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Your Morning News - February 4th, 2015

Feb 4, 2015

Spring Elections Starting to Ramp Up

Municipal election campaigns in towns on both ends of the valley are in full swing. In Aspen, yesterday marked the beginning of election season. It was the first time nominating petitions could be picked up by potential candidates. They need 25 signatures from registered city voters to make the ballot.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, only city planning and zoning commissioner Keith Goode had picked up a petition. He will run to fill one of two City Council seats that are open. They are currently held by Adam Frisch and Dwayne Romero. The mayor’s seat, held by Steve Skadron, is also up for grabs. Frisch and Skadron have said they plan to run. Romero is still considering it.

Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning explains why the dates for submitting petitions changed this election.

“The nominating petition period has been extended to longer than what is normally expected. In the past elections, potential candidates wouldn’t pick up their nominating petitions until April. For this election, because it is a mail ballot election, all of the dates get pushed forward. So the nominating petitions starts today, Feburary 3, and at council’s direction, will be extended until March 9.”

In Glenwood Springs, the ballot has been finalized for this spring’s election. It includes eight candidates. Two out of four open seats will be contested. Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Kathy Trauger, former Aspen Councilman Tony Hershey and West Glenwood resident Kathy Williams have declared their candidacy for the at-large seat. In addition, there will be a three-way race for the Midland Ward 1 seat currently held by Ted Edmonds, who is running for re-election. He is being challenged by Steve Davis and Rus Arensman.

The other two seats that are up, in Wards 3 and 4, look to be uncontested. The incumbents are Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba.

The election in Glenwood Springs will be held April 7th. In Aspen, ballots will be counted on May 5.

Aspen Development Proposal Receives Over 1,000 Signatures

A group of Aspen residents have turned in paperwork and signatures in hopes of getting a measure on the May ballot. Last night, the group had over a thousand signatures, more than three times the number required. The idea is to amend the city charter to require a vote for certain development, giving residents the ability to approve or deny new projects that don’t follow certain rules. Bert Myrin is one of the main organizers behind the effort.

“At first, there was some push back because the message out there was, it’s every variance, and everything is going to have to go to the voters.”

Myrin and others say the goal is to limit elections to just the development proposals with certain significant exceptions to certain restrictions like height.

RFTA Reviewing Comments on Access Plan

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will likely consider extending the comment period for its controversial plan. RFTA has gotten a strong reaction to its December draft access plan including accusations of stealing or limiting access to private property. 

The latest round of questions came today during a work session by the Garfield County Commissioners. The Board took public comments, which included Rex Shuster. He was visibly upset about RFTA’s survey of property along its railroad corridor. That shows two hundred feet of adjacent federal land that appears to swallow up family land.

“My parents bought that property in 1947. When the Coal Subdivision was developed. And now you’re showing it comes up clear to the first house. There’s two houses on that property, so there’s one whole house that’s history now, if this is true.”

RFTA’s team working on the plan point out that federal land has been in place for decades and was made public in 2009. It’s per national guidelines, but RFTA’s goal is to not take personal property. Officials instead aim to iron out that conflict and preserve how things operate now.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the public comment period deadline on RFTA’s website was incorrect. The cut off so far is through this Sunday February 8th. RFTA’s board will decide next week whether to extend it.

New Outreach Aimed at LGBTQ Youth in the Valley

An Aspen charity focused on reducing the number of suicides in our region is expanding its reach. The Aspen Hope Center is holding a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning teenagers. According to its organizers, the group, called “I am Me” is the first of its kind in the Valley.

Hope Center Executive Director Michelle Muething realized LGBTQ teenagers needed support after several came to the organization for help.

“Over the years we’ve had several teenagers and young adults come in and, in the crisis narrative they give us, one of the things they talk about is confusion as to who they are. That could be role confusion, gender confusion, sexual confusion as to where they fit.”

She says there’s a lack of therapists in the Valley who specialize in things like cultural sensitivity and gender identity. And, kids are turning to the internet for answers.

“One of them was posing as a 24-year-old, the other as a 19-year-old. And, they’re striking up conversations with people who are appearing to want a “friend.” And when they tell us what they’re saying and what the interactions are on the internet, it’s frightening.”

Reaching these teens is crucial. According to The Trevor Project, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

“I have worked with several teens who have been actively suicidal due to the struggle of trying to navigate coming out and their sexuality.”

Janet Gordon is a counselor based in Carbondale. She also facilitates the “I am Me” group, which targets 14 to 18 year olds. She says the kids come with a variety of concerns.

“We talk about bullying, we talk about self-esteem, and acceptance of self. We talk about the difficulties of being a teenager, in general and fear. A lot of kids have fear that the people who are important to them won’t accept them if they come out.”

The rural nature of the Valley doesn’t make it any easier. Gordon says typically there’s more acceptance in larger cities.

“The truth is our Valley is pretty conservative in a lot of ways. And that exposure to the LGBT community is more there in urban areas, but it isn’t there in some of our smaller, rural communities.”

The group’s first meeting was in October when one teen and their parent showed up. Since then, the group has grown. It’s funded by a grant from Aspen Out, the non-profit that holds Aspen Gay Ski Week. Kevin McManamon is president of the board.

“The money goes to LGBTQ causes, and at this time, mental health and suicide prevention amongst the teenage population is a battle that we’re all fighting.”

Aspen Out also supports Gay Straight Alliances at local high schools. Last year, “I am Me” received $5,000. It’s expected to receive a similar amount this year. The group meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Carbondale Library.