The race for mayor in Aspen has become more heated as election day gets closer. Two people are running for the seat. Ballots will be counted May 5th. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen sat down with candidate Torre.
Torre isn’t a newcomer to city politics. He served eight years on council. This is his fifth attempt to become mayor. The tennis instructor has lived in town for two decades and says he’s running because he feels the public’s voice has been lost.
"I just see a rift growing between public sentiment and what’s being carried out in city hall. (I would bring) better representation and better leadership. We need someone who’s going to champion the causes that Aspen is known for: environmentalism and the affordable housing program. And then accountability. Nothing can get done unless we know who’s supposed to be doing it and who’s supposed to be taking responsibility."
He’s a heavy critic of the way the city’s currently run and points to an annual exercise by council - setting its top ten goals for the year.
"What I’ve seen in my experience is that the top ten goal-setting has created these high level and high thinking priorities from city council but then there’s very little ability to follow through on how it gets done. I think that’s where we’re running into problems. That and the fact that no public comment is taken in work sessions."
The elimination of public comment from work sessions is an issue Torre has brought up multiple times this campaign. Sitting mayor Steve Skadron says public comment is reserved for regular council meetings, not work sessions. At Squirm Night, Torre said costs for public outreach programs and staff time nearly doubled after public comment was eliminated from work sessions.
Reporter: "We heard from City staff that that statement is incorrect."
Torre: "I was talking about just the budget for public outreach. I wasn’t talking about city staff as a whole and the hours that they spend there. I was talking about just public outreach. So, if you take the Rubey Park outreach, the City facilities planning outreach, if you take any of the public meetings that needed to happen aside from work sessions, those are the numbers that I’ve found in the budget."
City officials maintain those outreach efforts are not connected to the elimination of public comment from work sessions.
Still, Torre says Referendum One on the spring ballot is an example of a communication problem between the community and city. He favors the measure. It would put certain development projects to a public vote.
"Ref. One is not my first choice for a land use code action, at all. But at this time I’m supportive of it because what we’ve seen is this council has not been active about making land use code changes."
He says the current land use code is too restrictive and should be re-worked to favor local businesses and affordable housing. As mayor, he says he would champion the ideals Aspen values.