KAJX

Basalt residents wasting no time in turning in ballots

Mar 21, 2016

On Monday, a campaign sign for incumbent Mayor Jacque Whitsitt remains firmly attached to a town-operated sprinkler system on the CDC Pan and Fork property.
Credit Elise Thatcher

The Basalt election keeps getting hotter. With two weeks until the end, voters have been dropping off ballots at Town Hall, and controversy over yard signs continues.

Kim and Mike Petrie are walking along a winding path next to the Roaring Fork River, looking out across the Pan and Fork property.

“We love the openness of it,” said Kim Petrie. “We love this park — we were actually just trying to visualize what the park is proposing for keeping as a park, and the building.”

The Petries want what they call a balance between open space and some development, and Kim said the debate over what to have on the property is the central issue for her while considering the spring election. But she and her husband are in a delicate position: they know both mayoral candidates, incumbent Jacque Whitsitt and contender Rick Stevens.

“It’s been a little challenging,” Kim said with a smile. “And we might be weeks before we decide who we’re voting for. We’re weighing everything carefully.”

Other residents are more eager to get the decision over with. More than 100 ballots have been cast, said Basalt Town Clerk Pam Schilling on Monday afternoon.

“We are seeing a pretty steady stream of people coming in and dropping off ballots,” she explained, while helping out a voter day stamp their ballot envelope. “Last week we were getting maybe 15 to 20 a day. Towards the end of the week about 50.”

This is Basalt’s first all-mail municipal election since the mid 1990’s, with a little over 2,000 ballots mostly delivered last week.

As the election enters the homestretch, there’s been a debate about whether campaign materials should be allowed on the Pan and Fork property.

“The owners of the property told me I could put my campaign signs there,” said incumbent Jacque Whitsitt. “And they told me they were also going to offer to other candidates."

A representative of the group One Basalt and a candidate raised questions about the arrangement, pointing out the nonprofit in charge of the Pan and Fork parcel isn’t supposed to take political positions. That’s under federal law.

The nonprofit is the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation, or CDC. In response to those concerns, a campaign event over the weekend was moved off CDC land. Whitsitt’s husband, Tim Whitsitt, filed an open records request Monday, in order to confirm exactly which candidate complained about the CDC and campaigning, and asking for all staff emails that had to do with the weekend event.

As for the signs, more than one for Jacque Whitsitt remained firmly attached to CDC Pan and Fork property on Monday afternoon. She said she’ll leave the signs up because she hasn’t been told by the nonprofit to remove them.

“I don’t know anything about federal IRS law, at all. And it’s not my job to know,” she said.

A representative of the CDC’s parent organization said too many staff members are traveling this week to decide whether those signs should be removed.

Rival candidate Rick Stevens would like to see the campaign materials taken down.

“My point of view on the yard signs is anything else on the Pan and Fork puts the three parties that are trying to come to an agreement, on what the property becomes, at risk,” Stevens said Monday.

Those three parties being the town of Basalt, the CDC, and the developer Lowe Enterprises.

Back at the Pan and Fork river trail, Kim and Mike Petrie are sure of two things. One, they’re not worried about who wins the three open seats for Town Council. They believe whoever’s elected will represent residents well. Similarly, the Petries are sure the town is in for a good mayor, too, regardless of who wins.

“We like both of them, and we are personal friends with both of them,” said Kim Petrie diplomatically. “I think they would both be good mayors.”