Final days for voting in council election
HOW TO VOTE
City voters still have until Tuesday to return their ballots, which should have been received in the mail in mid-March. At this point, completed ballots should be dropped off at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St. For voting information, call the city clerk at 384-6403.
With just three business days before voting concludes in the April 7 Glenwood Springs City Council election, candidates in two contested races are busy trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents.
The three candidates for the open At-large council seat, and two running for the Ward 1 seat, tend to agree on the more pressing issues facing the city, from support for the state’s plan to replace the Grand Avenue bridge to their thoughts on transportation needs in general and land development.
But there is some difference of opinion on a few things.
For instance: At-large candidate Kathryn Trauger’s suggestion that economic development be added to the functions of the city’s Community Development (building and planning) Department.
“If I’m a business person trying to come into town or trying to start something here, it’s not real clear how I make that happen,” Trauger said.
Instead of city staff merely navigating people through the regulatory process, she said it might be helpful if they could also serve as a liaison with the chamber of commerce and other organizations to offer information about available commercial space in town, or how to find a business loan.
“I’ve looked at a couple of models for this, and it does work,” she said. “We need to have somebody who is actually working with you to provide information and help you through the process.”
Another of the At-large candidates, Tony Hershey, said he’s “not a big fan” of merging economic development with building and planning functions.
“I might consider it,” he said. “But it seems what the city is really missing more than that is a public relations person, someone who is more communicative in general who could help as a business liaison without adding a layer of bureaucracy.”
Trauger agrees that the city can work to improve its public relations, but that’s not the same as facilitating economic development, she said.
She does believe the duties of the city manager and other staff should be reviewed to ensure better communications with the public.
“I would not come into a position as a city councilor without looking at how the people City Council hires are performing,” Trauger said in reference to the three positions directly hired by council, the city manager, city attorney and municipal judge.
Hershey agrees there is a need to “change the culture” at City Hall, but that falls on council members as well as staff, he said.
Kathy Williams, the other At-large candidate, said she has also heard a fair number of comments from people who aren’t happy with the responsiveness from City Hall to their questions and concerns.
“I think it does need to be looked into,” Williams said. “People should be made to feel more welcome.”
Regarding economic development, Williams said it would help to have someone with city government able to help with general business inquiries aside from the rules and regulations part of it.
Hershey also draws a distinction between his candidacy and that of Trauger’s, in particular, saying he believes the fact that he hasn’t been directly involved with city government to be a plus.
“I think it’s important for a city council in a small town to represent everybody and be responsive to all people, not just certain interests,” Hershey said. “I’m not part of any coalition.”
Trauger, on the other hand, touts her many years serving as an appointed member on various city boards and commissions, including the Transportation Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission, which she now chairs, as preparing her for an elected role.
WARD 1 RACE
In the Ward 1 race, former council member Russ Arensman seeks to win his seat back after a four-year hiatus since losing the 2011 election to Ted Edmonds.
Edmonds dropped out of the race early on to throw his support to Ward 1 candidate Steve Davis, a longtime Glenwood Springs businessmen who touts his pro-business stance and the fact that he has run several businesses, as his main strength.
Arensman takes issue with being painted as not supportive of or understanding the needs of business.
“I have every intention of representing the business community, but I also feel that council members have to represent a broader constituency,” Arensman said.
While he and Davis agree on a lot of issues, they do differ some when it comes to suggestions that the city’s land-use and development code should be overhauled.
“I do feel it ought to be thrown out and rewritten, because a lot of what’s in there is completely antiquated,” Davis said, adding that as a home builder he has run into various obstacles that stand in the way of development.
“We need to figure out how to say ‘yes’ to new business and development, and not put up so many roadblocks,” he said.
Arensman isn’t opposed to reviewing the city’s land-use code to bring it up to date, and noted that the current council has already approved nearly two dozen such revisions in recent years.
But Arensman said he worries about an “underlying agenda” to “eviscerate” the code and give development interests more weight than that of the general public.
“I’m not sure there needs to be a drastic shift to make every development proposal work that comes before the city,” he said. “We still have to ensure quality and safety and compatibility with the existing community.”
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