talented and passionate people Rifle,

Elliott: Mainly I want to step back and make sure we are addressing our streets and sidewalks. I would look at our transportation issues, and reach out to neighboring communities and the whole county, plan some workshops and see how we can address a detox or mental health center.

Green: I have always stated that there are two essential functions that Councilors must address. One is to listen to residents, fellow councilors, city management, employees, and other stakeholders. It seems obvious, but is often overlooked. Second, this job is not about politics or jockeying for position, while using the seat of councilor for one’s own purposes. Rather, well over 90% of all decisions are simply about making good business decisions for our community. I believe my experience as a senior level manager has equipped me to help council formulate and then execute sound business decisions.

Hostettler: Once again infrastructure will be my primary focus but there are several other things I am looking forward to working on in the future if the economy allows it. Including finishing some of our park projects, and starting to come up with a plan for some improvements down by the river.

Mendizabal: Small business — support and provide tools and guidance to promote new businesses in Rifle and assist the businesses that are already here. Encourage a healthy and more active lifestyle. Promote tourism.

Wood: Rifle has untapped LatinX and youth populations that are not equitably represented or at decision making tables. I would would like to focus my efforts on improving this representation at the community level. I would also like to focus on the quality of life within the city, specifically through healthy food access, transportation, and improving walking and biking infrastructures.

At the candidate forum, the growth of the City of Rifle was talked about at length. If elected, what steps would you take to continue the growth of Rifle, and what kind of new businesses would you like to see recruited to the area?

Condie: I feel the growth of the city falls into two main categories, namely city services and economic generation. The city’s main purpose is to ensure that as the population grows there is affordable housing and services available to meet the demand. Services include the traditional utilities, roads, safety, recreational activities. It also encompasses protection of natural spaces, preservation of buildings and places of historical interest and sufficient place for the conduct of commerce in the city. The economic generation needs to focus on preserving the businesses we now enjoy in addition to attracting new commerce to the area. A thorough economic self-sustainability plan would serve our interest well as it will identify our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to economic sustainability. The old saying holds true, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.” An unbridled business growth plan may be very successful while it takes the city’s residents to an undesirable destination. Let us focus not only on what we aspire to be but also what we wish to preserve.

Doose: Rifle is lucky to have such a diverse economy. I see many changes coming to Colorado, every community will have to manage change or struggle in the future.

Elliott: My real focus on City Council is to make Rifle what it has been for me. It has been my home, and I want people to have a home. I think we need to be able ready to position ourselves for growth because it is going to happen no matter what we do. I think we are going to get a lot of relief in the job market as the hospital, the college and the airport grows, that’s going to help our economy.

Green:First and foremost, our approach to economic development must focus on primary employment which is employment that will generate the sale of goods and services outside of our city and the immediate area and return income and tax revenues to the city. That kind of focus requires networking within targeted industries that we desire and the expenditure of funds to attract a specific enterprise.

Traditional economic development models suggest that you spend 80% of your time helping existing businesses grow and prosper and 20% on attracting the new “big fish.” That 80% includes all the merchants, restaurants, construction support businesses, banks, shops, dealerships, and service providers that are part of our city.

But, we also need to remember that one of our existing industries is still oil and gas and we need to be prepared as a community to accommodate the next “boom cycle,” whether it is the proposed liquefied natural gas initiative known as Jordan Cove or some other equally impactful development

Hostettler: I like the way that Rifle has been growing the last five years or so. I feel like we are growing the right way. We are continuing to fill in the subdivisions that already have infrastructure slowly but surely. No matter what businesses come in, ideally it would be nice to continue this slow and steady growth.

Mendizabal: I would like to focus on bringing more revenue to the community by promoting tourism. Tourism will open doors to new business ideas and contribute growth to the current businesses. Assist current business owners by providing more information, tools and resources to help them be more successful.

Wood: If elected, I would like to maintain the small town values of the community. I would like to see healthy restaurant options come to the area, an expansion of businesses that support the aging population, and amenities that invest in families and those looking to move to a small town. Partnerships and connecting with unique businesses would be a strategy I would use with council members, staff and other partners to explore the options above.

What projects and community events do you think are important for the City of Rifle to invest in the future?

Condie: New infrastructure projects for the city will include essential service items to maintain and preserve what we have. New project ideas in the city will come from investors and contractors. It would be beneficial if the City Council could set up public work sessions with contractors to see their perspective on potential new projects as well as how we can streamline our construction permitting process.

As for community events, these are just as important for the morale and welfare of the residents of Rifle as basic city services. “What do you do for fun around here?” can make or break a person’s impression of our community. Anyone that thinks back on great experiences throughout their life will inevitably have a positive feeling about the place it occurred. Swimming lessons as a child, organized sports, camping trips, fishing, hunting, hiking, cycling, rafting, boating, skiing, year round off road excursions, fair & events, farmers market bringing home fresh produce, all bring back great memories and are available right here. Additionally, let us preserve our intangible culture, a friendly and courteous people, a safe environment, clean air and a unique history in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Doose: The Garfield County Rodeo is a massive event for Rifle every year. Garfield County works with Rifle and has grown this event for many years in a row. Climbing in and around Rifle (Rifle Falls Area) has potential to be a new source of income for the Rifle community.

Elliott: The big one is the improvements to the downtown, we are going to look at improving Railroad Avenue as far as parking and traffic flow. Just had our first meeting this week with some of the businesses on how it might look. That’s really our next big project taking up a lot of next year. I’m excited to see that, its going to last for possibly the next 50 years. Right now we have had a lot of success with Hometown Holidays and want to continue branding the event looking at Rifle as our home.

Green: Without a doubt, the county fair is an important part of our city heritage and deserves our continued support. This year, the fair drew great crowds helped by its headliner, Trace Adkins. The city needs to continue to support this event in whatever way we can.

As the former county manager, the question I am most often asked is “Whatever happened to the air show?” To be honest, I don’t know since I was in Florida when that happened. I have heard that it was too expensive and too dependent on good weather to be a success. What I do know is that it drew over 28,000 people in a day and a half and was quickly becoming a signature event for this area and it helped showcase one of the county’s greatest assets. I think there is a lot of concern that having the air show grow in prominence would result in diminished importance of the county fair.

I don’t believe that needs to be the case. I think the air show could be subsumed into the 10-day county fair and become an integral part that adds excitement, national history and patriotism to the total fair experience. It could also be used to bundle tickets for individuals and families and might result in significant increases in fair event attendance and revenues.

Hostettler: We need to continue with the strategic plan that we have in place now which includes starting to invest around the river and continue to improve our down town area. This is a very exciting time for our city, over the past 10 to 15 years we have built a new O and M building, new water treatment and sewer facilities, a new parks and rec building, we are in the process now of building a great new swimming pool, we have great parks in our town that are well maintained. We are in a very good place right now and we just need to make sure we maintain what we have while also being open to new opportunities.

Mendizabal: Enhancing the recreational areas that already exist by making them more welcoming and enjoyable. Create more health fairs to help families be more educated on nutrition and how to live a more active lifestyle. Promote a united community by offering informative events to update the community about ongoing projects so that we can work together to become a stronger community.

Wood: Events and projects that truly represent the authentic voice of everyone in the community that are culturally relevant, encourage tourism, and drive local spending to support our small businesses.

kmills@postindependent.com

Senate candidate challenging Gardner sees climate change, Trump as biggest issues

In a field of more than a dozen Democratic Senate hopefuls, Dan Baer believes he stands out as the most viable non-politician candidate.

“Of the candidates who have raised enough money to be viable in an election at this level, I’m the only one who isn’t a career politician,” Baer said in an interview in Glenwood Springs.

Baer, a former ambassador under Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in President Barack Obama’s administration, is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

He and six other Democrats seeking the Senate nod were in Aspen Thursday, hours after former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced he would run for senate.

‘The biggest existential risk’

Climate change is the greatest threat, according to Baer, and will require a “monumental legislative effort,” as well as significant financial investment.

“When I say significant investment, I mean investment on the order of a trillion dollars, not a billion dollars,” Baer said.

The fact that Colorado has significant oil and gas resources is not lost on him, and though he recognizes the need to transition from fossil fuels, he wants to be part of the solution for Colorado energy workers.

“Change always has folks who benefit from it, and folks who, at least in the short term, pay disproportionate costs compared to others. There has to be attention to supporting those for whom this transition is going to be difficult,” Baer said.

Gardner is typically seen as the most vulnerable Republican Senator, which Baer said makes the Colorado Senate race the most important election in 2020 for Democrats wishing to flip the Senate.

“This is a moment when running a campaign against cynicism is important. The biggest existential risk, materially, is climate change. But the biggest existential risk politically speaking is that people give up on institutions of our democracy,” Baer said.

If people don’t believe the American system can work to solve the most important issues, nothing will change, Baer said.

‘Historic candidacy’

Like many other candidates in recent elections, Baer was inspired to run by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, and encouraged by the 2018 midterm elections.

The race is not short on first-time candidates. Psychologist Diana Bray, Michelle Ferrigno Warren, an immigration activist, Colorado State University professor Ellen Burnes, scientist Trish Zornio and pharmacist Dustin Leitzel are among the crowded field.

Baer said he also “represents a historic candidacy” in that he would be the first openly gay man to serve in the U.S. Senate.

He is not the only LGBTQ candidate, however. Nonprofit activist and candidate for the nomination Lorena Garcia is married to a woman.

Baer believes his experience sets him apart, and positions him to take on Gardner in a unique way.

Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has positioned himself as strong on China-U.S. relations, and has criticized Trump on a number of foreign policy issues.

Baer said that while Gardner often says the right things on foreign policy, he could use his position in the Senate to confront the president … for example, on his “freelancing, infantile diplomatic approach” to North Korea, but hasn’t done that.

“I think he tries to use foreign policy to separate himself from President Trump, and yet he does nothing to actually stop the devastating actions of the Trump administration and our foreign policy,” Baer said.

The money primary

In the fundraising race, Baer is ahead of Andrew Romanoff, with $1.3 million in contributions as of the June 30 campaign financial reports. But both Baer and Romanoff, who has raised just over $1 million, trail behind Mike Johnston’s $3.4 million in total contributions.

Johnston, a Vail native and former teacher who has served as a state senator and education policy advisor to political candidates, was among the first to announce that he would challenge Gardner.

The other candidates have raised less than $1 million in the race so far.

As a newcomer in the race, Hickenlooper hasn’t disclosed any donations.

Hickenlooper’s wife, Robin Hickenlooper, donated $2,800 (the maximum allowable individual contribution) to Baer in April. She gave the same amount to John Walsh, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado, who is also in the race.

“We need people who we can trust to be in the fight for the right reasons. I think this is a moment when candidates who aren’t conventional are resonating, because people recognize that we’re not living in a conventional time,” Baer said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Mill levy increase to be discussed by library board

Since switching to reduced hours and cutting back on staff in December 2016, and again a few months later, officials with the Garfield County Library District believe it may be time to return what was lost to the branches across the district. 

Executive Director Brett Lear said the library board will be deciding at next month’s meeting on whether to pursue a mill levy increase on the November ballot. He said the board will discuss the district finances and whether a mill levy increase would be the best solution to some of the problems the district is facing. In the next month, if it moves forward, the board will vote on whether to put the mill levy increase on the November ballot. 

“As of now, if we were to put it on the ballot,” he said, 1.5 mills would be increase, “generating around $4 million annually with current projections.”

Though the mill levy increase would bring more revenue for the district and help it from going into the red going forward, one of the main objectives would be to get back some of the hours the district lost several years ago. 

The December 2016 hour change resulted in a 7% decrease in hours open and a staffing reduction of 25%, according to the Garfield County Libraries. 

Nine months later the library cut hours again with all the libraries now open no earlier than 11 a.m.

Lear said a survey sent to residents asking about the library services they valued most showed just how disappointed some were with lack of morning availability and overall library hour reduction. 

“58 percent said they would support a mill levy tax increase,” he said. 

The library district may not have the same hours or staff as it used to, but, according to Lear, it remains an important resource for the community. 

The district sees around 424,000 visitors annually with near universal membership for residents across the valley no matter what town they live in. 

The funds from a mill levy increase could be used to retain staff and keep the libraries open longer, provide senior classes and educational classes and events for students especially during the summer, purchase new materials, improve technology and more, according to the district. 

The mill levy increase would also come with a citizens’ oversight committee and public view of expenditures to ensure that funds are spent efficiently.

“We want to make sure our residents have healthy libraries and a great community resource for future generations,” Lear said. 

Library district operations benefit from a mix of revenues, including a dedicated 0.25 percent portion of the county’s 1-cent sales tax, and a 1-mill property levy approved by county voters 10 years ago.

The property tax was intended to pay for new library facilities in each of the county’s six municipalities, from Carbondale to Parachute. 

azorn@citizentelegram.com

Editor’s note: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story said that 68 percent of survey respondents said they would support a mill levy tax increase. 58 percent of survey respondents said they would support a mill levy tax increase.

Rifle ballot questions look to modify city’s election rules

The Rifle municipal election will be held in less than three months as ballots will need to be cast by September 10 this year.

Two questions will likely be asked this year’s ballot both dealing with election procedure.

The two questions were approved unanimously on first reading at last week’s city council meeting.

The first question seeks to change the charter to better align with new state laws.

Colorado election code requires 10 days from the election until the results are certified in order to allow for the verification of signatures and the receipt of every ballot, according to Rifle City Clerk Kristy Christensen.

The current city charter states newly elected council members shall begin the first Monday following the election. To be compatible with the 10-day requirement, the question will ask voters to change the term of newly elected council members to begin the first organizational meeting of the new council.

Christensen said the only way to change the Rifle charter rules are to put them on the ballot and ask voters.

City attorney Jim Neu said the change helps clean up some charter regarding the city’s election.

The second question looks to amend the charter to have the Rifle election match up better with county and state elections when possible.

It looks to amend the charter to hold the Rifle election in November in odd numbered years (changing it from the second Tuesday of September), which would coordinate with Garfield County and the state.

Among the advantages to this change, Christensen said, would be that it would save the city money and it would likely increase voter participation.

Three city council seats are up in September with councilors Joe Elliot, Ed Green and Clint Hostettler needing to be reelected if they choose.

Candidate packets are available at rifleco.org and at Rifle City Hall.

Candidates can begin circulating nomination petitions until July 1.

Glenwood Council selects Jonathan Godes as city’s 53rd mayor

A newly seated Glenwood Springs City Council elected Councilman Jonathan Godes Thursday night to serve as the city’s 53rd mayor.

Outgoing mayor Michael Gamba could not seek re-election because of term limits, after eight years as the city’s Ward 4 council representative.

In accordance with the city’s charter, the people do not elect the mayor of Glenwood Springs, but rather sitting councilors every two years.

After being sworn in, three newly elected council members — at large Councilman Tony Hershey, Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Willman and Ward 4 Councilwoman Paula Stepp — jumped right into the nominating process.

Hershey nominated Ward 2 Councilman Rick Voorhees, Stepp proposed at-large Councilwoman Shelley Kaup, and Willman gave a nod to Godes.

All three accepted their nomination, and the first of three votes was called.

“In this first round we have three votes for Jonathan, two for Shelley and two for Rick,” City Attorney Karl Hanlon read aloud.

With Godes then in the runoff, Council did another round of voting between Kaup and Voorhees to see which of those two would face Godes. Kaup won 4-2.

“I remember a student council election that went this way. I lost,” Hershey quipped.

Some have questioned why the city’s seven-member council elects the mayor as opposed to the Glenwood’s roughly 5,200 registered voters.

“That leaves us with the top two candidates being Shelley and Jonathan. So your next ballot should produce a mayor,” Hanlon stated before the final vote.

As City Clerk Catherine Fletcher collected each councilor’s final vote, all eyes were on Hanlon and City Manager Debra Figueroa as the two counted the white, paper ballots.

“There ought to be jeopardy music playing,” Councilman Steve Davis joked during the final counting process.

Then, at 7:16 p.m., Hanlon announced following a 4-3 vote that Godes was elected the 53rd mayor of Glenwood Springs, and that Shelley Kaup would serve as the city’s mayor pro tem.

Todd Leahy, the city’s previous mayor pro tem also could not seek re-election because of term limits. Ahead of Godes’ being named mayor and Kaup mayor pro tem, their predecessors had a few, final remarks.

“Just make the right decisions for Glenwood. Leave all of your national stuff at home. Leave all of this stuff you see on the TV at home. It doesn’t belong here,” Leahy said.

Added Gamba, “In closing, I would just like to say I am honored and humbled to be the mayor of our city for the last four years, and I wish the staff and the incoming council the best … thank you.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Who will be Glenwood’s next mayor? Councilors ready to decide Thursday evening

Following the swearing in of Glenwood Springs’ newly elected City Council members Thursday night, councilors themselves must then elect the city’s 53rd mayor.

Current Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba, who has served in that capacity since April of 2015, is stepping down due to term limits after eight years total on council.

That leaves the predominately ceremonial position of mayor up for grabs in Glenwood’s process of having the mayor’s seat appointed by the council, rather than elected by voters.

“The roles of the mayor are to run a meeting, work with staff to set an agenda, advocate for the community and to work with council and staff to drive a culture of effectiveness and efficiency,” Councilor Jonathan Godes said.

Councilors will elect the next mayor similar to how they approve a resolution or ordinance. A member of the council would nominate one of his or her fellow councilors and then another councilor would need to second that nomination in order for a vote to take place.

If the nominee receives at least four votes from the seven-member council, then Glenwood has its 53rd mayor.

However, in a city with over 10,000 people, not all councilors readily support electing of a mayor with four votes.

“I think the people ought to be electing the mayor,” Councilor Rick Voorhees said. “I think that would increase voter turnout, too, which is a big issue.”

Voorhees wants to hear other councilors’ thoughts at the Thursday morning pre-meeting on a “ranked-choice voting,” a method that Council could possibly utilize to elect the next mayor, he said.

According to Voorhees, the ranked-choice voting method would call for all seven councilors to select their first and second choice for mayor. A councilor’s first choice for mayor would amount to two votes, whereas their second pick would equal one vote.

“Then you put that altogether and the top two people would be the mayor and mayor pro tem,” Voorhees said of the ranked-choice voting idea.

In addition to electing Glenwood’s next mayor, councilors must also elect a mayor pro tem. The mayor pro tem assumes the mayor’s responsibilities in the event of his or her absence. Like Gamba, current Ward 3 Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Todd Leahy was not able to seek re-election because of term limits.

“The method or number of votes will depend on the number of candidates for mayor,” Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon stated. “The only guidance the charter provides is that the mayor must be elected by a majority of Council. How the Council gets to that point is up to them.”

No sitting or incoming councilor has gone on the record saying that they were pursuing the mayoral position.

At large councilman-elect Tony Hershey said that he was not interested in the mayoral position. But when he votes for one of his fellow councilors to fill the role, he said his decision would center on someone who could run an orderly and efficient Council meeting.

“I just would like to get the lay of the land and understand the system better on how to be a good councilor,” Hershey said. “For me, I don’t think it is appropriate if you were just elected to be the mayor right out of the box.”

Ward 4 councilwoman-elect Paula Stepp said that she, too, was not interested in pursuing the mayoral position after just being elected.

“Five people, from what I understand, are very interested in this and that just shows enthusiasm for a direction they can take council,” Stepp said. “I hope that the things that I ran on will be a priority for that person — affordable housing, economic development and, as a result of what this election was, I really do think streets should be a forefront.”

In addition to electing three new City Council members, voters rejected a proposed 3/4-cent sales tax to pay for a $56 million street rebuilding and repair program.

Incoming councilors include Hershey, Stepp and Ward 3 councilman-elect Charlie Willman. The three will join re-elected Councilor Steve Davis as well as Godes, Voorhees and Councilor Shelley Kaup, who were not up for re-election.

Kaup said that she wanted the next mayor to have a strong vision for the city, with an emphasis on quality of life for its residents.

“Also, an experienced leader in the community with knowledge of city operations and issues,” Kaup said of her ideal mayoral candidate. “I would like to see a strong dedication to openness and transparency.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Glenwood street tax committee co-chair says campaign got too hot to retain small issues designation

A move to become a regular election issues committee and accept several large donations from construction companies in the middle of the Glenwood Springs street tax campaign was a “defensive” one, says the co-chairman of the Fix Our Streets Now committee.

“We were hoping to do it more grassroots, and keep it a small-issue campaign,” said Jonathan Godes, a Glenwood City Councilman who stepped up to co-chair the committee backing the 3/4-cent sales tax proposal.

The measure put forward by City Council at the recommendation of its financial and transportation advisory boards was meant to fund a massive $56 million city street reconstruction and repair program over the next 10 years.

The tax question and a related $16 million bonding question both failed as final balloting came in on Tuesday, by a 60 to 40 percent margin.

“When we found out we had organized opposition, our position changed and we could no longer continue to do it that way,” Godes said of the attempts to sell city voters on the idea on less than $5,000 — the financial threshold between a small-scale issue committee and a large one.

Godes said the breaking point came when the opposition Committee for Responsible Taxation sent out a mailer in early March that the Fix Our Streets committee felt it needed to respond to.

That’s when Mark Gould of Gould Construction put forth a $2,860 campaign contribution, and asked several other construction companies to help out, as well, Godes explained.

“At that point, we determined we could no longer be a small issues committee,” he said.

The committee had initially registered with the City Clerk’s Office as a Small-Scale Issue Committee (SSIC), under Colorado campaign finance laws, rather than a full Issue Committee.

Such committees are not allowed to exceed $5,000 in contributions, and also have different disclosure requirements.

After the threshold was surpassed on March 13, however, the committee had 15 days to notify City Clerk Catherine Fletcher of its intent to convert to a full issues committee, which it did on March 28. It then had five days to file its financial disclosure report, which happened to fall on city Election Day.

“It wasn’t like we designed everything around April 2,” Godes said of the way the timing worked out.

Originally, City Council had hoped to have the backing of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s ad hoc Community on the Move committee, which has gotten behind numerous other city tax proposals in the past.

When it decided in early February not to back the proposal, Godes said he and other members of City Council and the Financial Advisory Board decided to form their own committee to campaign for the tax.

According to financial disclosure reports filed with the City Clerk by the pro and con committees, Fix Our Streets ended up with contributions totaling $18,260, compared to $3,299 for the Committee for Responsible Taxation, led by former city councilman Ted Edmonds.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Torre wins Aspen mayoral election in runoff

Torre will be the new mayor of Aspen after winning the runoff election Tuesday night against his opponent, Ann Mullins, by 343 votes.

Torre received 1,527 and Mullins garnered 1,184. A total of 2,711 votes were counted.

“I’m very happy with the support of my community,” Torre said. “I’m excited to get to work.”

The two forced a runoff after they failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 5 election. During that election, Mullins trailed Torre by 341 votes, with her getting 940 and him with 1,281.

Mullins currently is in the middle of her second term as a council member and will continue in that role. If she had been elected mayor, someone would have had to fill her vacancy either by appointment or another election.

With just around 6,000 registered voters in Aspen, the turnout for the April 2 election was 45 percent of the electorate.

Recent history shows that voter turnout decreases between 20 percent and 25 percent in Aspen’s runoff elections.

But in this April runoff election, it decreased roughly only 9 percent.

The March 5 election saw a record turnout with 3,243 people coming to the polls to elect two Aspen City Council members and a mayor and decide on the controversial Lift One development proposal at the base of Aspen Mountain.

Skippy Mesirow and Rachel Richards won seats on City Council, and Lift One passed by a narrow margin.

This was Torre’s sixth run at mayor in 18 years, and this time he was successful.

Torre also has served on City Council twice, with a total of eight years under his belt as an elected official in Aspen.

In the March 5 election, mayoral candidate Adam Frisch came in third with 838 and fourth place contender Cale Mitchell brought in 83 votes.

It’s unclear how many of those votes went to either runoff candidate, but Frisch threw his support toward Mullins in this last contest.

Throughout the campaigns for both elections, Torre raised just over $11,000 and Mullins inched over the $20,000 mark.

Glenwood Springs voters bulldoze street tax proposal at the ballot box

Glenwood Springs voters soundly rejected two ballot measures Tuesday that would have implemented a sales tax and bonding capacity to fix the city’s streets, more than 70 percent of which are in poor or failing condition.

Ballot Issue A, calling for a 3/4-cent sales tax increase, and Ballot Issue B, a $16 million bond authority proposal, both failed with 60 percent of the voters saying no, according to unofficial results of the city-wide election.

For the sales tax question, 2,195 votes were cast, and for the bonding issue, 1,189 votes were cast, according to the preliminary results. The city will release the official tally later in April.

The 3/4-cent increase in the city’s sales tax would have funded at least $56 million in road repairs and rebuilding over the next decade, according to City Council and proponents of the tax.

Ward 5 City Councilor Jonathan Godes, who also co-chaired the Fix Our Streets Now campaign committee that advocated for the tax, sees the ballot issue failure as a clear sign of the community’s priorities.

“Your checkbook is where your priorities are. The community has told us they don’t want a sales tax to fund infrastructure and road construction,” Godes said in an interview late Tuesday.

The sales tax was a controversial issue, with many city staff and a host of infrastructure experts advising that the roads needed a massive influx of cash to be repaired in the near future.

Opponents of the ballot measures argued that the ¾-cent sales tax increase, which would have brought the city’s total sales tax rate to 9.35 percent, would drive business away from Glenwood Springs, hurting both retailers serving the region for convenience shopping and the tourism industry.

The sales tax “gets a little more intense when you get up around 11 percent for a new refrigerator, stove, and some of those larger items,” former city councilman Ted Edmonds, who organized the Committee for Responsible Taxation to oppose the proposed sales tax, said during an Issues and Answers Forum in March.

The new tax, had it been approved, would have meant a sales tax of 10.85 percent at Glenwood Meadows businesses, where a separate public improvements fee, or PIF, is also assessed at places like Target, Lowe’s, Ulta, Vitamin Cottage, PetCo and the new Marshall’s store.

“If you really believe that having our sales tax be higher than any of our neighbors is not going to impact the business community in this town … I am going to have to disagree,” Edmonds said during the forum.

Edmonds did not return phone calls Tuesday evening requesting comment.

Godes said the street tax was the best solution put forward by the city staff, the Financial Advisory Board, the Transportation Commission and City Council to repair the road infrastructure.

A third party study found that 70 percent of the city’s streets are in poor or failing condition and need complete rebuilding, not just resurfacing, according to the election notice for the ballot issues.

As for the path to repair infrastructure going forward, “I think that’s up to the community,” he said.

“I guess, going forward, it’s not up to the city advisory board, the council, or the city to come up with something. It’s up to the community to come up with something,” he said.

Godes mentioned the alternative of a property tax increase measure in a few years, if there isn’t another solution found to fix the damaged roads.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from a previous version. Councilor Jonathan Godes represents Ward 5, and mentioned proposing a property tax in two years, not four.