Establishment on Wheeler cash reallocation query for November poll

After two members of Aspen City Council convened a special session on Friday, they failed to get any of their colleagues to change their mind on a vote earlier this week to send a voting question to voters to get a portion of the property transfer tax revenue who are funded to reuse the Wheeler Opera House.

The decision on Friday was made at 4:00 p.m., one hour before the 5:00 p.m. deadline, to put a voting question to the Secretariat of the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office for the November 2nd election.

Freshman Councilman John Doyle, who has been in office for three months, has been considered the swing vote since he said while Special session on Tuesday that he could see the merits of sending the question out to voters this year, but also understood the arguments of waiting until November 2022.

Doyle finally sided with Mayor Torre and Alderman Skippy Mesirov on Tuesday to put the question out to voters in a 3-2 vote, with councilors Rachel Richards and Ward Hauenstein disagreeing.

Doyle did not renounce his stance on Friday despite moving a motion to reconsider the ordinance and resolution that sent the question to voters, but in the end he voted no, as did Torre and Mesirov.

Richards and Hauenstein called the special session and said they believed Tuesday’s vote was flawed as Mesirov practically attended the session for an hour and a half after four board members were stuck 2-2 when they passed an ordinance approved, which allows the voting question.

“If the process is flawed, that is also the result of the problem,” said Hauenstein on Friday. “The outcome of Tuesday’s meeting shocked me more than any of the 100+ city council meetings I attended or witnessed when the votes were tied, a dead vote.”

Richards said being asked to re-examine in a special session was the first type of measure she had ever used in her 28 years in public office.

“Last Tuesday evening, at the public hearing, I briefly questioned … a member who did not attend the meeting was voting on the items in the meeting,” she said. “I should have disagreed more strongly.”

Since meeting on Tuesday, Hauenstein and Richards had met separately, with Doyle trying to convince him to move on to their positions.

Doyle had also spoken individually with other members of the council about the voting question before the meeting on Friday.

Richards turned down the poll question for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that the city’s recent election results showed that the required 60% of voters are unlikely to support it.

She also said the issue of how the money would be spent, how much would be diverted and what would be left for the historic Wheeler Opera House was not fully resolved.

However, she supports the concept of funding more art, but the question should be asked in autumn 2022 so that voters can be fully educated, art groups can promote the issue and more people tend to vote during a mid-term election, “said Friday.

Hauenstein said he wants to ensure other important community needs, particularly mental health and childcare, are adequately funded before calling on voters to divert money from the Wheeler Land Transfer Tax (RETT) for more arts funding.

Mesirow and Torre said it is now time to poll voters, and the details of how much is left for the Wheeler and the parameters to be set for the art spending can be done by ordinance by a council vote.

“I am excited about this opportunity and would like to take this step forward,” said Torre.

Friday was the fourth meeting in a month that the council has met to discuss diverting Wheeler funds to other arts purposes, and one of over a dozen this year Talk about funding other community needs with the same source of income.

The Wheeler Opera House currently has a fund balance of $ 40 million and some elected officials and parishioners believe the coffers have grown too big. Therefore, future RETT revenues can be used in other growing areas of need.

The poll question asked for a portion of Wheeler’s RETT proceeds to go to the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which is currently supported by the city’s general fund and the city’s wealth management plan fund.

The elimination of the general fund as a source of support for the Red Brick would allow the city to pay its remaining $ 2.1 million in outstanding certificates of attendance for the Isis Theater, which is in financial distress due to challenges in the film industry is.

The poll also calls for the cap on $ 100,000 annually allocated to arts and culture grants to local nonprofits to be lifted and opened up more widely to the visual and performing arts.

The RETT was first accepted by voters in 1979 and was specifically pledged to provide financial support to the Wheeler Opera House, plus the $ 100,000 annually allocated.

In 2016, voters extended the tax to 2039 and reiterated the 1979 vote that any change in funding would require the support of 60% of voters.

csackariason@aspentimes.com