Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The Lodge at Aspen Mountain and Lift One Lodge projects (once separate developments now joined at the hip through painful and needless political surgery known as COWOP) will be decided by a public vote. Trust me, this is a certainty. Has there been a formal announcement about the election? Well, sort of.

The sort-of announcement was actually somewhat of a proclamation last week. It didn’t come from the mayor. It didn’t come from any council person. It wasn’t a slip of the lip of the clerk. The bean spilling was done by the most unlikely sower. One of the developers, John Sarpa, loaded his cheeks up with garbanzos and spit them into a big pile on the floor of City Council chambers. They sprouted in the B.S.

In case you missed it, Sarpa was quoted as saying, “One always hopes to avoid the uncertainty of a public vote.” Hmm, you are thinking, that hardly sounds like an endorsement on his part to place both projects under the scrutiny of Aspen voters. But, intention isn’t reality. What Sarpa wants to happen is not going to happen. Think a little harder about those words and you will soon understand why the fate of these projects cannot now be determined by anybody except the registered voters of Aspen.

First of all, the “uncertainty” of the results from a public election that Sarpa appears to be unduly nervous about is not an uncertainty at all. Rumor on the street, which is harder to wash away than road apples after the Fourth of July parade, has it that the developer’s group did some polling last spring when they were contemplating taking this issue to the public after lukewarm receptions from City Hall on both of their previous applications. According to uninformed sources with uncanny hunches, results indicated that the project would have been crushed had it gone to the voters. So much for uncertainty … and back to City Council … with a new plan, which appears to be substantially the same as the old plan, which leads to a very important, unanswered question: What gives?

Let’s try to put the pieces together. If upon the second, third or even fourth reading of Sarpa’s quote you are not insulted, I would venture to say that you probably can’t read at all. It would be difficult to imagine any other explanation for indifference about his un-American words, whether you like the proposed developments at the base of Aspen Mountain, or not.

In its most straightforward meaning, Sarpa’s statement implies that he does not trust the judgment of Aspen voters as much as that of the representatives that they elected to serve them. Does anybody else see a problem here?

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Sarpa believes he can somehow now sway City Council members to see things his way, no matter how impotent his powers of persuasion have been with them in the past, and despite his own intelligence-gathering operations indicating that the citizens of Aspen aren’t too excited about his project either. How could it be that five elected officials might unexpectedly reverse course and suddenly be swayed to see things differently than a majority of the people who elected them? Think about it.

Time’s up. Be honest now. Wasn’t payola the first thing that crossed your mind after trying to come up with a plausible answer to that question?

OK, so bribery is on the table … er … let me rephrase that: Bribery is a word that has now been bantered about publicly as a possible answer to a hypothetical question as to why elected officials might act against their constituency’s suspected wishes, under the persuasion of an applicant for a massive development project that obviously has lots of money behind it, after said applicant publicly stated that he wanted to avoid the uncertainty of a public vote for the implied certainty of a City Council vote.

Now then, I am not suggesting that bribery is actually in play here. It is only one of many possible explanations for this weird set of circumstances. But, as we all know, wild conjecture is the raw material that worm cans are made from. Anybody got an opener on their jackknife? Mr. Mayor, would you like the first bite? Council members? I didn’t think so. If Sarpa said what we think he said, no elected official can endorse it. The issue has to go to a public vote.

However, in the interest of fairness, all hearsay, speculation and innuendo aside, the one angle that has yet to be considered is that Sarpa may not, in fact, have ever uttered the Eastern Bloc-lettered words that were ascribed to him. Perhaps he was misquoted.

OK. I, for one, am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I will go so far as to assume that he actually embraces principles completely opposite of what was quoted him. I will believe John Sarpa if he comes out and says that he fully endorses a public vote to determine the fate of the massive development projects at the base of Lift 1A.

So, now you see. Either way, dust off the voting booths!

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