Cortez versus Richardson for Carbondale mayor
The first two candidates, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Richardson and former Trustee Ed Cortez, have announced their bids for Carbondale mayor.
Meanwhile, Trustee A.J. Hobbs said Tuesday in a letter emailed to the Post Independent that he will resign from the board in the fall to pursue his “passion in healing arts, language and traveling” at the Crestone Healing Arts Center. Hobbs wrote that he’s leaving to study massage, qigong and yoga.
The mayor’s position opened up when Stacey Bernot resigned and moved to Redstone after six years as mayor and six years as a trustee before that.
Cortez, who lost to Bernot in the 2010 race for the mayor’s seat, said he’s basing his campaign on experience, transparency “and my abilities as a leader.” A Carbondale resident of 21 years, he spent eight years on the Board of Trustees, six on the planning and zoning commission and six on the board of Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
Cortez is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1774 and drives for RFTA. He was instrumental in crafting a labor contract between RFTA and its drivers for wage increases and benefits. “That’s what it’s about, taking responsibility and following through,” said Cortez.
He highlighted his ability to digest budgets and find areas for improvement that don’t require tax increases.
“I’m running because I believe I have the experience to do the job and do it well,” he said.
Richardson, who was voted onto the Board of Trustees in April, also said Tuesday he would run.
After only one meeting on the board, Richardson was appointed mayor pro tem, which means he is also acting mayor while the position is vacant. “It’s been a little bit like drinking water from a fire hose,” he said of taking the mayor’s role over the past two months.
A consultant at SGM, a Glenwood engineering firm, Richardson said he believes the role of a mayor fits his skill set.
“The job description is different for a trustee than it is for a mayor.” In some respects, as a mayor, your opinion is almost less important than making sure the board’s discussions are productive, diffusing hostilities, making sure all sides are heard and reaching out “before issues become issues,” he said.
Cortez said Carbondale’s town board has not been inclusive enough with the electorate, the two recent tax proposals soundly rejected in April being prime examples. The public wasn’t involved in crafting those proposals on the front end, he said.
Cortez also hopes to lend his experience to an inexperienced board. For a trustee to really grasp the ins and outs of the town can take from 18 months to two years, he said.
If elected mayor, Cortez says he’ll immediately try to learn why the town, despite revenue increases over the past few years, needed to propose higher taxes.
Still, this is a critical time for Carbondale because its sales tax revenues are lagging behind the other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.
“What’s at stake is what we’ve been fighting for these past 15 years — how to protect Carbondale’s character.”
But even maintaining the status quo will take revenue, and it would be a mistake to rely too heavily on the anticipated City Market, he said.
“Economic development has been placed on the shelf now for several years.” He suggested doing more statistical research into Carbondale’s sales tax compared with other municipalities.
Richardson said how the mayoral candidates view leadership should be a focus of the campaign.
The mayor pro tem counts a number of positions toward his experience for the job: Glenwood Springs City Council, chairman of the RFTA board, president of the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork and serving on Clean Energy Economy for the Region’s Technical and Financial Advisory Committee.
“Board leadership is different than other types of leadership,” he said, because it requires having to lead with a group of people rather than as an individual.
Richardson was also a supporter of the climate action and property taxes that got shot down in April.
If Richardson wins the mayoral race, the board will next be tasked with appointing his replacement.
More people could join the race. The filing deadline for November’s election isn’t until August.
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