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Aspen Mayor, Two Councilmen Survive Recall

March 14, 1990

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) _ A recall election narrowly retained the mayor who led an unsuccessful campaign to ban fur sales, but ousted one of his council supporters.

Mayor Bill Stirling held onto his seat Tuesday with 1,227 voting to keep him in office and 1,097 favoring a recall.

He interpreted the results as support of his efforts to limit a ″feeding frenzy″ of greedy developers.

What people want, he said, is to ″slow down - not halt - but slow down speculative development and really get going with affordable housing.″ Typical single-family house prices in the fashionable resort, a favorite skiing spot for celebrities, surpass $1 million.

Voters last month rejected Stirling’s ballot proposal to ban the sale of furs in Aspen, as well as another measure to limit the size of a Ritz-Carlton hotel under construction.

Those hoping to oust a majority of the five-member council accused the recall targets of being rude and unresponsive to constituents’ concerns.

Councilman Michael Gassman kept his seat with a 1,347 to 965 vote; Councilman Frank Peters was retained by a margin of just 30 votes - 1,142 to 1,112.

Residents recalled councilman Steve Crockett by a 1,288 to 1,025 margin in favor of Margot Pendleton, a concrete contractor. Crockett’s critics considered him too confrontational.

The turnout was more than 60 percent, despite heavy snow and good skiing conditions.

″I think that people reacted to the very negative approach that was taken by the pro-recall people in their campaign. And I think people got a little tired of it,″ Stirling said late Tuesday.

Many voters told pollsters from the Aspen Times Daily they retained the incumbents because they disapproved of the recall campaign.

″It’s just been unfair,″ said 23-year-old Aspen resident Ellen Marshall. ″All the council has done is carry out the mandate they were given when they were elected ... This whole thing is sad.″

Some longtime residents believe Aspen has lost its soul in becoming a playground for the rich and famous. But recall supporters said efforts to save Aspen by limiting growth have become exclusionary and nasty.

Aspen’s population is said to peak at about 20,000 in the winter; it has about 3,700 registered voters. Many property owners do not live here full time, and real estate prices have skyrocketed during the past decade.

Aspen, home to eccentrics like ″gonzo″ journalist Hunter S. Thompson, was the first U.S. community to pass a tough anti-smoking ordinance and the first to declare itself a nuclear-free zone.

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