Sunday, September 15, 2019

Meet the candidates for Crested Butte mayor and Crested Butte town council

We are almost through with our question-and-answer period with candidates for Crested Butte mayor and Town Council. You should have your ballot and they must be returned by November 3. We understand some people have already voted but we will give candidates opportunity to express their views another week.

This week we wanted to know their top priorities if elected and also get their take on some of the recent issues discussed at the town council level. We are requesting that the six candidates keep their answers to no more than 600 words.

The mail ballots were dropped this week to eligible voters and they must be returned by the official election day of November 3.

—Mark Reaman

W.E. “Skip” Berkshire, mayoral candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council?

My first priority as mayor would be to improve the effectiveness of the council–town staff team. This would involve developing a clear understanding of roles, responsibilities, and expectations between the council and staff. Additionally, I will work to improve the Town Council meetings by making sure that the agenda can be covered in a realistic timeframe; that staff recommendations are thorough and complete; and that council members come to the meetings prepared.

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following: 

The town’s proposed sales tax increase:

I support the proposed sales tax increase. The alternatives to this increase are: 1) to draw from reserves—unsustainable; 2) cut back/delay implementing needed town amenities; 3) increase property taxes—negative impact on the commercial sector of our town. I think 5 cents on a $10 purchase is a fair increase.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase:

I support the proposed RTA sales tax increase. I would vote for this if for no other reason than to expand the free bus service. The RTA is currently taking roughly 50,000 car trips off of Highway 135 each year. This is huge in terms of safety and the environment. Additionally, if we are to develop valley-wide solutions for affordable housing, a robust, free bus service will be key.

Moving the skate park to Town Park:

I voted to approve the Big Mine Park Master Plan, which included moving the skate park to the Town Park. The Town Park location presented the least impact of the options considered.

A round-about at the entrance to town:

I am waiting until the current study is completed to form my opinion on the round-a-bout issue. This study effort is being led by the Town planner and involves working with CDOT and a traffic expert to identify what might be possible. I will wait to see what comes out of this work before making any final decision (see next question for my general position). I do feel that strong community buy-in will be essential in order to move forward on this issue.

A traffic bridge over Coal Creek on the northwest side of town:

I am generally opposed to solutions to transportation problems that are simply accommodations to cars. We will not solve our problems by making it easier to drive cars through town.

Summer camping in the town gravel pit:

I do not support summer camping in the town gravel pit. The Council and Staff looked at this option and concluded that the negatives far outweighed the positives. Preliminary work has been done toward possibly building a campground at the top of Hwy. 135 south of town (aka Avalanche Park). I would support looking at this in more detail.

Should the council use outside consultants in its decision-making process?

As a general rule, I am not a big fan of outside consultants. They typically bring solutions that are based on big cities; not places like Crested Butte. Our recent Transportation Plan consultant was prime example of that. Virtually all of his recommendations were ‘car-centric’. Little was offered for improving pedestrian or bicycle friendliness or to get people out of their cars. On the other hand, the Big Mine Park consultants, Mundus-Bishop, did a good job. They involved the community in focus groups, established a stake-holder’s committee—in short they crafted a community solution. Also, sometimes we must use experts as we did in crafting the Watershed Ordinance—we needed specific legal advice.

The hardest sport you’ve ever tried?

Several come to mind: 1) Completing the Leadville Trail 100 run three times and the Western States 100 once; 2) Completing the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race; and 3) Climbing Denali with two friends—no guides.

A website that is on your bookmarks list that you frequent (almost) every day?

Weather Underground.

Favorite dessert? 

Crème Brulee.

Favorite desert? 

The southern Utah desert.

Glenn Michel, mayoral candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council?

Hold a joint meeting with the staff and council to clearly establish our roles and responsibilities.

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following:

The town’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes.

Moving the skatepark to Town Park: I did not support moving the skate park during the council’s debates on this topic. I argued the current skate park location already has an established neighborhood use, we can improve and expand on the existing design, it will be very expensive, and adding 10,000 square feet of hardscaping to Town Park was a poor use of the remaining green space.

A round-about at the entrance to town: Yes, as long as the town finds outside funding to help with the expensive price tag.

A traffic bridge over Coal Creek on the northwest side of Town: At some point in the future there will need to be a bridge over Coal Creek.

Summer camping in the town gravel pit: I would rather invest our staff time and resources on developing the permanent campground at Avalanche Park, instead of a temporary solution at the gravel pit.

Should the council use outside consultants in its decision-making process?

Yes. As the town continues to grow and face new challenges it will be important for us to know when to ask for outside help to better inform our decisions.

Hardest sport you’ve ever tried?

Growing up in Iowa I tried wrestling in 7th grade. I counted a lot of lights. That is when I discovered my body type was better suited for climbing!

A website that is on your bookmarks list that you frequent (almost) every day?

Denverpost.com

Favorite dessert?

Chocolate ice cream.

Favorite desert?

Mojave.

Laura Mitchell, council candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council? 

Getting some three-way signs under the stop signs at 2nd and Whiterock.

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following:

The town’s proposed sales tax increase: While I support the increase I can’t help but question why the recreation department has to operate by the skin of their teeth. I was surprised to find out that the only source of revenue is from the real estate transfer tax. One of the town’s stated goals is to preserve our high quality of life for residents. It makes me question why some sales tax can’t be directed to this important town department before we go ahead with a tax increase.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes, as a community it makes sense as more people will be forced to live in Gunnison due to a lack of housing.

Moving the skatepark to Town Park: Only if it means a reconfiguration at 3rd and Belleview so that Mountain Express can drive down Belleview instead of Whiterock.

A round-about at the entrance to town: If it makes it safer and easier to access the public school, then yes.

A traffic bridge over Coal Creek on the northwest side of Town: Yes.

Summer camping in the town gravel pit: No, the town owns Avalanche Acres and I think we should consider this property first.

Should the council use outside consultants in its decision-making process? 

Yes, within reason.

Hardest sport you’ve ever tried?

Surfing.

A website that is on your bookmarks list that you frequent (almost) every day?

Facebook, alternative daily.

Favorite dessert?

Anything chocolate.

Favorite desert?

Tie between the Sonoran desert where it meets the Sea of Cortez and the Grand Canyon.

Erika Vohman, council candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council? 

Speeding in town. This is having a negative impact on almost all town residents and needs to stop. Ban plastic bags in town, because this seems like an obvious and easy move toward sustainability. Low-hanging fruit, so to speak. I would also like Crested Butte to sign on to the Compact of Mayors climate change initiative in preparation for the Conference of Parties in Paris this December (COP21).

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following:

The town’s proposed sales tax increase: I’m not sure about this yet. I would like to see the Crested Butte parks and rec. wean us off of toxic and carcinogenic agrochemicals on our playing fields. I need to investigate whether this tax increase will be able to impact this issue. I have served on the Gunnison County Noxious Weed committee for three years now, and CU Ag. Extension found that glyphosphate chemicals used to control weeds on public lands are turning up in “organic” food produced locally. Manure from animals feeding on sprayed fields is the culprit. Everything is connected and we need to be more responsible here at the headwaters. There are a lot of people and animals living downstream from Crested Butte, and I think we should become better stewards of our water resources.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes.

Moving the skatepark to Town Park: I like it where it is, but it seems that the move is already a done deal.

A round-about at the entrance to town: I’m not sure it would solve our problems there because round-abouts are not really pedestrian or bike friendly. I think a lot depends on the cost and if we can also do a pedestrian/bike bridge in conjunction with the roundabout. I really feel strongly that we need bridges over 6th Street for safety and to keep traffic flowing at the busy intersections.

A traffic bridge over Coal Creek on the northwest side of Town: I’m not sure, depends on the cost and community input.

Summer camping in the town gravel pit: Yes.

Should the council use outside consultants in its decision-making process?

In some cases yes, but it’s not always the best use of our money.

Hardest sport you’ve ever tried? 

Kitesurfing.

A website that is on your bookmarks list that you frequent (almost) every day?

Huffington Post.

Favorite dessert?

Maya Nut cake.

Favorite desert?

Sonora.

Paul Merck, council candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council? 

My priorities are with the voters of Crested Butte. I want to continue talking to the townspeople I am representing and bring their issues to the council. My overall goal is to be an advocate.  I would also like to  create frequently asked questions and answers for town codes, guidelines  and ordinances for CB.  This could help separate staff and council responsibility.

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following:

The town’s proposed sales tax increase: With the town becoming busier a small sales tax is needed to help maintain our parks, trails, public restrooms, and rec paths. The rec department is burdened with many other duties that includes waste disposal, flower boxes, lawn care and facility maintenance. Right now over 79 percent of our sales tax is generated by visitors, so I believe this will help spread the burden of taxes.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase: Public transportation helps link the Gunnison Valley. Mass transit can help everyone by relieving vehicle traffic. Buses are well worth the slight increase in taxes.

Moving the skate park to Town Park: Still lots of questions on this issue that need to be answered and until then will refrain from making any decision on the proposed move.

A round-about at the entrance to town: Something must be done about the safety issue and the traffic around the community school. Round-abouts work in lots of other communities and still keeps the charm without installing traffic lights. Pedestrian traffic would still need to be rerouted and addressed.

A traffic bridge over coal creek on the northwest side of town: Creating another bridge would be a large expense to town. Having an alternative route into the area would relieve some congestion off of Elk Ave. There is much more research to do on the subject.

Summer camping on the gravel pit: Camping in town is a good alternative to over-crowding in the backcountry and would be another decent source of revenue. People that camp in town would frequent the restaurants, shops, and get the local feel without having to go to far into the backcountry.

Should the council use outside consultants on its decision making process?

Of course we should use all the resources we can to assist in decisions that require expertise from the outside or for very difficult problems and concerns.

The hardest sport you have tried? 

Surfing.
A web site on your bookmark list you frequent (almost) every day? 

I use a variety—Gmail, Pandora, YouTube, Wikipedia.

Favorite dessert? 

Apple pie.

Favorite desert? 

Colorado Plateau.

Aaron J. Huckstep, council candidate

What would be your first priority to pursue if elected to the council?

My first priority will be to step back and let the new mayor lead. After that, my second priority will be to continue representing the town of Crested Butte and the greater community on the “subcommittee” coming out of this summer’s meeting in Gothic, focused on addressing overcrowding challenges in the East River and the entire upper valley. This effort is being led by Gunnison County, with participation by the town, Mt. Crested Butte, RMBL, the US Forest Service, CBMR and Mountain Express. Each of these entities has a significant stake in the future of not just the East River Valley, but the entire upper valley. I believe it is a very worthwhile effort.

Then, my third priority will be to continue representing the town of Crested Butte on the Joint Facilities Committee in its effort to encourage a successful collaboration between the Center for the Arts and the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center. This work may best exemplify how far the entire community has come in developing better working relationships between the town and Mt. Crested Butte. These two planned facilities will anchor a thriving arts community and help drive the future economy of the Gunnison Valley. My fourth priority will be to ask the council to consider whether it believes that the development of the proposed Slate River Annexation should happen through Gunnison County, instead of through an annexation into the town. I am not certain that this would be the best option for our citizens. The former dumpsite is an obvious problem, but that may present an opportunity to work with the landowner on a creative solution that serves the community’s long-term interest.

Some quick thoughts on whether or not you support the following:

The town’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes. Budget challenges with parks and rec have existed throughout my four years as mayor. Passing 2A will allow the town to maintain and expand its parks, trails and recreation amenities. The rising tide of visitors not only makes town busier, it creates demand for additional services.

The RTA’s proposed sales tax increase: Yes. Having sat on the RTA board for four years, I have seen the measured and consistent expansion of our ground transportation system and our airline program. Exciting movement is afoot for the collaborative effort between the RTA, TA, and CBMR, but the continued steady growth in service cannot be accomplished without the success of this ballot measure.

Moving the skatepark to Town Park: Yes.

A round-about at the entrance to town: Yes. It should be a space for public art and should set the tone for drivers: slow down.

A traffic bridge over Coal Creek on the northwest side of Town: Not right now.

Summer camping in the town gravel pit: Yes, as long as human waste and public safety issues are addressed.

Should the council use outside consultants in its decision-making process? 

Yes. We’re not experts (no matter what any of us say). We must be vigilant in selecting consultants who understand the nature and unique character of our community.

Hardest sport you’ve ever tried: 

Local politics.

A website that is on your bookmarks list that you frequent (almost) every day: 

unofficialnetworks.com

Favorite dessert: 

Marchitelli’s Bread Pudding.

Favorite desert:

Moab.

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