Letter: Threat to the caucus system
September 5, 2016
I read with considerable interest Madeleine Osberger's recent article ("Shades of Brexit in caucus split," Aspen Daily News, Aug. 29) about the proposed busting-up of the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus, a 42-year old association of residents living in the two adjoining valleys. Readers are to be forgiven if they've never heard of the caucus because the group has worked quietly and sometimes under the radar since the early '70s. Nevertheless, if you've ever ridden your bike up past the Deaf Camp, hiked up Capitol Creek or just enjoyed a drive past the monastery, you've witnessed the work of the caucus, mostly in the natural heritage kept in its natural state.
To understand the work of the caucus, it might be simpler to picture the valley today had the caucus never been organized. To begin, you'd likely see the scars of a large logging operation high up Capitol Creek past the monastery, for it was the proposal to heavily log the area from whence the caucus began. The association stopped the large logging operation and continued to hold meetings, swap ideas, choose issues and, most importantly, act.
Had the caucus never been formed, you also might have witnessed a massive ski area built in what is now the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. A developer wanted to string roads and chairlifts up Haystack Mountain, a remote peak deep in elk habitat and a sanctuary to our finest wildlife. The caucus intervened, and today Haystack Mountain is as it should be: critical habitat to wildlife and plants.
Today there is a move by a group of Snowmass Creek residents to split the caucus in two. The move originates from some unhappiness from a recent draft master plan. The Pitkin County Board of Commissioners will hold a meeting on the matter Sept. 14 to decide the fate of the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus and whether it remains one deliberative body or becomes two.
The temptation to separate or leave an association if you don't like how a matter was handled is human and in some cases the best option. We've seen it in matters as serious as the Civil War and in matters as trite as a game of soccer gone wrong. But in my opinion, there are more common elements joining the two valleys, Snowmass and Capitol Creek, than there are dividing them. Forty-two years of history speaks to the ability of residents in both valleys to work things out eventually and move forward.
I encourage the Board of Commissioners to either reject the proposed split or table the issue until it can shape up the home rule charter to avoid the splintering of the entire caucus system. There is no rush to make a decision of this consequence. Making the wrong decision could jeopardize the entire caucus system in Pitkin County, for if a split is so easily endorsed over what many of us consider to be resolvable issues, there's little preventing future disagreements from fragmenting all nine caucuses.
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