Candidates tout varying degrees of experience
Little separated the candidates vying for two contested seats on Glenwood Springs City Council at an issues forum Tuesday, at least on the wide range of issues raised.
But the three candidates for the open at-large seat and the two running for the Ward 1 seat, appearing at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Issues & Answers Forum, did make some distinctions when it came to what they believe their qualifications are for the job.
“I’ve been preparing for this job for the last six years, and I believe this city needs strong leadership,” said Kathryn Trauger, a nearly lifelong Glenwood resident, the current city Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman and member of multiple city boards and commissions over the years.
Trauger is running for the at-large seat against longtime local attorney Tony Hershey and political newcomer Kathy Williams.
“This is a place of change … and I want to help shape that change,” Trauger said, pointing to her civic involvement as one of the main reasons voters should support her in the April 7 mail ballot election.
Hershey, who spent four years on city council in Aspen in the early 2000s before relocating to Glenwood Springs in 2005, sees Glenwood at a “crossroads,” and called for “decisive leadership.”
“I’m going to be an independent voice on City Council. I don’t bring any affiliations,” he said. “I do have a concern that people are not always being heard, and the average person needs to feel like they have a voice.”
Williams gained experience in municipal government as the city clerk in Kremmling before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley more than 30 years ago, and raising her two sons in Glenwood Springs.
“During those years, I gained a good understanding for what happens with a city government,” Williams said. “I am willing to educate myself on the issues.
“I also hear that people are not being heard … I’m here to represent you, and give you a voice,” she said.
Likewise, former Glenwood councilman Russ Arensman described the Ward 1 contest between him and longtime local business owner Steve Davis in terms of their unique attributes.
“Steve brings business leadership, and that’s valuable. I bring experience in public service, and I feel I am in a position to hit the ground running,” said Arensman, who sat on City Council from 2007-11.
Davis, the former owner of Summit Canyon Mountaineering and other local retail businesses, said City Council needs someone who understands the concerns of business owners.
“The decisions made in the next four years will define our community for many years to come,” Davis said. “We have to be proactive to protect the community and keep commerce flowing into our town.”
FROM ANNEXATION TO TRANSIENTS
On the issues, the candidates agreed that the city should prioritize and carry out the numerous transportation-related projects that are being contemplated. Those include the Eighth Street connection and the South Bridge project, as funding comes available, as well as making it easier for pedestrians and bikes to get around town, the candidates generally agreed.
They also agreed that any new annexations for residential or commercial development up the Four Mile corridor should wait until Midland Avenue and the 27th Street bridge can be fixed, and that the city has been correct in opposing oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide/Four Mile area for that same reason.
The candidates shared some different perspectives related to ongoing concerns about the number of transients congregating in the downtown area and panhandling, especially during the busy summer tourism months.
Trauger said the city can discourage the situation by better managing public gathering places, and increasing police presence with foot patrols in some of the problem areas.
Williams said the vast majority of the homeless population isn’t causing problems, “but when you get one or two people breaking the rules, the whole group looks bad.”
Hershey, a former prosecutor with the 9th District Attorney’s Office, said it’s a criminal justice issue and that more ticketing and aggressive prosecution of minor offenses would go a long way in addressing the problem.
“Some of these people do have mental health issues, and that needs to be addressed,” Hershey said.
But, “It’s not fair to local businesses and the affected neighborhoods to let this happen,” he said.
Davis said he would differentiate between legitimately homeless people who turn to the various relief agencies for help and the local transient population.
“Some of these people have chosen that lifestyle and wouldn’t take a home if it was offered to them,” Davis said. “We need to quit enabling that.”
Offered Arensman, “A lot of hard-working people in our community are just a paycheck away from being on the streets.
“We need to get together with our business leaders, churches and aid agencies to discuss how we can address this issue,” he said.
POLISHING THE JEWEL
The Ward 1 candidates also addressed questions specific to their neighborhood, which encompasses the confluence area where the Roaring Fork meets the Colorado River.
Both Davis and Arensman said they support redevelopment of the confluence, including the city-owned former wastewater treatment plant site, into a mix of residential, commercial and parks.
“We need to get rid of the old sewer plant,” Davis said.
“I spent $13 million to move it, and now the city is squatting on that property,” Davis said in reference to the city’s new wastewater treatment facility on Wulfsohn Road in West Glenwood.
Arensman said he could see a “green” belt on the city’s property at the river confluence, along with a mix of commercial and residential development.
“We have to have some mixed-used development to pay for any other improvements,” Arensman said. “The riverfront really is an unpolished jewel.”
Arensman and Davis also both called for better pedestrian connections between the neighborhoods east of Grand Avenue and the Roaring Fork River, and the main part of town.
“It’s embarrassing and it’s dangerous,” Davis said. “We can’t get to downtown without trespassing or walking in the street.”
The Tuesday night candidates forum will be rebroadcast on Cable Channel 10 at noon, 7 p.m. and midnight on March 7, 8, 12 and 13, and can also be viewed on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association website at http://www.glenwoodchamber.com.
Ballots for the April 7 election are to be mailed out to all registered voters in the city on March 16.
In addition to the two contested races, incumbent council members Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba are running unopposed for the Ward 4 and Ward 3 seats, respectively.
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The Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge experienced vandalism in the form of significant water damage after a man removed a pipe valve with a fire extinguisher flooding four hallways. The lodge however remains open and operational.