Not a witch hunt? | AspenTimes.com

Not a witch hunt?

The local definition of a witch hunt is a newspaper article written with a predetermined end, a reporting of selective facts to substantiate the predetermined end, and vague accusatory headlines with no facts until you get to the back page.

As I spoke with Rick Carroll of the Daily News the other day, he assured me, “This is not a witch hunt.”

Right … thanks for the warning; let me go buy a broom and hire an attorney.

Believe me, I enjoy gossip and our local papers’ periodic witch hunts as much as the next guy (can you imagine finding something to write about locally every day!).

For anyone interested, here are the facts concerning Monday’s Daily News front page “Barbeegate” expose.

1. By privately funding and creating an affordable housing project at Shadow Mountain, I, as developer/builder, was entitled to choose four APCHA-qualified buyers of the units and was required to put three into public lottery.

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2. My project followed every APCHA rule, and my selling of the four units to who I chose did not set a precedent; in fact it’s been done before from sellers as diverse as the city of Aspen to private developers.

In fact, at the Draco project next to the library units were sold to Community Bank to house their employees, which evidently is OK for them to do, yet worthy of the front page if done by me.

3. Over the years I have chosen 22 different buyers for my privately created affordable units not required to go to public lottery. The buyers were as diverse as newspaper reporters, teachers, doctors, my own employees, and other friends and acquaintances I had the ability to help. In fact, at my latest project I was able to provide a disabled unit to a friend who needed it – Denis Murray – which is my right and privilege under our rules.

4. The Music Associates asked for the rule change making RO sales to a company possible 18 months ago. Since I am always pioneering new affordable housing possibilities, offered my unit to them, the hospital, the ski club (all declined), and when approached by Alpine Bank decided to lead the way in creating another possibility in our AH program.

To say I sold units for “influence” is based on nothing but the pure imagination of the reporter. To print a headline stating such without one fact to substantiate his claim is the worst kind of front page unprofessionalism.

One of our community goals is to get our creative private housing industry to produce affordable housing units in town in lieu of government “projects.” To reach that goal we’ve allowed developers to choose who gets to own a percentage of the housing they pay for privately, with the concept being if someone manages to survive our permit process and actually build some affordable housing, they should be entitled to house themselves and choose who lives in a few of the other units.

Creative folks in housing ask me why I would submit myself to the brain damage involved in creating one privately funded affordable bedroom, much less the 97 I’ve finished.

I answer that if one follows all the rules, carefully budgets each penny, has the patience of a saint to get through the government process, then it is possible to build decent affordable housing that adds to the community instead of trophy homes, and help provide truly livable affordable housing for our friends and neighbors.

Tim “Barbeegate” Semrau

Aspen City Council

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