Guest Opinion: Elections that matter
This is my last regular column with the Post Independent. Suffice it to say that we could not agree on the terms of a contract and have decided to part ways.
With election season upon us, there is much to talk about. Carbondale has three seats (including mine) on the Board of Trustees and two tax questions on the ballot. There are eight candidates (including me) in the running for those seats. As for the tax questions, both are modest, but will have to overcome voter fatigue from that tax increase that the Roaring Fork School District convinced mid- and lower-valley voters to approve in November.
Basalt, meanwhile (and briefly), has four seats, including the mayor’s, on the ballot. The election there will have very real consequences for the future look and feel of the town, so I hope voters pay close attention.
One group of candidates in Basalt (Rick Stevens, Rob Levitt, Leroy Duroux and Herschel Ross) wants to turn the historic core into a commercial center filled with pricy condos, essentially another version of the Willits shopping area. The other group (Jacque Whitsitt, Katie Schwoerer and Jen Ripple) is looking to create a larger river park downtown, and strike a balance between development and open space protection. It’s a real choice. I advise Basaltines to study these candidates closely.
Back to Carbondale. The current Board of Trustees is quite progressive, and my guess is that will change with the upcoming election. When I was first elected in 2012, my views on development and other matters were definitely on the left. I had just led the effort to overturn approval of a shopping mall next to CRMS and was considered a growth skeptic. That wasn’t quite true: I’m actually for smart growth that honors the place we live in now and the people who live here.
After the 2014 election, I found myself on the more conservative side of the trustees. I began voicing the side of local businesses, largely because of the departure of two of the strongest advocates for that part of our community. With John Hoffman and Pam Zentmyer both stepping down, our board promises to transform once again into a different political body.
Both tax questions in Carbondale have stories. One is an energy-use fee that will raise money to expand our community’s efforts to reduce our impact on the climate. The cool thing about this question is it allows voters to decide whether they want their community to continue and expand its good work on this front—or not. If the fee fails, the Board of Trustees will likely have a tough conversation about whether to continue spending on energy projects out of its general fund.
The other cool thing is that the energy use fee will go up and down depending on how much electricity or natural gas your home or business consumes. Much of the money raised will be spent helping people make the right decisions on how to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. That may mean sealing doors and windows, or wrapping the hot water heater with insulation. In some cases it means replacing a heating system or installing solar panels And low income households will see a greater amount of support in helping them pay for upgrades aimed at tightening their homes and lowering their energy costs.
The money will be controlled by the Board of Trustees, which will work with our two energy efficiency nonprofits, CLEER and CORE, to implement programs, large and small, each year. The energy use fee sunsets after 6 years, which means we get to take it for a test drive and have a say in whether to continue.
The second tax on Carbondale’s ballot is a capital investments like street repairs, drainage improvements, sidewalk and trail work, building maintenance and the like. Carbondale runs on a super tight budget. I like to say that we spend less (about $5.8 million) to run our entire town than Aspen spends on planting and maintaining flowers each summer. That might not be accurate, nor fair, but it’s probably not that far off.
This is a property tax that will raise about $400,000 per year. It will sunset after 10 years, so it’s not permanent. It will allow the town to save some for the big projects ahead, like the time in the not-so-distant future when roads in River Valley Ranch will need considerable work. It also means we won’t have to tap into the reserve fund to pay such work.
So adios, my friends and readers. It’s been great writing this column for the last couple of years. Keep an eye out for my word here and elsewhere in the form of guest opinions and letters to the editor.
Allyn Harvey serves on the town of Carbondale Board of Trustees and runs a PR and political consulting firm. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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