Q & A with Glenwood Springs City Council candidates: Russ Arensman
Russ ArensmanWard 1 incumbentOccupation: Since 2007 I have been a senior writer for the Loomis Group, an integrated marketing, advertising and public relations company based in San Francisco, working from my home in Glenwood Springs. Previously, I worked for 25 years as a journalist for newspapers and magazines in Colorado and in Hong Kong.Age: 53Family: Married to Debra Crawford-Arensman for 28 years; two daughters, Cailey, 18, a freshman at Grinnell College, and Erica, 16, a sophomore at Glenwood Springs High School.Education: BA in technical journalism in 1981 from Colorado State UniversityCivic involvement: City Council, Nov. 2007-present; Sunlight Ski Patrol volunteer, 1999-present; Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission, 1997-2001; former parent accountability committee member, GSES, GSMS, GSHS; member, First Presbyterian Church, Glenwood SpringsHow long have you lived in Glenwood Springs? Since 1997Where are you from originally and what brought you to Glenwood Springs? I was born in Denver, where my dad was a civil engineer and my mom raised my brothers, sister and I. After graduating from CSU in 1981, I landed a reporter’s job with the Rifle Telegram newspaper. After the May 1982 oil shale bust, I moved on to newspaper reporting and editing jobs in Louisville, Avon, Longmont and Colorado Springs. In 1990, Debbie and I moved to Hong Kong, where during the next seven years we helped to start and worked as editors for two business magazines. After Hong Kong’s handover to China in July 1997, we moved back to Glenwood Springs because of its small-town atmosphere, high quality of life and easy access to outdoor recreation activities. It’s been a wonderful community in which to live and to raise our children, and now I feel that I should give something back by volunteering some of my time with various community organizations.What prompted your decision to run for re-election to City Council?I believe that we all have a responsibility to help out in our communities. I got my first hands-on experience with government with a four-year term on the Planning and Zoning Commission and serving on school accountability committees. In 2007, with my kids getting older and requiring less supervision, I decided to run for a seat on the City Council. I’ve learned a great deal during the past three and a half years, and would be honored to have the chance to apply that experience by serving another four-year term.What steps would you propose to cut the city’s budget if revenues continue to decline?First of all, I believe we are finally at the turning point where the local economy is beginning to grow again and sales tax revenue will soon start to recover. Accommodations tax receipts have already been increasing for the past several months, as tourist visits begin to rebound from the recession.In the event of an unexpected economic reversal, I would suggest we begin by continuing the same belt-tightening strategies that have gotten the city through the past two years without resorting to layoffs. City employees have gone without raises for the past two years and vacant positions have been left unfilled, while staff furloughs have further reduced expenses. Careful financial planning, conservative spending and ample reserves set aside during better times have allowed the city to weather the downturn thus far, and I’m confident those practices will continue to serve us well.How should the city proceed in addressing the ongoing Highway 82/Grand Avenue traffic issue?The just-completed Corridor Optimization Plan (COP) identifies a variety of ways that Glenwood Springs can begin to slow the growth of single-occupancy vehicles on Grand Avenue and to mitigate the impacts from expected traffic increases in the years ahead. First of all, we can enhance our local and regional transit programs to carry more daily commuters up- and downvalley, and within the city.We can calm traffic on Grand Avenue with better traffic light timing, medians, fewer left turns, roundabouts and possibly even reversible lanes to keep traffic moving with fewer stops. We can also improve local traffic circulation by building bridges across the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers to take pressure off the few existing bridges, and by improving connections throughout the city on streets other than Grand Avenue (by extending Blake Avenue all the way to Wal-Mart, for instance).The COP shows that we should be nearly as effective at moving traffic and reducing congestion through the city with these strategies as we could be by building a much more costly and environmentally damaging bypass or alternate highway along the Roaring Fork River corridor.With that in mind, the city should begin to budget for and implement Grand Avenue traffic-calming steps as soon as possible, while developing a mid- to long-term strategy for more costly and complex transit and circulation improvements.What are your thoughts on the downtown and confluence area planning efforts?What Glenwood Springs’ downtown needs most is new investment, and that process is already starting along Cooper Avenue with businesses like the Good Health Market, the TreadZ shoe store, Glenwood Adventure Co. and the new Pullman restaurant. Besides fostering a healthy, attractive environment that attracts private investment, I think the city can play a role in re-activating the area by helping to find a downtown home for the new Glenwood Springs Library, as well as developing additional parking. We’ve been working very hard on those goals for much of the past year and hope to have some exciting plans to announce soon.I’m also very excited to begin moving ahead with plans for the confluence area, which will become available for redevelopment after the city’s new wastewater treatment plant is completed in 2012. I believe the confluence area has the potential to become a world-class venue for river recreation, along with an eclectic mixture of restaurants, retail, residential and commercial activity. An extension of the downtown, this area will enhance the adjacent public-sector activities and employment by bringing people to the water’s edge to play, live and congregate. The city is not a developer, but it does have valuable land to contribute to the process, so the key to making this project work is likely to be public-private partnerships that bring new investment into the city.Our community also has an abundance of geothermal energy, and I’m eager to explore the potential for tapping that energy to heat new buildings in the confluence area. Longer term, we may be able to expand that into a larger geothermal district heating system that extends into the downtown, to the Community Center, and possibly to additional areas. By carefully using and safeguarding this abundant underground energy resource, we have a chance to build upon the reputation already established by our world-renowned Hot Springs Pool and Lodge to make Glenwood Springs a showcase for green, clean, renewable energy use.What are some other key issues facing the city, and how would you address those issues?If re-elected, I will work with the council to:• Promote continued economic growth and diversification, with a particular focus on sustainable tourism, health care, green industry and the creative professions. • Work with CDOT to assure that the rebuilding of the Grand Avenue Bridge enhances downtown safety, pedestrianism and commerce. • Seek a land swap with the Re-1 school district to expand the potential confluence redevelopment area south of Eighth Street. • Review city electric rates and develop plans to increase renewable energy use. • Seek competitive bids for the management of some, if not all, of the city’s $500,000-plus yearly tourism marketing program.• Evaluate the feasibility of, and develop plans to fund and build, a performing arts center. • Implement a city attractions tax to fund tourism promotion, culture, recreation and affordable housing. • Consider rezoning or annexation to increase the city’s supply of industrial-zoned land. • Seek a recreational in-channel diversion water right to ensure minimum Colorado River flows through the city. • Improve the city’s communications with local residents through blogs, online bulletins and better coordination with local media.
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