Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Meet the candidates for Crested Butte mayor and Crested Butte town council

This is our final question for our Q-and-A 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 wanted to give candidates the opportunity to express their views during the final week of the election season.

This week we wanted to know their thoughts on political compromise, the potential Mt. Emmons mine and a Winter Travel Management Plan for the area drainages. We are requesting that the six candidates keep their answers to no more than 650 words.

The mail ballots should have all been received by eligible voters by now and they must be returned by the official election day of November 3.

—Mark Reaman

GlennMichel_October22015Glenn Michel, mayoral candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles?

As one of seven members of the Town Council it is very important to be able to work effectively with other council members. Compromise is a part of the legislative process along with the ability to listen, reason and understand. Most all decisions we make as representatives will involve some element of compromise. Our local government is set up that in order to move an issue along there must be four votes and no one has the ability to veto a decision. This process is focused on the collective desires and consensus building of the entire council rather than sticking to opinions of any one individual. I believe this structure is the most democratic form of government, although it is admittedly messy at times!

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy/Red Lady molybdenum mine situation?

I was surprised this question did not come up during the Candidate’s Forum as this is the most important issue for our town, particularly at this time. There is much the council should be doing:

Maintain and ensure our watershed ordinance is upheld.

Insist that adequate financial surety for the mine’s water treatment plant is in place.

Continue to support the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition and their efforts to monitor and protect water quality in the Valley.

Support strong working relationships with High Country Conservation Advocates and the Red Lady Coalition.

Encourage the state to find and support solutions to deal with mines statewide.

Maintain an open mind for potential solutions from wherever they come.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not?

Yes, the council should make it a priority to support an updated winter travel plan. As more people are enjoying our backcountry during the winter we need to keep up with management of the increased user base and the emerging uses. As far as allocating resources I don’t know what that would entail at this point? Certainly we would invest staff time and potentially money for signs. I would also support the council appointing a member to represent the town during the development of any plan.

Should the marshals be writing more tickets for any reason?

The council would first need to identify the problem and work with staff in developing solutions to remedy the identified issue. Ideally, the solutions would be proactive and not punitive in nature. I don’t feel that by simply writing more tickets it will solve a problem, as writing more tickets could have unintended consequences.

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books?

The council just worked through and approved next year’s budget. There were no major changes to any taxes or fees. As we are going through this upcoming year we can see if there is a need to adjust any town taxes or fees.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community, what color would it be and why? 

I think the light posts on Elk look great painted green!

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary?

Action, on the big screen.

Are you dressing up for Halloween?

We live at the end of Whiterock Avenue and have a ton of Trick or Treaters. I will be handing out candy but won’t be dressing up.

SkipBerkshire_October22015W.E. “Skip” Berkshire, mayoral candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles?

Compromise. There are very few issues that have only one acceptable solution. The dysfunction we see in our federal legislature and too often here locally is largely related to stubborn adherence to a particular point of view. I want the next council to be one that is marked by its ability to seek sensible compromise and move on. I will work hard to that end.

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy / Red Lady molybdenum mine situation?

Let me say first that the council must be very careful not to jeopardize its quasi-judicial responsibility as the permitting authority within our watershed. We must not exhibit any prejudice or bias in our dealings with potential applicants. Our interaction with USE should be through our town attorney and special counsel representing the town as well as appropriate state and federal representatives. The Town Council will obviously have opportunities to consult with our attorneys and provide direction as appropriate. This is a really significant issue and we must make sure that it is handled well.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not?

Yes, I support development of a Winter Travel Management Plan. The increased winter use of the backcountry surrounding Crested Butte will lead to inevitable tension and conflicts. We need to be proactive and support establishment of guidelines and rules that allow for balanced use of our backcountry in winter. The process employed by the Forest Service (FS) to create a Summer Travel Management Plan should be used to create a similar Winter Travel Management Plan. Unfortunately, the FS is unwilling to take a leadership role in this needed process. As Mayor, I would urge the FS to step back into a leadership role. If they continue to refuse, I would support a joint effort with the county and community leaders to facilitate a process to create a Winter Travel Management Plan. Doing nothing is not an option.

Should the marshals be writing more tickets for any reason?

I respect the judgment of our Town Marshals. They know when, where, and how to enforce our laws. I don’t want them to compromise their professional integrity or “user friendly” image by writing tickets to achieve some arbitrary objective. If the council has a particular concern, we should ask the Town Marshal to make a recommendation regarding that concern.

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books?

There are a lot of fees charged by the town. Almost all of them are based on recovering cost incurred in areas ranging from providing copies of documents to building permits and even our water and sewer services. In total, the revenue from all fees comprise about 21 percent of the town’s total revenue. I would support a review of fees to insure that we are achieving the objective of the fees and making adjustments where necessary. With respect to taxes, the town annually adjusts the mill levy for property taxes to meet TABOR requirements as well as budget needs. The town finance director does an excellent job in recommending appropriate mill levy adjustments to the council.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community, what color would it be and why? 

I would leave them green. That color symbolizes a lot about our community—we strive to be “Green” and we’re surrounded by beautiful green forests. Sounds pretty good to me.

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary?

Comedy and drama. For example, Dr. Strangelove and Out of Africa.

Are you dressing up for Halloween?

No. My annual costume outing is the Al Johnson Uphill/Downhill Telemark race each spring.

ErikaVohman_October22015Erika Vohman, council candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles? 

It depends on the issue. In some cases compromise can be great. In other cases, compromise is a lose-lose situation that leads to ineffective, half-baked results.

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy/Red Lady molybdenum mine situation? 

I think the council has a responsibility to stay very involved and to support HCCA however we can in their work to protect Red Lady and to be completely transparent in any dealings with U.S. Energy. I think it best to delegate this issue to HCCA as they have the experience, knowledge and staff to address the issues.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not? 

Yes, I would support that and allocate resources if necessary. I think we need to allow snowmobiles in some places, but not others. I would love to see an odd/even alternating day use system established for all drainages. This would allow certain days to be quiet/non-motorized and other days to be open for motorized use.

Should the marshals be writing more tickets for any reason? 

Yes, I would like to see more speeders and other traffic violators stopped and ticketed. People speed around town because we’ve gotten away with it basically forever. I’m as guilty as the next person, but once I get a $75 ticket, you bet I’ll slow down!

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books? 

Yes, I would like to see town collect more fees for traffic violations to offset costs of traffic-calming devices and better signage. I think we need to enforce the fee system for people leaving their accessory dwellings vacant.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community, what color would it be and why? 

White, to honor the incredibly deep, powdery winter of 2015!

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary? 

Comedy.

Are you dressing up for Halloween? 

I’m going as Towelie from South Park.

PaulMerck_October22015Paul Merck, council candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles?

In most decisions, compromise is part of the process. Hopefully with our council principles should not need to be given up.

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy / Red Lady molybdenum mine situation?

Informing the public about the current happenings and emergency protocols and response. Creating a link to the town website that the public can get questions answered and updates.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not?

I am excited to work on these issues and support Winter and Summer Travel Management Plans with the forest service. A lot came from the Gothic town meeting this summer. We all have a lot on our plate to work on these pertinent issues. Yes town resources may need to be allocated and I am open to joining the sub-committee to look at this issue.

Should the marshals be writing tickets for any reason?

I always have been extremely pleased in the operations of the Marshal’s Office. They have always been open and have been great advocates of Crested Butte. Citizens and especially children need to use caution when crossing the streets; stop, look and listen.

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books?

I believe it is the council’s and any citizen’s duty to help improve and update taxes and fees to meet the needs of a constantly changing community.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community what color would you paint and why?

Our town staff and public works are busy enough and there is no need to waste valuable resources painting our posts. Crested Butte in itself symbolizes many things—look around.

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary? 

Me, my kids and wife take turns in picking movies. The diversity of different genres is what I enjoy.

Are you dressing up for Halloween?

My wife, Lisa, and I are participating in a Murder Mystery dinner on Elk Ave. and I am portraying Marshal Homer Watson, so watch your speeding. This is a very important and busy evening for our children and community.

Huck_October22015Aaron J. Huckstep, council candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles?

I believe in compromise. You must know your principles, though, in order to set boundaries for how much you are willing to compromise.

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy/Red Lady molybdenum mine situation?

I support the town’s work with Gunnison County on a renewed request for the state of Colorado to require a performance bond from U.S. Energy. This is a good move in light of U.S. Energy’s declining financial condition. There is room for further action, though. We must seek to understand our greater community’s attitude towards Mt. Emmons. The citizens of Crested Butte are overwhelmingly opposed to a mine on Mt. Emmons, but how far down the valley does that sentiment stretch? In particular, do the residents in the Ohio Creek Valley and Gunnison support a “final resolution” for Mt. Emmons that takes resource extraction off the table into perpetuity? And, just how “valuable” do citizens view the issue? It is much easier to support a final resolution if it comes for free or at a low cost—say $5 per year. As the price goes up, though, we should expect erosion in the support for a final solution.

Here’s why this matters: We have an information gap. No one knows the true sentiment of the entire valley when it comes to Mt. Emmons. No one knows citizens’ tolerance for contributing financially towards a solution, either. If the community at large ever gets a chance to take Mt. Emmons off the table, it may require the citizens to close the gap on funding—that’s reality. And if that chance comes along, we cannot squander it—we must create a situation where there is no chance for failure. Obtaining this information will not only help the community, it will help our negotiators.

Make no mistake: I support requiring that current and former owners of Mt. Emmons remain financially liable for water plant operations. I also support exhausting federal, state and private funding options before we ask citizens to help. But at the end of the day, I choose certainty over the unknown—unknown timeframes, unknown control structures, unknown future. Gathering this information will best serve our citizens by giving us the best chance to take control of our future without a Gold King-like incident

I’m open to the possibility that the town isn’t the best entity to gather this information. If the town owns the information, it becomes public, which may place us at a disadvantage when negotiating with other stakeholders.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not? 

I support asking the USFS to consider making this a priority. I also support the town (with Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison County) being a convener for meetings designed to understand the community’s long-term interest. I support allocating a small amount of town resources to this effort, conditioned on financial buy-in from other constituent groups as well.

Should the marshals be writing more tickets for any reason?

No.

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books?

Yes—the pillow tax. And if 2A fails, the council must revisit the town’s fund reserve policies.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community, what color would it be and why? 

I’d paint one at the Four-way, rainbow colored to remind all of us that our community welcomes and respects a diversity of opinions and people.

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary?

Nature-based documentaries.

Are you dressing up for Halloween?

Yes.

LauraMitchell_October22015Laura Mitchell, council candidate

Do you believe in compromise to move issues along or is it more important to stick to principles?

Yes, compromise to accomplish missions and goals for the town.

From a reader: What should the council be doing in terms of the potential U.S. Energy/Red Lady molybdenum mine situation? 

If I am elected I pledge to get more familiar with our current role and what we can do to ensure safety for our town watershed.

Also from a reader: Will you prioritize and support development of an updated Winter Travel Management Plan for the Gunnison National Forest? Would you allocate town resources to this endeavor? Why or why not? 

Yes to a Winter Travel Management Plan. Town has social responsibility for supporting it economically. With increased use in the backcountry some guidelines, not rules, need to be established for the many different users of the U.S. Forest.

Should the marshals be writing more tickets for any reason? 

Speeding and stop signs.

Would you work to adjust any town taxes or fees currently on the books?

No.

If you were going to paint an Elk Avenue light post a new color to symbolize something about the community, what color would it be and why? 

Rainbow stripe.

Favorite movie genre? Horror? Action? Comedy? Drama? Chick Flick? Documentary?

Comedy.

Are you dressing up for Halloween? 

One-armed zombie! Boo!

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