City Council candidate profile: Tony Hershey
Candidate for At-Large seat
Family: Single, no kids
Education: Bachelor of Arts, History, CU-Boulder, 1986; Juris Doctor, Law, St. John’s University, New York City
Previous/current civic involvement: Aspen City Council 1999-2003. Deputy District Attorney, Brooklyn, New York, Garfield and Eagle Counties. Served on the RFTA board. Also worked extensively both personally and professionally supporting YouthZone. Volunteer coach for the Glenwood Springs High School Mock Trial team.
Editor’s Note: The Post Independent continues its series of Q&A responses from the candidates vying for two contested seats on the Glenwood Springs City Council in the April 7 mail-ballot election. Ballots are to be mailed to all registered city voters on March 16. First, we introduce the candidates vying for the open At-Large seat, including Kathryn Trauger on Monday, Tony Hershey today and Kathy Williams on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, we will feature the candidates running for the Ward 1 seat, Russ Arensman and Steve Davis, and on Saturday we will profile incumbent candidates Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba, who are running unopposed for their ward seats.
How long have you lived in Glenwood Springs?
I moved to Glenwood Springs in January 2005. My family moved to Aspen in 1974.
If not a native, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
I was born in New York City. My parents moved to Aspen when I was 10 years old. After working in Los Angeles and New York, I returned to Colorado permanently in 1994.
In 50 words, describe your feeling for Glenwood Springs:
I love living here. While it is a relatively large community, with many amenities, it is a “small town,” with great neighborhoods that contain nice and caring residents. Glenwood is a beautiful, successful place, but it is the people who live here, not just rivers and mountains, that make it wonderful.
What prompted your decision to run for City Council?
I am running because I care about Glenwood Springs. I am running because we are at a crossroads both literally and figuratively. The decisions we make now, and not just on transportation and the bridge, are going to shape the future of this community for decades, if not longer. I am also concerned that the current city government is somewhat dysfunctional in that it is sometimes difficult to work with, and not always receptive or responsive to the citizens it serves. We need elected officials who represent the entire community and ensure that all of their needs are served. The people and our local businesses deserve representatives who work hard for their best interests, not special interests. Given my experience and skills I know I can make a difference here for this community and make it an even better place to live and work.
Do you support the Colorado Department of Transportation’s current plans to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge? Why or why not?
The bridge needs to be replaced. It has structural issues and no longer functions as a four-lane road due to its width. I understand the concerns, but should the bridge fail and be closed, even partially, and we do nothing, the impact will be much worse. Waiting is problematic because of the temporal nature of state funding and the sometimes delicate nature of state and local politics. While it is important to reach a consensus, that does not mean we will have 100 percent of the citizenry supporting a new bridge, or any option.
Delaying this project will hurt our residents, local businesses, our tourist economy, and the community as a whole. A new bridge is not a panacea, but is necessary to repair and improve this critical (highway) connection, and to ensure all our citizens, guests and commuters a safe, reliable, efficient and uncongested route. The benefits for businesses will be an expanded downtown with easier access for visitors (across) the Colorado River.
If a separate Highway 82 bypass is to be studied, what are your thoughts on how best to accomplish that, and what is the city’s role?
My initial concern is the first step in building a bypass would entail having to complete an Environmental Impact Study prior to any approval/construction. That alone could cost millions of dollars. I do not support studying something that is cost prohibitive or can’t be built. That is a waste of taxpayer money. Should we be able to reach a consensus, a study might be appropriate. But to pay for a study today when we are going to have to complete additional (updated) studies in the future is inefficient and a waste of our limited transportation dollars. That being said, I understand there are well-meaning and intelligent members of our community who are passionate about a bypass. But until a practical and realistic option, which is supported by a majority of the citizens, is chosen I would not support wasting resources, energy or limited staff time and tax dollars researching an uncertain option.
In what other ways can the city address the impacts of traffic congestion in and around Glenwood Springs?
We can’t build or pave our way out of all our congestion. Eventually you run out of space and money. The geography here dictates that we have only so many options for traffic, improvements and expansion of two major highways and local streets that intersect here. We also have only so much funding to build new bridges, roads and infrastructure. Other options to alleviate congestion include expanded and improved public transportation, including buses to, through, and traveling in and around Glenwood. Public transportation is cost effective, and even removing a small percentage of cars (local and commuters) can make a large difference for congestion on our major artery and the local streets that also suffer the impacts of commuter traffic. It is also important that we work cooperatively with the state, county and other local governments to find regional solutions. Finally, we should utilize traffic-calming devices on Grand Avenue such as medians to slow traffic down as it enters and travels through our town.
Is the proposed South Bridge connection to Highway 82 needed, and why?
Yes. That connection would obviously alleviate traffic doubling back to 27th Street to then travel south towards Aspen. It would save those residents time, gas and would obviously also help alleviate traffic on that portion of Midland Avenue which is also problematic now.
What are your thoughts regarding the potential for redeveloping the Confluence area?
I believe we should look at this area, including the Colorado riverfront towards the east, but we have to be cautious to ensure that we do not “destroy the village” to save it. This is such a beautiful area it must be protected, but projects like the whitewater park show how we can clearly do both. There is exciting potential here, and our economy depends on revitalization and new development. Clearly we can do both and responsibly develop this area while preserving the reasons people live and visit this beautiful place.
Does Glenwood Springs have a need for new housing development? If so, what types of housing and where should that occur?
Glenwood needs to incorporate varied types of housing to ensure we remain a dynamic, vibrant and healthy community. We must strive hard to ensure that many different people, including teachers, police officers, nurses, etc., are able to live here as well as work here. We should consider various options, including mixed-use structures and other forms of affordable housing. There are good options at the Meadows and other areas, and they should all be considered as long as these developments are in scale with the current neighborhoods.
Should the city build and operate its own power plant to help make the city electric utility more self-sustaining? If so, what’s the most attractive generation source?
I agree with the recent published opinion(s) of former Mayor Bruce Christensen. We need to research and explore various local options to supplement our power grid. I like the idea of potentially developing a hybrid geothermal-natural gas facility at South Canyon. I also think we should explore harvesting the energy from the burning coal seam. In fact, all practical and cost efficient options should be explored as it is crucial we have reliable and low cost electric generation for the future. It makes sense to do this now, as it will take time to develop local power generation sources that can either supplement, or possibly replace, current sources.
Name one other key issue facing the city, and how would you address it?
Glenwood Springs needs to be more pedestrian friendly. We can institute traffic calming devices on Grand Avenue and work with the state on the signals to make it easier to get across the street. We could also create more pedestrian friendly crossings, especially downtown. Why is it so hard to cross Grand Avenue, no matter the day or time? If we make walking, biking and other forms of commuting more attractive, we also benefit because removing even short trips can help alleviate automobile congestion. This makes us a more vibrant, successful, business friendly and more pleasant community to live in for everyone, whether they drive or not.
Finally, my “pet” project is to improve and/or expand our dog park. A first-class city needs a first-class dog park, and the current one, while large and well-located, lacks basic amenities like water and nice grass.
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Separate efforts to preserve a bit of Glenwood Springs history and rebuild the trail to a popular Glenwood Canyon destination got funding boosts from the Garfield County commissioners Monday.