During the regular Council meeting on August 4th, Skippy Mesirow and Christine Benedetti, Chair and Co-Chair of the Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission, delivered a presentation on the 'why' and the 'how' behind their groups mission to engage the 18-40 demographic in the local policy issues that shape their lives and futures in the greater Aspen area.
Through strategic planning, the Aspen City Council identified a goal to increase the participation of the under 40 demographic in civic matters. The commission soon bloomed "organically" out of quarterly lunches held with a group of residents and employees in the community who met to discuss issues that mattered to them. After more than a year of hard work, dialogue, and strategic planning, an eight-member board emerged with two subcommittees: housing and economic sustainability.
"Our commission fit the need of our demographic who wanted a stronger voice in local government, and it met the need of City Council who wanted to hear what this group had to say," Mesirow said.
Saddled with a broad and ambitious mission, a survey helped the board set more goals and objectives. They asked what the biggest obstacles are for this demographic to live and work in Aspen over the long-term.
Housing and the potential for a successful and sustainable career rose to the top as the most prominent issues. The committee is now focused on taking deeper dives into these issues to advise Council.
"We're currently working with City Council to put together a housing summit to formalize what the City's vision is for family friendly housing 10-20 years down the road," Benedetti said.
Visioning is also important when it comes to economic sustainability. The committee has focused on technology as a means to pursue business opportunities outside of the Roaring Fork Valley while remaining here.
"We want to make people feel that there is a community that can help them flourish and grow a business without moving to San Francisco," Mesrow said.
Is there an opportunity in Snowmass?
Council members discussed the potential to engage members of this demographic in Snowmass Village. Advice from Mesrow and Benedetti: it starts at the top with clear and strong Council goals.
Councilman Haber and Councilwoman Butler expressed their desire to bring more energy, creativity, and fresh eyes to community government.
"The founders of this town are still very engaged but they are carrying a great deal of the load," Haber said. "There' s a great opportunity for people who are going to be around for the next 40 years to become more engaged."
Fortunately, several members of the Next-Gen Commission either have a history in Snowmass Village, or are current residents. Staff was encouraged to directly seek out input on upcoming planning projects from this stakeholder group. Council will discuss the opportunity to engage the younger demographic during their upcoming strategic planning session in early September.