Editorial misses the mark
The recent editorial “Selection process must be done in public” (June 21, The Aspen Times), while reinforcing the importance of transparency in the process of filling the council vacancy, goes too far in advocating that the City Council forego secret ballots and that each councilman openly defend their reasons for eliminating a candidate. And the attempt to lay a guilt trip on council, “Anything less would be a slap in the face of Aspen voters and a backtrack from the promise of transparency from the city’s new leadership,” should be summarily rejected as entirely unjustified.
The editorial improperly combines the separate requirements of openness by council in the discussion process leading to a vote and the legally sanctioned method of voting by secret ballot. At the front end, all agree that there can be no secrets, no collusion leading to a back room deal. But as to voting, the members of council stand as the alter ego of the voting public.
A voter is never required to disclose and provide reasons for his vote. Why require more from council? Concerning, the discussion phase, the editorial stresses, “That’s the law, and it should be followed to the letter.” But as to voting, it asks council to abandon the same latter of the law for no cogent reason other than to provide material for its reporters.
With a field of 11, the most efficient and fair method of voting would be by “approval voting.” Each ballot would carry 11 votes and a councilman can distribute those votes on his (or her) ballot in any manner adding up to 11, i.e., all 11 votes for one person, one vote each for all 11 or any other combination adding up to 11. The four ballots would be tallied (44 potential votes) and the individual gathering the most votes would be the winner. One ballot and done, the tally made public. Whether council wants to release the individual ballots is a detail for it to decide.
The editorial properly emphasizes that the process for filling vacant seats needs to be revised. At the same time, the rules on term limits vis-à-vis council seats and the mayor should be addressed to eliminate potential jumping from one position to another over protracted periods and avoid the rancor that preceded this last election. Numerous proposals for reforming both have been aired and they are topics for robust public debate and code amendment well before the next election cycle. The Times should constructively push for movement by the city in these areas.
Mayor Skadron begins his new position with a considerable reservoir of public trust. At the incipiency of this administration, The Aspen Times should not be tossing grenades designed to provide grist for the newspaper’s headline mill.
Neil B. Siegel