Letters to the Editor

Letter: Let's not make the same mistake in downtown Basalt

August 27, 2015 — 

Let’s not make the same mistake in downtown Basalt

To the Mayor and City Council of the town of Basalt:

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Letter: Give a public apology

August 27, 2015 — 

Regarding Base2, the first great affordable-lodge project in years:

The drama at the City Council meeting, specifically Bert Myrin’s comments, regarding the Base2 application is confusing to many.

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Letter: Stranger than fiction

August 27, 2015 — 

Stranger than fiction

Clark Bunt moved to the idyllic mountain town of Chicago, Colorado, and bought several properties downtown. Chicago’s City Council wanted a cheap hotel downtown, but land is so expensive that nobody would build it. Bunt couldn’t get approvals to develop his properties unless the council played along. So the city told Bunt to build its cheap hotel and it would give him anything else he wanted.

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Letter: Bring back American hemp

August 27, 2015 — 

Bring back American hemp

I was recently at American Renewable Energy Day and want to thank everyone involved for putting together such an informative and timely energy symposium. The new documentary “Racing Extinction,” from the Oscar-winning director of “The Cove,” was a very effective wake-up call concerning our current animal-extinction crisis. The fact that we’ve managed to wipe out half of the wildlife on this planet in the past 40 years is truly frightening.

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Letter: Don't raise the rent so high

August 27, 2015 — 

We write on behalf of our dogs, Belle Dunton and BoJo Zasacky, who, in the absence of opposable thumbs, are unable to write this letter themselves. However, our letter really is addressed to Sally Hansen. We are responding to the front-page article in The Aspen Times on Aug. 24 titled “Dog days ahead for Aspen groomer,” written by Rick Carroll.

Our dogs are canine clients of Tailwaggers and have been for years. We depend on their regular appointments with Debby Farrell just as humans depend on appointments with their hairdresser. We have been loyal to Debby and she has been kind and gentle with our dogs. They look their best thanks to her canine tonsorial expertise. We and our dogs cannot understand why it is necessary to raise Tailwaggers’ rent to the point that Debby must relocate her business. Small businesses such as Tailwaggers are a critical component of our community.

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Letter: The Basalt dilemma

August 27, 2015 — 

Twenty-five years of planning, and the Basalt Town Council still can’t decide what the town should be when it grows up. The citizenry has spoken many times with a consistent and resounding message: We want downtown to develop into an active and vibrant place, to protect the river corridors, to minimize traffic and to promote downtown business. It’s been a repeating theme through six community planning processes, making it appear the council has a vision or an agenda that is at odds with voters. How is this apparently never-ending dilemma to be resolved?

Here’s a suggestion. Have each council member write (or, even better, draw) their vision for downtown and present it in the public forum. It’s not acceptable for council members to say their vision is based on what the electorate wants because that has already been demonstrated to be a false premise. Also unacceptable are generalities such as “My vision is a balance or economically, environmentally and socially healthy growth.” The vision must be specific, addressing the four primary components of town planning: open space, buildings, circulation and parking.

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Letter: Monk business

August 27, 2015 — 

Tashi delek (Tibetan for “hello”), my friends.

When the 14th Dalai Lama originally sent monks out into the world to preserve and share the Tibetan Buddhist culture with us all, he sent Kyabye Zong Rinpoche and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in 1977. Our locally and globally beloved John Denver was fortunate enough and appropriately in tune to welcome them to our magical Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen, its residents and its visitors have supported tours and the monks ever since. We were the first to provide them with a cellphone, which made the tours incredibly easier to organize and provided a wonderful resource to serve the public.

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Letter: Thanks for the beautiful musical journey

August 27, 2015 — 

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to Robert Spano, Alan Fletcher, the sponsors, and the whole Aspen Music Family for an extraordinarily beautiful musical journey this past season. I have lived in Aspen and visited the Music Festival since 1969. Some of you may remember that in the old tent, one had to find a seat where you did not need an umbrella. On the lawn, rain or shine, were always the same 10 or 15 serious music lovers. No caviar, champagne or New York Times in those days. I rode my horse to the tent and was fortunate to hear Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman play bluegrass before the sensitive ear and smile of Dorothy DeLay in her wheelchair at the back of the tent. There were also awesome performances by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Victor Borge and so many others.

I was young and living in Aspen, with the festival right in front of my nose, yet there were too many other things to choose from. Now, older and a little wiser, living in Basalt, I gladly endanger my life on that 30-minute drive to see world-class conductors, hear musicians and enjoy outstanding concerts. I forced myself to attend more or less every major performance this season, especially those on weeknights. The Aspen Music School, its teachers, its students and its guest conductors all make the Aspen experience something special and unique in the competitive world of classical music, and the school is probably the main reason the alumni are loyal and continue to fit us into their busy schedules. But it is also the genius of Asadour Santourian — his programming, selecting and bringing to Aspen an array of extraordinary, internationally renowned soloists — and also the young, the gifted, the creative musicians with their unbridled enthusiasm for their instruments, young thoroughbreds ready to be wild! This makes the Aspen festival what it is and what others try to copy.

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Letter: Grow pot without being a criminal

August 27, 2015 — 

This is an open letter to all of the Roaring Fork Valley residents who are exercising their constitutional rights under Amendment 64 and are about to harvest (within the next few weeks) this year’s local homegrown marijuana crop. In the interests of full disclosure, last year I also exercised my constitutional rights, and from seed to harvest (with expert help), I harvested six cannabis plants for personal consumption.

Therefore, after reading in The Aspen Times of the Glenwood Springs City Council’s latest setback strategy for retail marijuana establishments (“Council gives final OK to new pot business rules,” Aug. 22), as an economic developer it became evident their policy is unaware of the potential homegrown supply-and-demand impact upon the dollar volume of Glenwood Springs tax collecting from the retail and medical cannabis market over the next several weeks.

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Letter: Nobody fooled by McConnell's words

August 25, 2015 — 

Commenting upon Mitch McConnell’s presentation at the Aspen Institute on Aug 12: As the descendant of a pioneer mining family from this area, who has been fortunate enough to do a lot of foreign travel, I feel my opinion is equally as valid as any newcomer’s!

If McConnell can name one foreign country that does not believe the reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq was about oil, and not freedom and democracy, then he will be standing on terra firma when expressing his foreign-policy views. Considering the magnitude of the resulting disaster in the Middle East, we are extremely lucky a much larger war was not ignited!

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Letter: Thumbs down to the city during the USA Pro Challenge

August 25, 2015 — 

Did anybody in the city ever read the Americans With Disabilities Act? It states that no handicapped parking may be blocked by special events. You blocked almost every single handicapped parking space, except for two by the gondola, in Aspen for this race. Don’t you realize under federal law that this is not allowed and carries very serious fines and charges to the city, let alone lawsuits from the disabled? You even blocked off the four handicapped spots next to the Catholic church with leaking portable bathrooms blocking each spot. How disgraceful and disrespectful.

And Aspen only has 35 percent of the handicapped parking that is required by the ADA for this city. And none except for two in the city have the correct parking width for the handicapped parking (must be 8 feet wide for standing and 12 feet wide for handicapped van spots). You even blocked off one handicapped parking spot on restaurant row for the darn rent-a-bike program.

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Letter: Promoting Aspen

August 25, 2015 — 

Promoting Aspen

I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on the USA Pro Challenge. What I find interesting are the resources the city puts behind it to “promote Aspen.” I get it. As members of a city advisory board associated with recreation (the Aspen Recreation Center Advisory Board), we on this committee have long suggested that recreation facilities in Aspen are not like those in other communities because recreation is also Aspen’s business. So when we improve recreational facilities for ourselves, we also improve our business assets — win-win.

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Letter: What's the point?

August 25, 2015 — 

In defense of Lisa Markalunas’ letter Tuesday titled “Expansion not supported by all” (The Aspen Times, Aug. 25), prior to any further pedestrian discussion of doors, walls and windows, it must be asked: “What is the actual, underlying purpose of the church building itself?”

“In the beginning,” the Rev. John Hilton announced that “Aspen is secular and wealthy,” and his proposed program intends to present a Christian spirituality as an antidote.

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Letter: Cheating by the cheat sheet

August 25, 2015 — 

Please explain to me why different standards exist in the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority policy and what is explained to you in the office via its cheat sheet.

Each year, numerous employee-housing owners are sent an affidavit to confirm that both owners are working a minimum of 1,500 hours per year in Pitkin County and reside at least nine months of the year in their residence. It’s as easy as going to the bank and having it sign the form — done! Yet when I actively call the Housing Authority to say my neighbors are completely falsifying records, it has other answers.

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Letter: Exposure is priceless

August 25, 2015 — 

In reference to Bill Dinsmoor’s comments in Monday’s “Pro Challenge hurts sales, according to business owners” (The Aspen Times), while it may cause some issues for a few people, the USA Pro Challenge does give Aspen great exposure to millions nationally and internationally, to the extent we could not afford to purchase. You could always use that downtime to clean up the exterior of your building.

David Kerr

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Letter: Expansion not supported by all

August 24, 2015 — 

All members of the community and St. Mary parish who value our historic St. Mary church, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, please be advised that the proposed expansion plans will receive their initial review by the city of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission in a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday in City Council Chambers on the lower level of City Hall. I encourage everyone to attend and voice their opinion and thoughts on the proposed plans. There will be significant implications for the courthouse view plane. The proposed expansion plans are dramatic, significant and inappropriate for such a historic cornerstone of the Aspen community. Despite propaganda to the contrary, these expansion plans are not supported by many longtime members of the St. Mary parish, many of whom have been in the parish for generations.

Trying to get a look at the elevations of the proposal has been difficult, but I encourage you to go to the city’s website, locate the calendar for the HPC hearing on Wednesday and select St. Mary for online copies of the plans and representations as submitted and a copy of the city’s staff review memo. While it is my understanding that a 4-foot height reduction of the 21-foot height has been put forward, I do not believe this is sufficient to preserve the western second-story elevations of the historic church with the first floor at just 12 feet and the proposed stair tower at 25 feet. I believe the alley and west elevations are particularly enlightening as to the proposed impacts on the historic church structure.

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Letter: Prosperity ahead

August 24, 2015 — 

If all kicks in by late 2016 or 2017, then the major construction projects will begin to roll out in assembly line fashion like Rolls-Royce automobiles.

We have the new Aspen municipal government complex, the new Pitkin County government building and renovation, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport redevelopment and the new St. Mary Catholic Church addition. These four building projects’ convergent timing will guarantee at least a solid seven years of labor and professional job prosperity along with their employing firms. This forecast still holds if our national economy comes tumbling down because of the five- to 10-year estimated construction range these combined projects will come under.

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Letter: Support the skiers

August 24, 2015 — 

This friday night, the Aspen Skiers kick off its football season with the first home game of the season at Aspen High School with a scrimmage against Cortez at 7 p.m. Please come pack the stands and enjoy a hot dog and other concessions. Prices are $5 for adults, $4 for students and $3 for senior citizens.

Good luck and go Skiers. Hope to see everyone there.

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Letter: Less work for Israel

August 24, 2015 — 

As we all know, Israel is strongly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. But here is food for thought: The “deal” reduces Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges to 6,000. The benefit to Israel is that it has one-third of the centrifuges to destroy. Good for it!

Richard C. Goodwin

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Letter: Council can make history

August 24, 2015 — 

Dear Aspen City Council members,

Whoever thought that a transferable development right could make history?

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Letter: Lecture on service for young adults

August 23, 2015 — 

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Laura Lauder will speak at the Woody Creek Community Center at CPS Lectures #96: “A Year of National Service for All Americans Ages 18-28: The Franklin Project of the Aspen Institute.” She will share her thoughts about a bold, new transformative and long overdue idea: A voluntary year of national service for every young American between the ages of 18 and 28. The Franklin Project envisions a future in which a paid year of full-time national service in an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation or education is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity and a civic rite of passage. The initiative aims to have 1 million young Americans each year complete a civilian service year by 2023.

While the benefits to the communities being serviced are obvious, imagine how profoundly a service year will benefit the young providers. Working in a community, often very diverse from the ones they know, could well alleviate economic, racial and political divides. A year of service also will prove to be transformative and will garner young Americans invaluable experience, communication skills, realistic expectations and the opportunity to discover both their talent and passion, making them better and more conscious Americans.

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Letter: Patience needed for Basalt development

August 23, 2015 — 

On Friday morning, I toured the Pan and Fork site with the Basalt Town Council, the mayor, Town Manager Mike Scanlon and Susan Phillips. An overwhelming feeling of sadness hit me as they showed me where the building will go. I find it hard to believe that some of these political people really think a massive 75,000-square-foot building will change Basalt in a good way. How will a wall of buildings blocking the river bring vitality?

What about the fact that we are trading the diversity we had in Basalt (with the trailer park owners) for a bunch of condos that only rich folks can afford? It is appalling to have displaced the Hispanic population in exchange for a gentrified Basalt. This should be a crime.

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Letter: We share many of the same concerns

August 22, 2015 — 

This is a follow-up to The Aspen Times’ Aug. 11 article “Aspen Brewery, Oklahoma Flats neighbors in private talks.” Full disclosure, Theatre Aspen was part of the Red Brick’s proposal for a community performance space. But as a current city tenant in the park, we share the neighborhood’s concerns about the venture that was approved by the council. We are grateful that we were able to get an update from the city about the preparation of the lease and the requirements for approval that are on the table. However, we have not been afforded the same opportunity by the prospective tenant(s) regarding the concerns we have about a brewery in the park during our busy summer season. We share many of the same concerns put forth by Bill Budinger on behalf of the Oklahoma Flats neighbors: increased traffic, parking and noise, especially during our nightly performances.

“Frankly, we would like to see a nice nonprofit, community-oriented, community service,” Budinger said in The Aspen Times on Aug. 11. We agree.

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Letter: Consider Lowe Enterprises' record

August 22, 2015 — 

The redevelopment of the Pan and Fork site gives Basalt the chance to rejuvenate downtown while protecting access to the river. Lowe Enterprises has proposed a hotel and condos at the site.

Residents and council members should consider Lowe Enterprises’ record of failed developments and contentious labor disputes, including the following:

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Letter: Moles in City Hall?

August 22, 2015 — 

I’m not saying developers have moles in City Hall, but if they did, would they look any different from this City Council and this city attorney?

Like moles, City Council opposed the city charter amendment (Referendum 1) passed by the voters in May to reign in the council’s favors to developers. Then, like a mole, the city attorney gave bad legal advice to justify ignoring the amendment. Then, like moles, the council bulled ahead, approving the variances for Base2 without obeying the amended charter. And, just like moles, City Council forced residents to gather signatures to put the Base2 variances to a public vote.

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When does no design trump good design?

August 21, 2015 — 

After sharing a delightful lunch at the Riverside Grill overlooking the Frying Pan River, my guest from Denver and I walked over to the corner of Midland and Two Rivers. I tried to describe what had been intended for this property over the past 19 years of planning and how it had become the center of a divisive fight between those of us who have championed moving our town in the direction of renewed vitality and those who fear that any attempt to develop a portion of the small remaining parcel of property might obscure the vision of Basalt forever. By noon, the temperature had reached about 84 degrees and everyone in the town had sought refuge somewhere in the shade. I gazed down at the few saplings that were soon to be planted and thought about the other riverfront parks in Colorado that I had visited and what it might take to come even close to matching them or, as has been suggested, becoming “the finest public riverfront park in the U.S.” As previously mentioned, the communities of Golden, Salida, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Durango, to mention a few, have found a way to frame their riverfronts with commercial and residential, bringing visitors and residents together to enjoy their river overlooks. In addition, it is to their good fortune that the mature natural landscape, an important and critical part of the picture, represents many decades of growth — maybe a century — providing shelter from the sun and heat that bakes our open spaces each summer. Think about seeking refuge from the heat at our Crown Mountain Park.

As we all hope that this park will become a meeting place for us all and for the occasional festival that we may host, it’s important to be clear about what this space is and what it is not and what it might take just to make it a desirable gathering space during our summers. Until the sun goes down late this afternoon, no one will be out there for very long — if at all.

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Letter: We can have a car-free town

August 21, 2015 — 

Once a year I am extremely happy to live in a town without cars, and it is when the USA Pro Challenge visits Aspen. How pleasant was the downtown core Wednesday when people could walk and bike without the fear of being run down by cars? Folks could actually hear one another while they ate in all our wonderful outdoor restaurants. People could enjoy the sounds of nature without hearing vehicles nonstop. Not to mention what a great opportunity to bike up the pass without the fear of being run off the road. It was idyllic and made me realize that a car-free downtown is a possibility.

On Tuesday, I saw the lines of idling cars trying to get out of town, about 95 percent of which contained just one person. On Wednesday, miraculously, there were fewer cars! Some people might say that businesses had to close down. I did not notice any closed businesses in the downtown core, but I did see a lot of people enjoying the outdoor dining and walking and biking down the middle of empty streets. What a joy! Everyone seemed happy and much more at ease. If Paris can shut down for two days for the Tour de France, then certainly Aspen can (sort of) shut down for a day and a half. After all, Paris is a bit larger and has a few more businesses and tourists than our little mountain town.

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Letter: The Clean Power Plan will keep Aspen and Colorado beautiful

August 21, 2015 — 

As a lifelong Colorado resident, it was a constant source of embarrassment to have never visited Aspen, and I feel like more of a native after spending three days here in town during the USA Pro Challenge. Aspen’s reputation as one the most beautiful towns in the state is well deserved. The mountains behind the tents in Paepke Park are a testament to why Colorado hosts this world-class outdoor event. I am thankful that Aspen is doing its part to keep that backdrop beautiful. The town’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and using renewables is an example that the rest of the state could learn from.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 will also keep the best parts of Colorado safe for the future. Power plants are the state’s largest emitters of global warming pollution, and thankfully, our Senator Michael Bennet has been a supporter of this plan. I urge Aspen’s residents to contact Senator Bennet to thank him for his support of the Clean Power Plan. Keeping Aspen beautiful will keep me, and the race, coming back.

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Letter: Get it done right

August 21, 2015 — 

After attending the Basalt Town Council work session Friday morning, I came away with the distinct impression of a council feeling the pressure to just do something in the remaining open space at the former Pan and Fork property but not feeling at all comfortable about what the size and nature of that “something” ought to be. I have a suggestion that would go a long way toward relieving the town of such pressure: Purchase the property outright. By removing all outside partners from the equation, the town will be able to proceed with its review of and recommendations for this parcel at its own pace. Due to its unique location, downtown at the confluence of our two gold-medal trout-fishing rivers, this parcel is worthy of whatever time it takes to arrive at a decision regarding both the type and amount of development that will be approved. Anything less than a thorough, thoughtful review of the long-term impacts of any approvals would be a disservice to both current and future generations of Basaltines. Clearly, this is a case where it is more important to get it done right than it is to get it done.

Greg Shugars

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Letter: Mountainfilm coming to Aspen

August 20, 2015 — 

Mountainfilm coming to Aspen

Telluride Mountainfilm travels all over the world, but there is no place for us quite like Aspen and the stellar Wheeler Opera House. It was there that we first attempted a true multiday festival away from our home, and what we learned from this experience was that the magic that happens at the mother ship in Telluride over Memorial Day weekend can travel and thrive.

I remember that first show in 2009, as I was nervous if people were going to show up, but they did in droves. Aspen audiences were as hungry for high-quality films and compelling conversations as they were in Telluride. Of course, there were other worthy ways to see movies in Aspen, but I think what Mountainfilm has brought that resonates so much with audiences here is the nature of the programming. Of course, you all live in the mountains for a reason, so to watch adventure films (such as this year’s “Meru”) that take you to places unknown is enormously gratifying.

However, what I like about Mountainfilm and our programming here in Aspen is that it is much broader than just adventure documentaries. We have a strong slate of environmental films, as well, with a series of water shorts and then, on Aug. 30, “Unbranded,” which looks closely at what is happening to wild horses in America but is also the story of an epic journey made by four young men across America.

We have found that you also want to know about artists such as the quirky cartoonists of the New Yorker, whom you will meet in “Very Semi-Serious.” Or the musicians you will meet in “Austin to Boston” and “No Cameras Allowed,” not to mention the remarkably talented Ugandans from “Imba Means Sing.”

I also have found over the six years we have been doing this show that while Aspen may be a small town, it has a global perspective and wants to understand the world better, so I hope you all turn out for a film that I actually directed (I know, shameless plug) called “The Diplomat.” It’s about my father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who ended the Bosnian War and died while working for President Barack Obama as he tried to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Please come to the Wheeler Opera House next weekend for one of these compelling films, or even get a pass for the whole festival. I am confident that whatever your interests, you will find something that not only will entertain you but maybe even will change your worldview.

David Holbrooke

Director, Mountainfilm

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