The election pits incumbent Mayor Stu Fraser against current councilmembers David Oyster and Chris Myers – three candidates who have proven themselves in the past to be passionate about Telluride and its residents.
Undoubtedly, the most pressing issue facing Telluride’s next mayor will be the economy and its ongoing uncertainty.
Most would agree Telluride’s greatest assets are its scenic beauty and its world-class ski area. But what can be done to make Telluride remain attractive to prospective visitors in a market driven by cheaper lodging-and-travel prices? Furthermore, how can Telluride better attract full-time residents, while keeping those who currently struggle to make it in Telluride?
On top of current economic uncertainty obviously affecting the town’s tax base and ability to generate tax revenues, Telluride’s next mayor will face a laundry list of capital improvement projects over the next four years. Arguably, some projects can’t be ignored, including the long-awaited completion of Pandora Water Treatment facility and a complete reconstruction of the Hwy. 145 Spur.
And of course, there’s the issue of the moment: Prairie dogs. Telluride’s prairie dog problems on the Valley Floor and methods of managing the animals have sharply divided members of the community. That conversation is unlikely to end any time soon.
All three candidates believe that the Telluride Town Council has strengthened its communication process with residents over the past two years and all three vow to continue in that positive direction. Another question for voters could be to decide which of the candidates has the greatest ability to facilitate discussions at town council meetings in a way that best harnesses the needs and passions of Telluride residents.
Town Clerk MJ Schillaci says Telluride voters on the San Miguel County permanent mail ballot list will receive a Town of Telluride municipal ballot in the mail by early next week. As for the Instant Runoff System, voters will be asked to vote for their second choice. This vote will only be counted if a clear majority, defined as 50 percent of the voters plus one vote, is not achieved in the first round of voting.
For those not mailing a ballot, the municipal election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Myers a ‘Renewed Energy’ to Keep Council ‘Vibrant’ and ‘Dynamic’
Chris Myers believes in the idea of representative government and that elections are critical moments in that process. After being elected two years ago to the Telluride Town Council, Myers believes he represents a strong portion of the Telluride community and has the support to be elected Telluride’s next mayor.
“I feel that perhaps my values and my vision resonates with this community and that it’s time to change leadership,” Myers said on Tuesday. “One of the strong values in Telluride is daring to be different. I think we are a community that values natural beauty, wilderness, a clean environment, the arts, and everyone that shares the box canyon with us.”
An energy efficient architectural lighting consultant and an outspoken environmental advocate, Myers most recently made headlines when he was arrested in Salt Lake City for an act of civil disobedience when Tim DeChristopher, who falsely bid on federal oil and gas leases, was sentenced to two years in prison. Myers says his passion for the environment, along with promoting a thriving economy, are his top two priorities.
“First and foremost, we can’t lose our ability to have a thriving economy here,” he said. “Survival of Telluride’s downtown core is critical.”
Myers supports the idea of a main street task force that could “focus on the heart of main street” to make it more “inviting.” He said he also supports the idea of promoting diverse communities in Telluride, such as the proposed Solar Fuels Institute, for which council passed a resolution of support resolution on Tuesday.
“I see that as diversification,” Myers said. “We are creating another pillar of economic diversity so we are not simply reliant on the building industry, real estate, or the ski industry. A broadly-based economy is a sustainable economy.”
While Myers believes a broad-based economy will be more sustainable for Telluride, he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Telluride’s surrounding beauty and natural beauty is at the heart of its economic success, and that everything must be done to protect it.
“If we don’t care for and protect our environment, the very sense of Telluride as a place and to be a home could be lost,” he said. “This council has been very strong in terms of its stance on the resurrection of the uranium industry in the West End. We believe it’s both and environmental and a health threat for those communities and ultimately for Telluride as well.”
During a period of time before he was elected, Myers believes citizens felt a disconnect with Town Council and that their values weren’t being represented well or that they just weren’t being heard. Since he was elected two years ago, Myers said he’s been a big part of making council more approachable to citizens and that as mayor, he would continue that trend.
“We need to be approachable and responsible to the community. In terms of public comments, I believe its such an important part of a meeting and I would like to make it even more important,” he said. “In terms of running the meeting, I would like it to be a bit more flexible, but still firm. I will bring to council a more free-flowing discourse and a more receptive platform for the public.”
Furthermore, Myers says he will bring “a renewed energy” to council as mayor, which is “important to keep government vibrant and to make sure it’s dynamic.”
As for the prairie dogs: “I feel that Town Council and ultimately the mayor have not been good communicators on this issue,” he said. “Had we done a better job with communication, the public would be more at ease. Most people believe that it’s fine to have them on the Valley Floor but not in town. Mother nature will keep things in balance, though we have to be patient, they may be out of balance for a little while longer.”
Oyster: ‘I Will Always Consider the Needs of the Community as a Whole’
With his first term as a Telluride Town Councilmember coming to an end this year, David Oyster looked at the candidates running for mayor of Telluride and decided to give voters another choice. Simply put, Oyster believes he represents Telluride’s values of family, community, intelligent growth, preservation of historical character, and the environment, while making informed decisions.
“I represent those values more closely than either of the other two,” Oyster said on Tuesday. “I believe I fit in here pretty well because I have a commonality with folks. I have been effective as a councilmember in providing input and intelligence into the process and I think people who regularly listen to council meetings know that.”
Citing his work on council, Oyster said he was a part of council’s success in restructuring the town’s Valley Floor debt as well as taking major steps in working on the Valley Floor’s management plan so the town can take care of what it won. He also supported and said he will continue to support getting the Pandora Water Treatment plan on track, as well as looking for more ways to save energy the way Telluride did with the installation of solar panels at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
“In my tenure, we have completed two substantial affordable housing complexes and while sitting on council, we have substantially improved the civility at our council meetings. As a result of that we have gotten a lot done,” Oyster said. “Looking down the road, we need to continue work on the water treatment plant and look for more affordable housing opportunities.”
The biggest challenge facing Telluride and its local government is the effect the global and national economy will have on Telluride’s tourist economy, Oyster said. While many economic realities may be external to Telluride, Oyster believes that Telluride can continue to make itself even more attractive to visitors.
“We are a tourist economy and we need to keep visitors coming here,” he said. “Our challenge is to make Telluride more attractive from a price standpoint. Another challenge we have is to get airlines to come here. Some of these we don’t have a lot of control over, but there are things we can do to keep people coming here.”
For instance, when town council voted 6-1 to reject a Buffalo Springfield concert late last the summer, council received criticism for not bringing the concert to Town Park. Oyster, who voted against the concert, said the citizen backlash indicated that the town should have a plan in place so it can be ready to make a last-minute decision in case a similar situation arises.
“The backlash was huge,” Oyster said. “It demonstrated to us that we needed to have a plan in place to be more agile in responding to last minute requests like that. One of the things we discussed today is to have a special fund set aside that perhaps would act as seed money for when events, like the recent [statewide] bike race was held. We would love to get them to come through here, but the promoter wants to see some dollars going toward the event, and we are talking about doing just that.”
Creating a more business- and pedestrian-friendly environment on main street, Oyster said, continues to be a challenge, as well. “I think we want to further pedestrianize our downtown but the problem with that is where do we put the cars? In the summer months a lot of people drive here,” he said. “I will always consider the needs of the community as a whole. That is one of my strengths. I am not prone to making hasty or quick decisions because it sounds like a good idea at the time.”
As for prairie dogs: “I believe in natural systems,” he said. “The predators are working on it and it takes a while to balance it but I do believe they will.”
Fraser: ‘I Don’t Believe You Set Goals Unless You Plan on Achieving Them.’
In his ten years as a member of the Telluride Town Council, the last four of those as Mayor, Stu Fraser said he’s experienced just about everything that exists in the public process of local governance, and through it all, he’s learned to effectively facilitate and lead the work of Town Council so it reaches its desired goals despite accommodating a spectrum of diverse viewpoints.
“I bring something to the table that allows us to work together as a coalition,” Fraser said on Tuesday. “Town Council is seven people with diverse opinions, and it’s my job to facilitate discussion to make sure we reach the goals we have set. I bring maturity, having run and worked in corporate life, having run my own business, and through my previous work on council. I have a range of knowledge that is hard to match.”
Fraser is President of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns and a member of the Colorado Municipal League and through those state organizations, he said, he not only gets to share how Telluride deals with its problems, he gains knowledge from other local governments on how they deal with a variety of issues as well.
“Being a part of those organizations gives me a view of what is happening throughout the state,” he said. “Also, there’s a synergy that takes place in Telluride, which can be the birthplace of ideas.”
For instance, Telluride’s ban on plastic bas began with an idea that was given to Fraser within Telluride. Fraser then took the idea of a plastic bag challenge to the Association of Ski Towns where Aspen and Mountain Village joined in. After that, the idea spread to other ski towns in the state.
“Telluride ended up having a major impact on plastic bag usage in the state,” he said. “My work with those organizations helps me be a better mayor to help our six councilmembers,” he said, helping him to understand “what other towns are doing that we may be able to take care of. That goes away if I’m not [re-elected].”
Fraser emphasized that he is goal-driven and focuses on making sure Town Council is doing what’s right for both individuals and businesses in the community. On Tuesday, Fraser said, council worked on its capital improvement budget, and that he suggested using an “economic filter” when making a decision.
For instance, Fraser suggested that a remodel of the town park stage, which is slated for 2016, be moved up to possibly next year because a new stage could generate more tax dollars.
“This could allow us to host a Buffalo Springfield or Phish [concert] because we would have the facilities that would allow them to do it,” he said. “This would allow us to build that economic base where we could host even more special events. This all goes back to our economy and taking our peak seasons and somehow making them more vibrant by trying to get more groups in Telluride.”
As for other goals, Fraser said he’d like to have the Pandora Water Treatment facility built by 2014, with a micro-hydroelectric facility included would offset 56 percent of the energy the Town of Telluride government uses each year.
Fraser also said managing Valley Floor is a priority, including river restoration and dealing with the myriad issues related to the Valley Floor.
“There is a lot of work we have to accomplish out there,” he said. “It’s not just about prairie dogs, although they are a part of it. We have to do things on the Valley Floor and we have to do them well.”
Furthermore, Fraser has made being mayor a full-time job and is driven by achieving the goals Telluride sets.
“I don’t believe you set goals unless you plan on achieving them. I am the voice of reason [and] common sense, and I bring forth valid arguments for and against issues,” he said. “I am a part of Telluride and I am not ready to walk away from it. If I am elected I will once again do it to the best of my ability.”
Mayoral Candidates at a Glance
Residence: 533 W. Pacific St.
Family: Single but in a partnership with a great gal.
Occupation: Energy Efficient Architectural Lighting Consultant.
Education: B.S., Geology and B.A., Anthropology.
Prior Government Experience: Two years Telluride Town Council; Basalt Board of Trustees, 1994-96.
Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton: “Ooh. I don’t know the answer to that one.”
Residence: 585 E. Pandora Ave.
Family: Divorced, two children, ages 24 and 14.
Occupation: Documentary Filmmaker.
Education: B.A., Speech and Drama, University of Virginia 1967.
Prior Government Experience: Military Service, United States Army, 1968-1971, Vietnam Veteran, four years Telluride Town Council.
Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton: “Ha. I’m not connected to sports enough to know.”
Residence: 937 Road Hawg Circle
Family: Wife and two grown children
Occupation: Self-Employed, Design Business (semi-retired) and Mayor
Education: B.A., Psychology, minor in Marketing
Prior Government Experience: Four years on the County Planning Commission, six years on Telluride Town Council and four years as Mayor of Telluride.
Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton: “Tim Tebow. He’s aggressive and forward-thinking but he has a lot to learn. I am impressed with his in-your-face attitude.”