Letters to the Editor

Letter: Grateful for community’s generosity

November 25, 2014 — 

All of us here at the Aspen Homeless Shelter would like to express our gratitude to all the generous donors, local businesses and volunteers that have provided the much needed support for our first critical year of self-funding. We are deeply touched by the generosity of this community.

We continue to serve with a lot of belt tightening and we are working on long-term sustainability, which includes our overnight program at St. Mary Church that allows our clients a warm place to sleep indoors during the coldest winter months.

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Letter: President or dictator?

November 25, 2014 — 

By his own words, President 0bama has shown that he is philosophically opposed to our Constitutional Republic-based form of government: “I am not a dictator. I’m the president. ... If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so.”

Guess what, folks? He’s stating right there that he would not govern under a Constitutional Republic-based separation of powers system if he didn’t have to. If a magic genie granted his wish, he is telling us that he would be a emperor/king/dictator. 0bama is not emperor or king or dictator. 0bama’s job is to execute the laws that are passed by Congress according to the Constitution.

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Letter: No moral diversion right

November 25, 2014 — 

The Front Range has the legal right to divert more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River, but does it have the moral right to deprive half a continent of another 160,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water per year?

The Roaring Fork Watershed already gives 77 percent of it’s water to the Front Range. The Roaring Fork Watershed already is drained to the “endangered” level.

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Letter: The night before ski season

November 24, 2014 — 

The night before ski season

T’was the night before ski season and all through the shack,

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Letter: Do something about climate change

November 24, 2014 — 

Do something about climate change

Chris King’s guest column telling us not to worry about climate change because past threats haven’t materialized misses the main point: Those threats were avoided because we took action. We banned ozone-depleting chemicals to stop the ozone hole, made power plants clean up to stop acid rain, invented new technologies to increase food production, etc.

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Letter: Aspen Community Social Dance is Dec. 20

November 24, 2014 — 

Aspen Community Social Dance is Dec. 20

We are very excited to host the Aspen Community Social Dance at 7 p.m. on Dec. 20 in the Rio Grande Room at 455 Galena Plaza, behind the Courthouse. There will be live music with Smokin’ Joe and Zoe, free pizza from Taster’s Pizza and refreshments for all to enjoy.

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Letter: Thanks for a great Buddy Program event

November 24, 2014 — 

Thanks for a great Buddy Program event

I want to thank the community members who attended our reception at Town in Carbondale on Wednesday to learn more about the need for youth-mentoring and volunteer opportunities at the Buddy Program. We are grateful to Town and Mark Fischer, as well as Oskar Blues Brewery, for hosting us and creating a delicious five-course meal and ale pairing, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Buddy Program. This inspiring evening included remarks from Carbondale Mayor Stacey Patch Bernot, who spoke of the need for youth serving organizations and the benefits of giving your time to a young person. Thank you, Stacey, for being a valued stakeholder for our organization. We are also grateful to our Leadership Development Board Members who helped organize this event: Jim Palardy, Jared Goulet, Kaitlin Windle, Summer Berg, Andrea Bryan, Anna Bugge, Chris Cohen, Chelsea Dillon, Candace Huffman, Charles Lucarelli, Stephanie Peterman, Emily Petrilla, Rebecca Polan, Kirsten Schmit and Chris Striefel.

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Letter: What’s the problem?

November 24, 2014 — 

What’s the problem?

Jim Markalunas criticized Adam Frisch for taking the head of the Aspen Water Department to task (Aspen Daily News, Nov 20). For what? For spinning an untrue tale about the need for a $750,000 hydro pipeline to satisfy a dam inspector’s report. (When challenged, the water guy admitted his mistake, by the way.) But the report only asked for a tiny outlet with less than 2 percent the capacity of the hydro line. Is Jim suggesting City Council countenance lying or misleading? Doubtful, as Jim is an honest man. So what is the problem here?

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Letter: A time to celebrate and to mourn

November 24, 2014 — 

A time to celebrate and to mourn

Thanksgiving is both a time to celebrate and a time to mourn. Despite all the confusion and misinformation, there is good news about the harvest feast in 1621, now known as the First Thanksgiving. We Americans have much to celebrate: democracy, separation of church and state, consent of the governed, self-determination and equal and just laws serving the common good. These are the tenets of civil government that arose from the principles and ideals of the Mayflower pilgrims and the Indians they lived among in peace and friendship for 54 years.

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Letter: Grief support around the holidays

November 24, 2014 — 

Grief support around the holidays

Pathfinders will be holding grief and loss support groups throughout the valley this holiday season. The holidays can be a hard time when you’ve lost someone you love. The focus of these grief groups will be to love, remember and honor the ones we lost. We will host groups in Aspen and Carbondale on Monday nights and Rifle on Wednesday nights. We begin this week. The groups are open, so you can come to all of them or just to one. There will be ads in the paper, but please feel free to call me with any questions.

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Letter: It’s the highway, not the bridge

November 23, 2014 — 

It’s the highway, not the bridge

The Colorado Department of Transportation is currently soliciting public comment on the environmental assessment to replace the existing Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs with an entirely new and dramatically different structure — a modern marvel of engineering.

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Letter: The community will choose

November 23, 2014 — 

The community will choose

I would like to offer a few thoughts in response to Su Lum’s opinion column in The Aspen Times on Wednesday (“When is a choice not a choice?”). One of the City Council’s top-ten goals is to implement a facility master plan. This plan, led by RNL Architecture and Charles Cunniffe and Associates, identified the four options presented to the council as the best use of our currently held real estate assets to provide solutions to our long-term space requirements. These four options were reduced to two as the result of extensive public input. Even the two remaining options contain so many variables that we are actually looking at probably dozens of possibilities before a final decision is made. Lum’s article is based on a recent article in the Aspen Daily News titled “Future city hall: Community must choose one.” Obviously, at some point, one option must be chosen. It is important to note that the community will do the choosing, not city staff.

The statement that we are growing from occupied space of 30,000 square feet to 81,000 square feet is not accurate. We currently occupy some 50,000 square feet and the plan contemplates increasing that to 77,000 square feet, which includes:

• 50,000 square feet in currently occupied space (24,500 square feet of leased space that we must soon vacate and replace), including 6,000 square feet currently occupied by the Police Department

• 16,000 square feet for Police Department space so that victim interviews do not have to be conducted in hallways, locker-room space for officers is created, evidence storage is adequate — in short so that the Police Department can function as a department. This represents an increase of 10,000 square feet over current conditions and is the largest contributor to the new space being contemplated.

• 30 percent in new common space — hallways and bathrooms that meet current code and more meeting space

• Only 3,000 square feet to meet a 50-year growth projection

Office space for employees is not being increased. No one is getting a bigger office. The community gains more room to conduct business in city facilities. The Police Department gains additional space in order to perform its function and correct truly abysmal conditions. A small amount of space is being contemplated for future growth over a 50-year planning horizon.

Pitkin County (dealing with their own space needs) has told us we have to move out of the Courthouse and Annex Building. The sale and imminent redevelopment of the Daily News building forces us to relocate multiple departmental operations out of that location. We have decided to remove office functions from the Yellow Brick child care facility. We have to find additional space and think we should own that space, not rent it.

The city has hosted two open houses for the public and received much support from the residents that took the time to attend the process. We will continue the process of public engagement throughout the project. Please participate. Please email scott.miller@cityofaspen.com directly with questions or concerns.

Scott Miller

Public Works Director, City of Aspen

Letter: A worthy mission

November 22, 2014 — 

I want to commend the Hope Center for its recent presentation at the Wheeler Opera House. Dr. Carl Hammerschlag was an excellent choice to highlight the Hope Center’s campaign aimed at erasing mental-health stigma. During his presentation, Hammerschlag avoided dwelling on mental illness and advocated for a biological need to “connect with each other.”

It’s interesting to note that Hammerschlag’s stance on mental health has many similarities to the work of Dr. William Glasser. A true pioneer in the field of psychology, Glasser, the creator of reality therapy and choice theory psychology, has challenged many of the traditional values and beliefs which he referred as the “flat worldview of psychology” embraced by many of his colleagues. Glasser, a board-certified life member of the American Psychiatric Association, practiced private counseling for 32 years. While working with his clients, Glasser utilized reality therapy. This model of intervention is based on choice theory — a belief system that explains how and why we behave.

In his influential book “Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom,” Glasser references the success of his utilization of reality therapy while working with severely psychotic patients as a resident at the Brentwood veterans hospital in West Los Angeles. Glasser writes: “During my last four months on service, using the beginnings of reality therapy, I was able to discharge thirty-two of the thirty-six patients I was assigned. Many had been crazy for years, and all but four chose to be sane enough to leave.”

Much of the stigma associated with mental health can be attributed to a health care system that focuses on and labels an individual as being mentally ill. The Hope Center’s willingness to focus on mental health and the strengths of individuals coping with mental-health issues is a much-needed and worthy mission that needs to expand throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.

Jim Coddington


Letter: Keep the huge buildings out

November 22, 2014 — 

What a pleasure to read about the city wishing to consolidate into one or two buildings. Wow, imagine our quaint town, where it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to walk the one to three blocks between buildings and offices. Sure, it’s a pain for us residents, as well.

Our quaint town ­— cannot wait to see the 70,000-square-foot behemoth you wish to build — may even bring in a Costco.

Let’s take up all the open space in the core area, cut down all the useless trees, the vets memorial, the very few parking spaces and build everything as high as 50 feet. Or, why not have the tallest building in Colorado, say 60 to 80 stories? The mountains will hide it quite well. This way, we can have the fastest elevators because we are Aspen. You could even have employee housing within and restaurants and health clubs, all inside so you don’t have to leave the building.

Oh yeah, the bad news: We will require an indoor doggy poop area since all the open space will be absorbed by the hugeness.

It is so troublesome to have to put on your coat and take it off, and winter boots and all.

Why do we all live here?

Oh yeah, this is Aspen, the quaint western town in the banana belt of the Rockies where our forefathers brought culture to the immigrant miners and workers and local Indians.

We chose Aspen to enjoy the beauty during the color changes through the seasons, clean air and open and public spaces. So why displace a great community public space at the Rio Grande for temporary location of the engineering staff or the planning staff and government at the old armory? Keep the huge buildings out, keep government contained and support our community public space.

So, maybe because there is no huge buildings are why we moved here.

Ed Petrosius


Hartley: Top 5 reasons not to marry Charles Manson

November 21, 2014 — 

Have you heard about this woman who’s going to marry Charles Manson? No, seriously, some 26-year-old woman originally from Illinois got a marriage license and is reportedly all set to marry one of America’s most infamous criminals in December. I don’t know the woman personally, so I don’t want to come right out and call her stupid, but let’s be realistic: Few people have ever done anything stupider.

The woman, whose given name is Afton Burton, claims she became smitten with Manson 10 years ago after reading about his environmental leanings. I’m guessing she must have skimmed the first part of his bio — the part that talks about all the murders and whatnot — and did a poor job of gleaning information from it. It’s pretty impressive that anyone could read up on Manson and come away thinking, “Oh, he’s an environmentalist.”

But for whatever reason, Burton liked what she read, prompting her to move at age 19 to Corcoran, California, to be closer to Manson, who is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison. Once there, she changed her name to Star (the name Squeaky having already been taken), carved an X into her forehead at Manson’s behest and started operating a handful of websites that claim Manson is innocent and should be released from prison.

OK, then. Good luck with that, Star.

Just the thought of anyone imbecilic enough to want to marry a guy serving a life sentence for multiple murders got me thinking about reasons why the marriage probably won’t quite work out the way Burton hopes. The following are my top five:

No. 1: The age gap is likely insurmountable. Manson just turned 80, making him 54 years older than his bride-to-be. A recent study by researchers at Emory University and Michigan State University found that married couples with a 10-year age difference are 39 percent more likely to get divorced than those with a one-year difference. That number rises to 95 percent for those with a 20-year age difference.

By extrapolation, that means Manson and Burton are something like 270 percent more likely to get divorced than most same-age couples. That would be fine if Burton were as smart as, say, Anna Nicole Smith, who married a wealthy old guy, but I’m guessing Manson has very little to give Burton in a divorce settlement. Also, he’s probably smart enough to make her sign a prenuptial agreement to protect his cache of cigarettes and other prison contraband.

No. 2: Intimacy is important in a marriage, and there will be none between Manson and Burton. There are few things creepier to me than the thought of a 26-year-old woman having sex with an 80-year-old man. Fortunately, we don’t have to think about that in the case of Manson and Burton. The two are only allowed to hug briefly at the beginning and end of each meeting, and according to prison rules, they won’t be allowed to have conjugal visits because Manson is serving a life sentence.

Actually, as much as she claims to love Manson, I imagine Burton is pretty relieved about that rule.

No. 3: He’s using her, and she’s too dense to see it. Asked about his plan to wed Burton, Manson told Rolling Stone magazine in 2013, “That’s a bunch of garbage. You know that, man. That’s trash. We’re just playing that for public consumption.”

Critics also believe that Manson’s environmental philosophy (air, trees, water, animals), which so attracted Burton in the first place, is merely a ploy to get young, impressionable morons to pay attention to him.

Of course, in Burton’s case, the ploy has worked perfectly. “He’s nice to everyone,” Burton said. “I’ve never seen him try to be manipulative.”

Excuse me? We are talking about Charles Manson, the guy who famously convinced a bunch of people to commit murders for him, right? No, he’s not manipulative at all.

No. 4: No one as dumb as Burton seems to be should be allowed to marry anyone. I consider this truth to be self-evident. I also believe that she should have her tubes tied to ensure her clearly defective genetic material can’t be passed on to children.

No. 5: “Helter Skelter” would be a horrible song for any bride to walk down the aisle to. Thematically, there’s nothing wrong with the song as long as you don’t think about its association with the Manson family, but it’s kind of jarring. Might I suggest “The Fool on the Hill” instead?

Todd Hartley was once engaged to Lizzie Borden, but she died in 1927 before they could tie the knot. To read more or leave a comment, please visit www.zerobudget.net.

Letter: Keep fighting the good fight

November 20, 2014 — 

Keep fighting the good fight

OK neighbors, after attending the first presentation of the planned development of the new hotel (named “Base”) to the Historical Preservation Committee that is proposed for the land where the Conoco gas station now sits, I have struggled with this proposal and its implications. Why should I care whether this project is hugely inappropriate for this site with its massive scale and height? Why would it bother me if it asks for forgiveness from our rules? Are these rules and zoning so sacred that they should compromise or eliminate the chance for a perceived benefit to the city?

Mark Hunt and his team of planners and architects have proposed an affordable 38-room hotel on a single city lot because he’s been told that the town needs affordable lodging, and he might be able to skirt the existing rules if he provided this amenity. But here’s a problem: His lot is not in the correct zone to make this happen. It’s not in the “commercial core” zone, it’s on “historic Main Street.” And because of the scale of the project, it doesn’t fit the lot. So he needs help from the city — big time. Let’s see, first off, no setbacks (we need all our land for the building and because we’re almost in the core, this should be no problem). Second, we need to go way taller and way wider than permitted (we know it’s way too big, but our architect thinks it looks good this way — a flat roof would be ugly), and the city wants cheap rooms (and P.S., anything we build there will screw the neighbors anyway). Thirdly, there is no way we have any room for any parking, so we can’t follow that rule, either.

So why do I care what they build? Because I live here and love here. Why did the good people of Aspen stand up and fight way back in the late ’60s and ’70s for “down zoning” before anyone ever heard of such things? Why did they rise up in arms after the Aspen Square and the Durrant Mall got built? Because they decided that if the town was to save what they loved about the place and be different from the big cities, they would have to fight to stem the tide of greed-heads and developers hell bent on making a profit off the natural beauty and existing historic town. The locals, led by vocal a Hunter S. Thompson and artist Tom Benton, rallied the people to elect councilmen and mayors and commissioners for 40-some years now who shared the passion to fight to hold back large-scale development and tall buildings from taking over way back when. Thank God they did fight. Look around now: Do the new locals have any idea the struggle and resolve it took to have Aspen look the way it does today? Every day Aspen residents have had to stand shoulder to shoulder with their elected officials to hold back the greed that sees the profit to be had if only they could just build more and more and taller and taller and bigger and bigger.

This proposed new project disguised as affordable lodging is nothing more than the same old crap, repackaged by the newest “new guy in town,” dressed up as a project to help the town with its latest problem. But it doesn’t help anything and it doesn’t fix anything and it only makes matters worse. When did putting 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag ever help?

Fight the good fight, brothers.

Mark P. Hesselschwerdt


Letter: Our town needs this

November 20, 2014 — 

Our town needs this

As someone who grew up in Aspen and has lived here for a number of years as an adult, I just want to encourage the City Council to get behind the Power House of Aspen proposal and get that place into action. Our community desperately needs it. We know we don’t need another brewery here nor another movie studio, and as nice as a science center would be, we already have scientists and thinkers speaking at the Aspen Institute frequently, as well as at the Aspen Physics Center, which also has great programming for children.

The science center would be nice for about a week, but we don’t have the population, nor the acreage, to make a mostly kid-friendly science center a year-round community asset. What we do need, though, is a community center in the city of Aspen. We don’t need another youth center — though I remember our old Aspen one fondly — because we have such tremendous and extensive rec center, Red Brick and elementary, middle and high school facilities that our town has put so many resources into developing over the years. What we do need is a community center. The proposal for the Power House of Aspen is really quite remarkable; it’s almost as though it ties together the best parts of many of the other ideas for the space. The John Denver Café would be a phenomenal little place to grab a bite or a tea and sit and watch the river go by. Do we have one restaurant in town with that fantastic view? Now that we know Little Annie’s has closed for good, we have also lost another of the few affordable sit-down restaurants in town, and the John Denver Café at the Power House of Aspen could help fill that void. It would be a phenomenal place to send tourists as well to not only visit an historic part of Aspen but to catch a piece of nature while supporting this nonprofit community center. Space for weddings and events in Aspen that would normally be out of reach for many working families in the valley would suddenly be a possibility, as the community center could have sliding-scale rental rates for space. Imagine the beautiful scene down by the river, as couples, accompanied by their families and friends who might never have been able to afford to get married in Aspen, suddenly are getting married in the most beautiful place in town. People struggling with mental-health issues and therapists or pastoral care providers willing to donate their time could be paired together in private rooms at the Power House to work toward emotional balance and to help prevent the suicides that our community is all too familiar with. The idea of having a bookstore upstairs is phenomenal, not only for generating extra revenue for the nonprofit business but as a hedge against the risk of losing our only town bookstore when Explore Booksellers may lose its home. Meeting places for the self-help and mental-health support groups of our community in a safe, healthy, beautiful, welcoming environment instead of the hospital area where people are presently often forced to go, which increases the emotional toll on them by suggesting they are sick or that there is something wrong with them, would be a great improvement and a boost onto the path of physical and mental wellness. The Power House, a gathering place for Aspen, just seems like a perfect fit. I know this sounds like a commercial, but I have nothing to do with this project other than reading the proposal that a friend sent along to me. Our town needs this. City Council, don’t make any mistake about that.

Andrew Scott


Letter: There are better places for city offices

November 19, 2014 — 

There are better places for city offices

The city of Aspen is looking at the Rio Grande Building to serve as temporary offices for possibly the engineering department or planning department (presently in the old Armory Building), while the city plans a 70,000-square-foot building to house all of its offices in a new civic center. We feel that since this would be only temporary housing, that there are other city locations and sites in town which should be used before eliminating the current community uses in the Rio Grande Building.

The Rio Grande building has been a great community asset used over the years in an ongoing basis by small community nonprofits such as Aspen Community Social Dance, The Hudson Reed Theater Ensemble, Aspen Fringe Festival, Alcoholics Anonymous, Taster’s restaurant, county commissioner meetings, workout sessions and private seminars, as well as private parties. This is the only asset in town for such community use!

Aspen City Council will be deciding whether or not to use the Rio Grande building as temporary offices for the soon-to-be-displaced engineering department/or the community development staff at City Hall presently in the old Armory Building on Galena.

We feel there are many other properties in town that the city owns where uses for temporary offices should be explored before City Council decides to remove the existing uses at the Rio Grande. Such temporary places are (much like Country Day School did when the new school was being built): the parking lot of the Red Brick building or playground of the Yellow Brick building set with temporary trailers for government employees. Better yet, use the unused newly constructed fire department next to Colorado Mountain College at the ABC, which has been standing empty now after taxpayers built it! And better yet, why not use, for the time-being, the old power plant, vacated by the Aspen Art Museum, for city offices and departments? This would save the taxpayers $300,000 to $600,000, according to Neil Siegel’s letter in the Aspen Daily News on Nov. 15.

The Rio Grande building has been used by small nonprofits on a regular basis for over a decade now. This is not under-utilized public space for it is the only space for such public events and small nonprofits. At very least, City Council should not rush into giving up public space within the Rio Grande building without taking it to a public vote — even for temporary usage of government offices.

Junee Kirk

Kent Hudson Reed, The Hudson Reed Theatre Ensemble

David Ledingham, Aspen Fringe Festival

Bert Myrin

Shirley Millard

Dan Mahon

Rich Pearce


Letter: Thanks to veterans

November 19, 2014 — 

Dear Veterans,

Over the Veterans Day weekend, I was just thinking about how lucky I am to be free and have the life I have. I thought why? Why am I not scared of being bombed the next day or why is someone not trying to tear me away from my family. Then, I thought that it is because of the veterans that have served for my country, and everyday I am grateful for your service. On Veterans Day, our teacher reminded us of the special role our veterans play in America and I was inspired to write this letter on behalf of our school. Thank you for your service to our country. Everyone should be thankful to all of you who have fought in any war or have helped our country in any way. We are so grateful that we live in this glorious country and feel safe because of your commitment and love for our nation.


Caitlin DeGraff

Sixth-grade student from Aspen Country Day School

Letter: Attention, Aspen newcomers

November 19, 2014 — 

Are you new to town? Homemade spaghetti and meatballs will be served at St. Mary Catholic Church’s Welcome To Aspen dinner Nov. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A special invitation to all new Aspen Skiing Co. workers! We welcome you and appreciate what you do for the Aspen and Snowmass Village community. What better way to make connections and new friends than over a meal. St. Mary is located on Main Street between Galena and Hunter streets. We look forward to meeting you!

Kim Baillargeon

Aspen Village

Letter: World goodwill, recycling

November 18, 2014 — 

World goodwill and recycling go together like peanut butter and chocolate, like love and commitment, like peas and carrots, like clean air and health, like cold nights and hot chocolate, like Bert and Ernie, like warm sand and bare feet, like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

Tom Mooney


Letter: Red dust isn’t new

November 18, 2014 — 

Mike Kaplan’s reference to the red dust that causes early snowmelt as stated in the Nov. 14 Aspen Times (“Aspen Skiing Co. stays full speed ahead on climate change issues”) is erroneous. Many years before Kaplan arrived in Aspen and the Crown family purchased Aspen Sking Co., the red dust came at various times of the year, depending on which direction the wind was blowing. I remember 1965 as being a very red year, late into spring. I don’t know if Kaplan had ever heard of Aspen at that time. For him to blame the gas wells and associated ground disturbance for this dust is ludicrous. The gas developers spend a lot of money remediating the effects of dust pollution. Their well platforms are watered several times per day, and their roads are prepared with road base and screened rock.

Kudos to Skico for all of its efforts to remediate its own dust problems, but I feel that more effort on the company’s part on the Little Annie access to Aspen Mountain would benefit the dust problem on Aspen Mountain. Likewise on Snowmass Mountain, where I fail to see any dust mitigation.

And of course, as I have spent countless hours hauling gravel and rock to the gas wells in western Colorado and eastern Utah, I fail to see any red rock that would cause Skico’s loathed red dust near the wells. Perhaps it is hard to distinguish color from the altitude of an airplane. It seems to me that a lot of Utah’s treeless landscape is red sandstone, which is prone to dust.

James A. Wingers


Letter: Let’s pledge our allegiance

November 18, 2014 — 

Years ago, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited in every classroom in every school. Yet today, it is not as widespread. And I find this to be concerning. People believe that it is not necessary or simply impractical, but I believe that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance today in our schools would be very advantageous. The pledge would remind us of our roots and also let us be grateful for what our country has given us.

I am a student at Basalt High School, and until very recently, we didn’t have the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember we had it in elementary school, but we didn’t say it once in middle school. And until just this year, it was not recited in high school, either. Although it is being recited now, it made me realize a problem: that the Pledge of Allegiance is not nearly as widespread as it should be.

People have one major issue with the pledge that keeps it from being in our schools — one little phrase, “under God.” Although that has slight religious connotation, I don’t believe it is that much at all. Certainly not enough to keep it from our schools. People have the right to be concerned over this phrase, especially if an atheist family is sending their child to public schools. Although this is true, the phrase is not as staggering as people make it out to be.

Little-known fact: Students are not required by law to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance; it is completely optional. If a student has such an issue with the pledge, they do not have to stand. Furthermore, the phrase “under God” does not specify a certain God nor imply a much deeper meaning. Not only is the pledge optional, but it does not promote or favor any religion.

Frankly, our nation’s youth deserves the pledge. I don’t know when it became such a controversial idea to be proud of one’s country, but it needs to stop here. It is a good thing to remember where one comes from and the country they call home; the pledge would be a way to do this each and every morning. And if a child is so completely against saying it, they don’t have to. So I ask, what is keeping the pledge from our schools and away from our nation’s youth?

Clayton Montgomery

Basalt High School

Letter: ‘Don’t try to re-do Aspen’

November 17, 2014 — 

The area near the river in Basalt could be special. It could have a kayak park, a brew pub and cheap lodging like a hostel. Don’t try to redo aspen. Think a funky personality (more like Crested Butte) and lots of messy vitality. Since Willits will get the bulk of the shoppers, Old Town needs to have something different. A riverside park for children to play, dogs to walk and concerts to be held. Don’t think “build” — think “create.” This area can never be reclaimed once developed.

Denise Handrich

Old Snowmass

Letter: Turning the tide of the healthcare industry

November 17, 2014 — 

I continue to be amazed that we have yearly checkups for dreaded diagnosable diseases but no assessment of the basic essential nutrients and components to build the immune system to keep it strong, thus resisting antibiotic-resistant viruses. To find the weakest link in the chain and fortify it nutritionally is a major factor in optimal health. The assessments are available (created by NASA in the 1950s and ’60s, when America was striving to beat the Russians with the first human in space) but rarely used. Is it because to do so would not provide the coins to the coffers of the large pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and major insurance companies? I think that we all know the answer. If anyone can find the solutions for the community of Aspen, it will be Jon Peacock and his inquisitive mind and the expertise of his team. Their results could turn the tide of the health care industry for an improved quality of life and lowered health care costs for the entire nation.

May this be done for the best and highest good of all.

Jan Barton Hamilton

Dietitian and certified nutrition specialist at American College of Nutrition and president and CEO of Nutritional Biomedicine, Aspen

Letter: Thanks to the ladies of the Thrift Shop of Aspen

November 17, 2014 — 

On behalf of the Aspen Hall of Fame Board, we want to thank you for your generous grant. We are a nonprofit organization and your donation helps us to fulfill our mission to recognize and honor those individuals who have had a significant and lasting impact on the Aspen/Snowmass communities. The grant is applied toward producing videos about each inductee that are then made available to the public at the Pitkin County Public Library, Aspen Historical Society and Grassroots TV, thereby adding to the archival video history of our community.

Again, thank you ladies of the Thrift Shop of Aspen for all you do for us and the entire Aspen and Roaring Fork community.

The board of directors, Aspen Hall of Fame

Lorna Petersen, President

Letter: Why I love Casey Owens

November 17, 2014 — 

Imagine how honored I felt when Lt. Col. Dick Merritt asked me to say a few words on behalf of Casey Owens at the 239th Marine birthday ceremony last week.

As terrified as I am of public speaking, I somehow mustered up the courage to share a few thoughts.

After the beautiful Veterans Day ceremony and Rick Carroll’s front-page article about the Marine Corps birthday in The Aspen Times, several people asked me why I didn’t get up and speak, and they were curious as to what I had said at the ceremony the day before.

Plain and simple, I chickened out.

First and foremost, let me give you a little history. Casey joined the Marine Corps shortly following 9/11 — he was very young and very dedicated. Being injured on his second tour on Sept. 20, 2004, squelched his dream of being a career Marine. Keep in mind also that his emotional development was arrested at the young age of 22.

Among other obstacles, Casey took it upon himself to overcome the roadblocks that faced him. However, Casey took every opportunity that came his way to make the best of the precarious situation he was dealt.

Growing up in Houston, never having snow as part of his childhood, is a perfect example of his relentless desire to show the world what he was capable of. Casey was afforded the chance to learn how to ski and was rewarded by being a part of Challenge Aspen. Anyone who had the luxury of skiing with him knows what I’m talking about!

Three and a half years ago, Casey posed the question, “Why do you love me so much?”

I replied, “Is that a rhetorical or ridiculous question?”

Shortly thereafter, I went to my baby-sitting job. After tucking the kids into bed, I thought about his question and asked myself why I love him so much. To me the answer was obvious, and it was imperative that I let him know.

So I took out my iPad and started to type.

I love you because: You make me feel safe / You always watch my back / You put up with me / You listen to my woes / You give me solid advice

I love you because: You confide in me / You are not afraid to cry in front of me

I love you because: You fought for our country and our freedom / You gave me an awareness of the reality of war

I love you because: You are honest / You are loyal / You are faithful / You are so very brave / You are courageous / You are compassionate

I love you because: You are good hang time / You insist I watch movies I never thought I would like / You watch chick flicks with me / You are so good at Wheel of Fortune / You turned me on to music I now appreciate

I love you because: You have the coolest dog

And speaking of the most amazing dog — I was honored to accompany Harold back to America’s VetDogs in New York, where Valerie is retraining him to be reassigned to another very fortunate veteran.

By the way, the relationship between Casey and Harold was the love affair of the century.

In conclusion, I sent Casey the email of why I loved him so much, and when I asked him if I answered his question, Casey said, “Yes.”

Carole Gunther Cottrell


Guest column: Our children deserve better

November 16, 2014 — 

Standardized testing happens for one reason only: Parents allow their children to be excessively tested. If parents, students and teachers refuse to participate, schools will have to replace these expensive tests with meaningful instruction and practical, low-cost, old-fashioned assessments based on essay writing, math skill sheets and oral reading fluency. The protest movement is growing, and your voice needs to be heard.

There are myriad problems with the new Common Core standards across all grade levels K-12. The new standards leapt a full grade level in many cases. A seventh-grade child now has a full year gap in math-instruction expectations. It’s impossible for any child to skip huge chunks of linear math instruction and be expected to succeed in that subject. The school districts knew about this impending train wreck, yet they did nothing to phase these standards in slowly and sensibly. At lower grade levels, some standards aren’t even developmentally appropriate.

The amount of classroom time consumed by testing and test prep is staggering. In the Roaring Fork School District, our children lose a whopping 72 days (almost half a school year) just in physically taking the tests from third to 10th grade. Test prep wastes even more of their precious learning time.

Common Core is hugely expensive, requiring technology upgrades and expensive textbook purchases. Two years ago, the school district threw away the reading curriculum taxpayers had paid hundreds of thousands dollars for — it pitched these good-condition books in the trash because they weren’t “aligned” with the new tests.

The tests are not actionable in a meaningful way. No one gets to see the actual graded tests, so they have no way of knowing what content areas they are deficient in. Imagine how much more valuable our accountability system could be if “tests” were actually no-cost essays that students wrote to demonstrate they could connect the dots of literature, history and science? What if they got low-cost paper math-proficiency worksheets to test their math knowledge? And how about reading tests where children read a passage out loud, one-on-one with a teacher, who can extrapolate the students’ strengths and weaknesses?

Standardized tests cause real emotional harm to children of all ages. This cannot be stressed enough. Children’s love of learning is being purposely extinguished by the very institution that is supposed to ignite that spark. Moms have told me their kids are so stressed about these tests they can’t sleep, they throw up before the tests and they are worried that their teachers will be fired if they don’t perform well. No child should be subjected to this.

So, what can you do about this? It’s time for a little civil disobedience. We can stop this nonsense right here in our local communities and, in turn, inspire other families across the nation to do the same. This week, email your principal, the school superintendent and the school board president (jmaloy@aspenk12.net and skwills@comcast.net for the Aspen School District; dsirko@rfschools.com and dbiggs@vvh.org for the Roaring Fork School District). Tell them you oppose testing and that you do not give permission for your child to be subjected to any standardized tests this school year. (There are numerous tests given throughout the year; this isn’t only happening in the spring — it’s a monthly occurrence). Tell them your child will not be going to the computer lab to spend hours learning how to use the newest testing software. Tell them you want your child to have meaningful, teacher-created assessments that are integrated into regular classroom instruction. Email your teachers, and tell them the same thing. Reassure your teachers that you will stand with them when they refuse to administer the tests (as teachers all across the U.S. are now emboldened to do). Sign up for the free newsletter at www.unitedoptout.com. Send an email to the Colorado Legislature’s Standards and Assessments Task Force at 1202taskforcefeedback@gmail.com.

Our children deserve better. Do your part, and create the change.

Letter: Thanks for a great season

November 16, 2014 — 

Thanks for a great season

We would like to thank the Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224, Blair Elliot and the Aspen Parks Department, Ron Morehead, Keith Bulicz and the Aspen Recreation Department, all of their coaches, Dale Strode (sports editor for The Aspen Times) and anyone else who makes our football program happen.

We had another great season.

Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224 — you rock!

Ron Morehead, thanks again.

Michael and Judd Gurtman


Letter: Proposals are all inferior

November 15, 2014 — 

Proposals are all inferior

The report of the committee evaluating proposals for the old power plant building indicates that all have serious deficiencies and fall well short of the ambitious goal set by council. While there is sure to be a lot of advocacy coming from the proposers, there is no need to rush to judgment given the questions that have been fairly raised by the committee.

Rather than commit now to any long-term sub-standard project (involving a potentially very expensive renovation and subsidies), the City Council should resist the pressure to choose and simply reject all of the proposals. It has reserved to itself the right to seek another direction different from any proposal. The city is better served by council taking its time and re-evaluating a more appropriate future use of the structure.

It may well be that the best and most cost-effective use is to renovate the facility as a new executive office building for council with improved meeting space, thus allowing the present city hall building to be likewise renovated for city departments. That would save the taxpayers at least the cost ($300,000 to 600,000) of a commercial kitchen and could by consolidation save in rents now paid for commercial space.

Neil B. Siegel


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