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Aspen Times Roses and Thorns

Thorns to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for expanding the territory for hunting mountain lions in the Aspen area.

We agree with the letter-writers who have objected to this measure on the basis that it’s shortsighted and sacrifices wildlife in the name of human encroachment.

Hunting can serve a variety of purposes — whether it’s putting food on the table or maintaining a balance of wildlife — but this decision gives us some serious pause. We hope the CPW reconsiders this call, and shifts the focus on educating locals and visitors about these majestic creatures.

Roses to Scott Gilbert for sacrificing so much time after retirement from a career in advertising at age 50 to run Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork. Gilbert first volunteered for the board 15 years ago, then became the chapter’s president six months later. He has built the chapter into one known for innovation. He retired this week from the presidency, though he will continue in fundraising and public relations. He handed the reins to Gail Schwartz, who deserves roses for not sitting back at age 70 and enjoying retirement.

Thorns to county commissioners and Open Space and Trails board members who are overreacting to so-called “overcrowding” along the Stillwater portion of the North Star Nature Preserve. The whining from a few people who are speeding through Independence Pass and suddenly realize they should slow down because of people in the vicinity has led to officials declaring they should “put a blanket on it” and essentially disallow anyone on the river who doesn’t … take a commercial shuttle or have a three-bike relay system, or something? The concern over “less driving” and a “party atmosphere” reeks of grandstanding and busybody declarations rather than actual dissection of problems — which are just made up in the first place.

Thorns to the Johnson couple and their ski-selling scam that victimized not only Aspen Skiing Co., but its retail employees who were denied company bonuses because of the $6 million racket that persisted for years.

At least Derek Johnson, the former city councilman and his wife, Kerri, are no longer turning a fortune on eBay at the expense of others. But it’s a sad, unfortunate story all around. Prison and jail time are certainly warranted, but the social scars from their actions will last for a good while.

Roses to the U.S. Forest Service for taking steps with partners to try to stabilize elk populations in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Forest Service will extend the seasonal closure of the Government Trail by one week to secure prime elk calving grounds on lower Burnt Mountain. We would like to see Aspen Skiing Co. enhance the effort by not starting its summer activities at Elk Camp until July 1. After all, it would be ironic if human activity led to the demise of elk in the area of Elk Camp.

Aspen Times editorial: Negotiating with man facing eviction undermines Aspen housing authority’s integrity

Whether Lee Mulcahy gets what he wishes for in his fight to keep his home at Burlingame Ranch, he already has won his personal battle to make it political.

So concerned about Mulcahy’s veiled threats — he’s publicly used “Remember the Alamo” on multiple occasions — a certain group of elected officials and bureaucrats have been secretly enticing Mulcahy and his mother with financial perks to peacefully exit their property.

We can only gather that Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board chair John Ward, County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, County Manager Jon Peacock and City Manager Sara Ott have meant well having these discussions. We are mystified, however, over why they would take such steps that financially benefit Mulcahy, alienate APCHA’s executive team and infuriate taxpayers and those who follow the housing rules.

These secret negotiations have been happening in the aftermath of more than four years of litigation to the tune of $145,000 in legal fees for the agency in which the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has won at every turn to force Mulcahy to sell his deed-restricted home at Burlingame. For all intents and purposes, the case is closed, and a qualified, working family would add to the Aspen community by living in a house that has no place for scofflaws and the entitled.

Now, the process should be academic: The court has said Mulcahy and his mother must leave the home because the younger Mulcahy has failed to prove he has worked enough hours in Pitkin County to quality for affordable housing.

Yet Mulcahy is a man of highly suggestive rhetoric, which is clearly a concern and not to be taken lightly in this day and age.

For years, Mulcahy has steadily fed the public with vendetta-loaded remarks about what he calls a corrupt APCHA and equally corrupt city and county governments that pander to the liberal set. His comments are troubling, yet that should not mean he receives special treatment because he’s a wild card who spouts off about the Wild West, Tea Party politics and Second Amendment rights.

We hope Mulcahy is just pushing buttons and does not intend to cause harm to anyone in our community. We trust law enforcement to manage this situation just like they would any other threat that we can’t just pay our way out of.

If the police need to be on standby during the Mulcahy eviction process, then so be it. If they need to have a strategic plan to handle this situation, we support that too, despite the potentially ugly and unfortunate scene of a man and his mother being evicted from their home.

But as recent developments have shown, political forces are clearly at play, evidenced by those board members who overstepped their authority by going around APCHA’s top officials to start bargaining with Mulcahy, while the county manager has been a willing participant.

This deal coming to fruition will establish a precedent that any resident who loses a court case with APCHA can finagle more money in the name of a peaceful exit.

It will erode APCHA’s credibility that had been sorely in need of fixing until Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky began focusing on compliance and enforcement.

And even without the deal and with a peaceful exit by the Mulcahy family, the recent ex-parte discussions already have compromised APCHA’s integrity — which had been unfairly questioned and inaccurately criticized by some during this entire process.

Kosdrosky and APCHA could become the big losers in this entire episode, which once again brings into question how it is managed when board members and city and county managers meddle with the organization’s affairs behind its director’s back.

We urge government officials to stop negotiating with Mulcahy immediately and hold him accountable to the program’s rules just like everyone else has to. It’s time for Mulcahy to move on and for a qualifying family to move in.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Roses and Thorns

Either a batch of roses or a crown of thorns will be going to the collective crowd in town for the X Games this weekend.

As the winter-sports spotlight shines on Buttermilk Ski Area, we’ll see the usual bombardment of youth in Aspen the weekend before the Super Bowl. Their presence alone, while not even for a week, makes Aspen look less like an exclusive retirement community and more like a hopping ski town. And that’s pretty cool.

Yet it can get a bit thorny when some of them — not all, mind you — are not minding themselves, getting sloppy drunk with fake IDs. That usually means a number of minor-in-possession citations handed out to them, giving our local justice system a robust docket of offenders in the ensuing weeks. There’s also their seemingly willful ignorance of litter laws, but nothing shocking there.

Youthful discretions can be part of life. Just take it easy out there and respect all that Aspen has to offer — we’d like to see you return (with a clean local record) and get some Aspen Times roses.

A rose goes to Local’s Corner and its owners, the Haisfields, for keeping intact the things we hold dear about small towns: Air. Free air. The air compressor at the Conoco gas station on Main Street went bye-bye once the place closed to make way for redevelopment. But fortunately Local’s Corner has put a free air hose in the alley behind the convenience store. The air is free. Use it!

A thorn goes to construction workers, Pitkin County officials and law enforcement officials for ignoring the no-parking in a fire lane. For unknown reasons, the crews working on the renovation of the courthouse feel above the law and often line their trucks along the north side of the alley in Galena Plaza. Right across from sheriff’s deputy vehicles and on top of the roof of a parking garage, no less. It’s a tight spot in there and we’d hate to see an emergency in the nearby library or jail that would prevent emergency vehicles from getting access. Time to park it somewhere else, guys.

A rose for all the 60-plus people who raised nearly $3,000 to help Michael Costello replace his gear after his backpack was stolen. Costello lives outdoors, and is familiar to many as the man with the long, gray beard who can be spotted hanging out in the downtown area. Thanks to the community’s generosity, Costello was able to restock on all the gear needed to survive the winter — and he even got a haircut.

Aspen Editorial Board: What Aspen councilman said is his right, it’s how and where that matter

When Skippy Mesirow campaigned for Aspen City Council in 2019, he declared City Hall broken, with residents experiencing “complete frustration with City Council getting anything done and constantly changing their minds.”

His campaign was branded around the image of a dynamic juggernaut in Aspen politics, an innovative Millennial hyper-qualified to shake up City Council with his contemporary overstock of ideas and ideals.

Some of Aspen’s old guard also rallied behind the 32-year-old Mesirow during his campaign — hotel developer John Sarpa, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his predecessor, Bob Braudis, gave Mesirow ringing endorsements.

It all added up to a second-place finish for Mesirow in March’s four-person contest for City Council, good enough for him to claim one of its two open seats.

Now as a councilman, what he says matters and can be seen as speaking on behalf of our fair city. We certainly want to know what he’s thinking, but we encourage him to think a bit more about what he says and how he says it.

Mesirow has only been in office since June. It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect the newcomer to satisfy his political pledges in just over seven months on the job.

Yet as City Hall takes significant steps to address some institutional shortcomings — it hired a communications director and brought on a new city manager since Mesirow took office — Mesirow seems to be working in the opposite direction.

We realize that we all live in glass houses and we will all make mistakes on the job. But as an elected public official, words — and actions — matter and will always fall under a more powerful microscope.

Mesirow’s flagrant lack of respect for his elected position, as well as his Aspen constituents, was on display in a video he recorded and posted on Instagram over the holidays.

While chronicling a drive through downtown Aspen during one of its busiest nights of the year, Mesirow haughitly declared that “I think it’s time we have the conversation about it’s too many people in town at peak season and they are not the right people and even if we have to take a little bit of a haircut on our income, which I certainly would, it’s worth it for quality of life and the character of our town.”

Mesirow is at liberty to say what he chooses on whatever medium he pleases. It’s not anyone’s place to gag him in a free society.

Yet Mesirow, whose online rant came fresh off his return to town from a weeklong “digital cleanse” in a foreign country, should know better than to grandstand about taking an income loss while also saying “they are not the right people.” When pressed for clarification by an Aspen Times reporter, he declined to elaborate. In an age of “words matter,” though, he owes his constituents more.

Mesirow did apologize when one of our reporters asked him about his comments. After he was pelted with criticism on social media following a Times story about the episode, Mesirow said though he regretted the video’s content, his remarks started a conversation about Aspen’s carrying capacity during the high seasons.

In later social media posts, Mesirow thanked the community for helping him learn from his mistakes. It was all about him, but at least he was consistent.

There are other instances of Mesirow walking the line on social media.

As the City Council’s representative on the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board, last year Mesirow likened an APCHA policy change to “redlining,” a term that goes back to the Jim Crow era of the 20th century when such financial services as insurance or loans were denied to minorities, in particular black Americans.

Mesirow’s tone-deaf critique also was made on social media; he later apologized for the analogy.

Seven months into his term and two public apologies later, it’s time for Mesirow to do what he was elected to do: build on his experience as a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, be a wind of positive City Hall change, and be the voice of the people. We hope he’s learned why words matter, and that he’ll do better starting now.

The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, and reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Roses and Thorns (Dec. 27, 2019)

A thorn and a rose go to the city of Aspen for its construction practices. First, a thorn for the city’s recent late-night concrete pour as part of its 37,500-square-foot office building on Rio Grande Place. It was a full-on operation at 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday with big trucks, big machinery and big men with head lamps. The city has a law that construction must cease at 5:30 p.m. so people can have a break from the noise. The project manager said the concrete plant was down and it delayed everything and that the city would give any developer a pass if they were in the same situation. Why even have a rule if it’s OK to be broken? We will acknowledge the city, however, with a rose when it comes to bringing some peace and quiet to town during the holidays. The city’s rule of no construction in the commercial core from Dec. 25 until Jan. 1 is a nice respite from jack hammers and concrete trucks.

Roses to Pitkin County commissioners, in particular Kelly McNicholas Kury, for agreeing this week to give its employees paid 12-week leaves to tend to their newborns.

It’s one thing for local officeholders to make declarations about climate change or immigration, but quite another when their action positively affects county employees and sets an example for other employers in the Aspen area.

Roses to The Collective. Everything about The Collective gets a rose, especially the food.

Roses to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District and their partners for looking into limiting the number of buses available to haul leaf-peepers to the Maroon Bells on prime weekend in late September and early October. The easy answer to the logistical problem would be to simply add more buses. We’re glad to see the local entities are looking into limits and a possible reservation system. Industrial tourism shouldn’t be accommodated at every opportunity.

Thorns to those drivers who still don’t get it that Highway 82 through Snowmass Canyon is largely going to resemble an ice rink for the next few months, no matter what time of the day it is.

There already have been more accidents and mishaps than we need, and holiday break is not over yet.

Aspen Times Editorial: Crown Mountain Park board proposal for PR policy is bad idea

The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District’s board of directors walked themselves back from voting to approve a “PR Policy” that is balanced on a slippery slope at their Dec. 11 meeting.

After objections by The Aspen Times were raised about the proposed policy, the board voted to table the matter until a future meeting when its consulting attorney could be present.

The public relations policy would designate the district’s executive director, Becky Wagner, as the public information officer.

As proposed, all media inquires would be funneled to the executive director for the “official” district opinion.

The policy states that if the elected board members decide to speak to the media, they must provide a “disclaimer” that they are providing personal opinions and not the official district position.

In correspondence with The Aspen Times about the policy, Wagner said the board members “don’t have to talk to the media. They are volunteers with other jobs. This (policy) gives the media the person with all the information to provide district info and official positions to the media. It does not at all say that individual board members can’t talk to the media, just clarifies that in doing so they are speaking personally, not as the district official.”

We believe the policy would create a chilling effect on board members (who are elected, not volunteers) speaking their minds on issues, especially those with a minority view. It would potentially remove the people elected by voters from accountability.

We foresee this policy being trotted out by nervous board members whenever the district tackles a controversial issue. The standard response could become, “I’m sorry, you will have to talk to executive director Becky Wagner about that issue.”

In a similar vein, the Aspen School District board adheres to policy governance, in which it permits only the board president to speak on behalf of the other four elected officials when outside of a meeting. We saw this come to light during the discussion of former Superintendent John Maloy’s performance and job status in the fall of 2018.

As the debate went on, the then-board president declined our requests for in-person interviews with her, Maloy and another board member, and she also suggested Maloy not speak to The Aspen Times.

We feel voters were not given the full opinions of those who vote for and against re-upping Maloy’s contract, which was ultimately not renewed.

As we stated in an editorial in January about the school board, we understand why it doesn’t want to politicize issues, but the public has a right to know how each individual board member falls on issues, other than what is said in board meetings.

The people who voted for those school board members should have an expectation to know where they stand on particular issues.

One voice is not who the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District constituents elected to represent them.

Voters need to know the justification of why board members vote the way they do. It’s fundamental, critical oversight.

It was clear from Wagner’s comments at the Dec. 11 meeting that the PR policy was a reaction to recent media coverage that some Crown Mountain officials viewed as unfavorable. Wagner said at the board meeting the district should designate a point person to speak to reporters rather than “whoever they contact.”

Board of directors member Jennifer Riffle was criticized by fellow board members for giving her opinion for an article.

“We don’t need what happened in the articles,” Wagner said at the Dec. 11 meeting. “Those articles could have been avoided with proper information. I think a PR policy will help with that.”

When pressed by Riffle on how the PR policy would have affected the articles, Wagner said, “It just streamlines everything. It gives a group response rather than an individual.”

Riffle said she wasn’t comfortable with the policy because she said it appears to her to violate right to free speech.

Board chairwoman Bonnie Scott countered she was completely in support of designating Wagner as the public information officer and “answering for us.”

The board members don’t need a PR person. This policy gives the appearance that the district is spending more time figuring out how to avoid public scrutiny than doing the work they were elected or hired to do.

Attempting to censor board members who don’t speak the company line is seems like an attempt to be less transparent. Transparency is what citizens should expect from their government.

By all means, the district should appoint a main person of contact. But don’t use the policy as a way to pump out a company line. Urge the board members to speak rather than clam up. It gives the appearance that they have something to hide, which causes more curiosity from the public.

The voters deserve to hear all the board members’ views. It is a given that what they say is their opinion; we don’t need a policy’s disclaimer to tell us that.

When the issue arises again in January, we hope the board members will reject it.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Aspen Times Editorial: Voters in Pitkin, Eagle counties should continue trend of tobacco taxes

When the Aspen City Council first upped the age to purchase tobacco products and then local voters agreed to add a stiff tax to those products, we applauded those moves.

One or both of those changes continue to be approved by municipalities (including Basalt) and counties across the state, and we encourage the same for Pitkin County and Eagle County voters Tuesday.

Pitkin County’s Question 1A would mirror the tax in Aspen, starting with $3.20 tax per pack of smokes (which is what it will be in Aspen in 2020) and 40% on all other tobacco products, including vaping devices and chewing tobacco. It is estimated it will bring in as much as $700,000 annually. The county tax, like Aspen’s, would increase 10 cents a year until it hits $4 per pack.

The Eagle County Ballot Issue 1A starts with the tax at $4 a pack and the 40% hike on other products. It is seeking to gain up to $4.5 million each year. Garfield County commissioners decided not to ask for a tax this year because of administrative costs associated with collecting it.

As we stated before Aspen’s 2017 tobacco tax vote, our goal in supporting these taxes against the deadly products is to address the teen vaping crisis as well as motivate smokers to quit. We believe the higher cost can be a catalyst for current smokers to finally make that jump to quit.

Having the tax in places across the Roaring Fork Valley will help keep people from finding the products cheaper with a short drive, thus supporting both efforts.

Also on Tuesday, Aspen voters will decide what to do with the extra funds collected from the first year of its higher tax. The city estimated the collection at $325,000 a year, but in 2018 the new tax brought in $436,600. We encourage voters say “yes” to Question 2A and let the city keep the extra $111,600 in taxes. We challenge the city to move quickly to use the money to find ways to better the educational efforts in our schools.

One of the more significant allocations from the city will be the partial funding of a full-time mental health clinician in the school district.

As the election nears, we’re taking this time to remind voters of our endorsements we’ve published previously on the local questions:

SCHOOL BOARD

The community is fortunate to have a choice among six well-meaning, well-intentioned candidates who have a deep interest in the district, with either children enrolled now or graduates of the district in recent years. For the two open seats (due to term limits), The Aspen Times endorses Jonathan Nickell and Katy Frisch to help the district move forward in a positive and effective way.

The Times attended all three candidate forums last month, and members of our editorial board have had sit-down discussions with each of the six candidates in the past few weeks.

We have found that each candidate brings fresh ideas to improve on what is in place. They see the challenges ahead, from finding the right leader to being more transparent and open to the community. The three board members not up for re-election have made strides in some areas, and the addition of Nickell and Frisch will help further those efforts.

ASPEN VALLEY HOSPITAL

We support AVH’s proposition to extend the mill levy 10 years instead of the traditional five, largely because of uncertainties in the health care industry in the coming years.

Because voters have thrown their support behind the hospital five times by renewing the mill levy, extending it a decade when most of AVH’s obligation bond debt will be retired is good timing.

When the mill levy expires in 2030 after voters approve Ballot Question 6A this election, all of AVH’s debt will retired. At that point, the AVH board and administration have the opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of the hospital and how much mill levy support will be necessary in the future.

BASALT MILL LEVY RATE

If voters don’t approve establishing the levy at 5.957 mills, it must drop to the lowest level since TABOR was approved. That would reduce the tax rate to the 2.562 mill levy set in 2009. Basalt would be forced to cut an estimated $700,000 from its annual budget.

Basalt voters should approve the 5.957 mill levy. First, it’s needed for essential services. Basalt’s town government would be down to bare bones without the higher mill levy.

Second, the current administration has demonstrated fiscal responsibility. Finance director Christy Hamrick and Town Manager Ryan Mahoney discovered the TABOR violations and brought them to the attention of the council. As a result, Basalt is issuing nearly $2 million in property tax refunds to current taxpayers for overcollections that occurred in the past four years.

Third, approving the 5.957 mills will not increase property taxes above last year’s level.

And finally, as the ballot question promises, Basalt cannot raise property taxes in the future without voter approval — and this time everyone will be paying attention.

For more on our endorsements, go to aspentimes.com/editorials.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Aspen Times endorsement: Katy Frisch and Jonathan Nickell for Aspen School District Board of Education

For more than a year, the Aspen School District has taken its lumps.

While the teachers and school administrators worked to keep our children focused, the top leadership struggled on the campus and in the community.

There was the no-confidence vote in the superintendent whose contract was not renewed in October 2018, the revelation that the district’s human resources director had a criminal conviction and was disbarred as a lawyer before moving to Colorado, and the abrupt resignation of the district’s finance director after 11 years. Not to mention a heavy undertone of faculty distrust in the administration and concerns over reading scores at the elementary level. It seemed so dire that a third party was brought in to do an in-depth study on the district’s climate and culture.

This brings us to the Board of Education election, which the results will be known Nov. 5. Ballots have been mailed out and should have arrived in voters’ mailboxes by now.

Who fills the two open seats will play a vital role in selecting the district’s next superintendent, working on the district’s strategic plan, and wrestling with an abundance of issues ranging from teacher compensation to mental health at the schools.

The community is fortunate to have a choice among six well-meaning, well-intentioned candidates who have a deep interest in the district, with either children enrolled now or graduates of the district in recent years. For the two open seats (due to term limits), The Aspen Times endorses Jonathan Nickell and Katy Frisch to help the district move forward in a positive and effective way.

The Times attended all three candidate forums this month, and members of our editorial board have had sit-down discussions with each of the six candidates in the past two weeks.

We have found that each candidate brings fresh ideas to improve on what is in place. They see the challenges ahead, from finding the right leader to being more transparent and open to the community. The three board members not up for re-election have made strides in some areas, and the addition of Nickell and Frisch will help further those efforts.

At one forum, Nickell suggested floating a bond issue to voters for funding to build or acquire housing for teachers. We are not sure whether that’s possible, but municipal bonds can be used for capital projects such as building schools and other public buildings, so why not look at it for building teacher housing?

Just being bold enough to suggest that major of a step shows Nickell is open to looking at all options.

The Aspen Times endorsed Nickell in 2017 when there were three open seats. He finished behind current board members Dwayne Romero, Susan Marolt and Susie Zimet.

His commitment is demonstrated through his work on the District Accountability Committee and his role with the teachers’ association in their salary negotiations. Nickell, the CFO of an international company, has a strong command of the numbers, from finances to standardized-test scores. We also appreciate his level-headed approach to divisive issues — his calm yet firm demeanor would be an asset to the board.

Frisch brings with her a no-nonsense approach to school matters and a background that more than qualifies her for the BOE. Her local board experience includes her current role on the executive committee of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, of which she once was president, vice president and treasurer. She also sat on the board of the pre-K Wildwood School in Aspen and is a current member of Aspen Public Radio’s board of directors.

Frisch runs her family’s manufacturing business and understands finances, demonstrated by her 10 years on the district’s Financial Advisory Board. Worth noting, however, is that board met just once in the past two years.

Frisch explained to the Times editorial board that behind the scenes, she brought her concerns about the board’s near-dormancy to the district’s elected leaders but they did not gain any traction. The situation was indicative of other issues at the district that senior management wasn’t addressing, Frisch said.

That’s part of the reason Frisch is running for the board — to root out problems that have frustrated members of volunteer organizations such as the District Accountability Committee and the Financial Advisory Board.

As members of those committees, both Frisch and Nickell experienced ongoing difficulties accessing basic information, like finances, from the district. As future BOE members, the two will be able to relate with district stakeholders who have experienced those same challenges, including getting the board’s attention on matters of importance.

We’re confident that Nickell and Frisch at the table will be most beneficial in making one of the board’s biggest decisions in decades. Finding the right superintendent in the next year is critical. Nickell and Frisch’s business background — both have MBAs — make them ideal for these two board openings.

If you haven’t mailed in your ballot, make sure to do that sooner than later. Remember, Election Day is Nov. 5, and vote Katy Frisch and Jonathan Nickell for the Aspen School District Board of Education.

The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, and reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Aspen Times Editorial: Keep the lifeline connected to AVH: vote yes on 6A

Voters within Aspen Valley Hospital’s special taxing district are being asked this fall to extend a 1.5 mill levy that will ensure the continual operation of this vital community asset.

By voting yes, voters will be continuing a property tax that was established in 1995 to help support the hospital’s operations. Residents have renewed it every five years since.

The mill levy generates roughly $4.6 million each year and represents about 4% of AVH’s overall budget. It’s an important 4% because it’s essentially the hospital’s operating margin.

As Dave Ressler, AVH’s executive director, has explained, the hospital’s operations — patient revenue, minus expenses — resulted in a loss of $4.6 million already this year. That’s before property taxes and philanthropy.

The mill levy helps maintain AVH’s operating margins, but also allows the hospital to invest in equipment and capital needs.

Without the mill levy revenue, the first hit would be AVH’s ability to invest in technologies and equipment, which the hospital depends on to stay modern and state of the art.

We don’t want to see AVH having to re-evaluate and possibly eliminating what’s called “negative margin services” — specialty services that the community relies on having access to through AVH’s physicians and those who are on contract.

We support AVH’s proposition to extend the mill levy 10 years instead of the traditional five, largely because of uncertainties in the health care industry in the coming years.

AVH faces significant reimbursement pressure because of escalating costs and premiums becoming affordable.

The second significant uncertainty is consumers with high deductibles can’t afford the increasing health care costs and are unable to pay their bills.

We hope to see reforms on the federal and state levels that address those uncertainties.

But in the meantime, AVH is doing what it can locally by better managing the health of the local population and total costs of health care through the Valley Health Alliance, which is addressing chronic conditions, social determinates and lifestyle to get us all healthier.

Because voters have thrown their support behind the hospital five times by renewing the mill levy, extending it a decade when most of AVH’s obligation bond debt will be retired is good timing.

Voters passed the bonds in 2010 to help fund AVH’s facilities expansion to the tune of $50 million. Another $60 million is being raised philanthropically.

The general obligation bonds will be paid by 2030, and nearly all of AVH’s other long-term debt, estimated at around $16 million, also will be repaid by then.

When the mill levy expires in 2030 after voters approve ballot question 6A this election, all of AVH’s debt will retired. At that point, the AVH board and administration have the opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of the hospital and how much mill levy support will be necessary in the future.

With the debt completely retired, it will be a clean slate for AVH. That gives them the flexibility to determine how to fund ongoing capital and facilities needs, and meet the challenges of whatever the future brings.

The tax is set to expire in December 2020. By extending it for another 10 years, it sends a clear message that the Aspen and Pitkin County community supports its rural hospital.

It’s important to note that the tax revenue doesn’t go to AVH’s ongoing expansion, which is estimated to cost $60 million; $13 million of which still needs to be raised through private donations.

The 1.5 mill levy means a property owner pays roughly $12 annually on a property with an assessed value of $100,000, and so on.

It’s a small price to pay to know that we have a hospital that operates in the black, and is proactive in improving the health of locals and is providing the necessary services for this unique population.

The loss of the mill levy revenue would result in the significant curtailment of services and capital investments in order to preserve adequate cash reserves.

Vote yes on ballot question 6A. We believe your money is in good hands.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Roses and Thorns: Goodbye to another local joint, and good riddance to you manic SUV drivers

A rose to Annette and Fino Docimo, who gave locals free slices of homemade pizza to celebrate the last day of their Mountain Bake Shop on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall. The longtime locals had to close up shop because the building they were in is scheduled to be torn down. The loss of Annette’s, coming on the heels of Taster’s closing Aug. 31, is a blow to the affordable lunch scene in Aspen, and we’re hoping the couple can find a space they can afford in the near future. But as the owners of Taster’s can attest, there’s a fat chance of that happening here in Fat City.

A big, fat, pokey thorn to you out-of-town, rental-plated angry SUV drivers attempting to get to the airport in a huge hurry (lest it takes more than 6.2 minutes to get through security) who careen out of the roundabout into the far right lane to show all of us law-abiding locals whose boss and then you realize it’s a bus lane, so you irritatedly have to cram back into line having gained one or two positions in a line that isn’t going to go any faster no matter how much East Coast juju you put on it. Relax, it’s Aspen.

A shout out from all the couch potatoes who care about local democracy: A rose goes to Grassroots TV, one of the valley’s oldest nonprofits, for continuing to provide public access to government and community meetings on a shoestring budget. Their presence allows hundreds, if not thousands of people, to watch what our elected officials are doing without having to physically be at the meetings.

Only a mildly injurious thorn to the city officials who wanted to make improvements to the safe crossing for pedestrians on main street between the Aspen Police Department and Original Curve. There are now so many flashing crossing signs that drivers risk episodic epilepsy and lapses in sanity trying to figure out which set of flashing lights indicates a pedestrian in which crosswalk. We don’t know how to properly thorn the people who think that the button for the crosswalks work for East/West traffic the same as North/South, so cars are stopped for six blocks on Main Street while pedestrians cross a completely different street.

A rose goes to the gentleman outside of the Art Base in Basalt who helped our circulation director unload a surprisingly heavy newspaper rack from the back of his truck last week. Good looking out for us, and thanks for keeping Jake’s back from getting jacked.

Have a rose or a thorn? Send them to letters@aspentimes.com.