A matter of survival | AspenTimes.com

A matter of survival

Given that Tony Hershey is elected to represent the citizens of Aspen on the City Council, it was incredulous to see him proclaim recently in print his total disregard for the will of the people by saying that he would not honor “even 10,000 signatures on a petition.”

To whom is he accountable if not the people who elected him?

Councilman Hershey would have us believe that the campaign to save downtown Aspen is a one-man effort, but since I am the person who wrote the petition that he refers to, and since I am the person who collected the first several hundred names, I can assure you that saving the retail core area of downtown Aspen is the will of the people and Hershey appears to be out of touch with the reality and the need of the community to survive.

One does not have to be in Aspen for more than a few hours to see what is happening in the downtown retail area.

My petition reads, “We the following citizens (and visitors) of Aspen need the City Council to take URGENT ACTION to preserve and rebuild the retail business core of downtown Aspen. It is of vital importance that the Council enacts specific zoning that protects retail business on street level to guarantee the economic health and future vitality of Aspen.”

Who is signing my petition? The petition is being warmly embraced not only by merchants and their employees, but people from all walks of life. I attended a businessmen’s luncheon last week and 20 businessmen eagerly signed the petition and wished me good luck, including the former Governor of Colorado.

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Signatures have come from church, from the Aspen Institute Fellows, from the golf course, and from people walking down the street – all of whom spend money in Aspen.

In truth, anyone with common sense embraces the cause to enact zoning to preserve street level for retail shops. Let me point out that without the visitors, Aspen does not receive the much needed sales tax revenue to function.

It is unfortunate that Hershey feels the need to create adversity and try to polarize the community when Barry Gordon has done an admirable job of presenting the rejuvenation of downtown Aspen as an inclusive community effort which concerns everyone.

Hershey needs to be reminded that this is not a “us and them” issue because we are all in this together, and EVERYONE with common sense sees the need for the economic survival of downtown Aspen.

This has nothing to do with Sept. 11, so let’s not kid ourselves. If we do nothing, five years from now we will look back in horror and ask ourselves why we didn’t take the necessary action to ensure that Aspen has a viable downtown retail core that attracts revenue.

As a relative newcomer to Aspen, returning to Colorado after a long absence, what is my interest? Purely that I want this lovely town where I now live to thrive and prosper.

My grandfather crossed the prairie in a covered wagon and settled in Colorado 100 years ago when he was just a boy, my mother and father were born in Colorado, and I graduated from university in Colorado. My family has always taken a stand for what was right, and I am doing that now. I have no ulterior motives.

Many of the independent store managers and owners have told me that they are going to have to close their doors when their leases would ordinarily be renewed because they cannot afford the exorbitant rents that are out of proportion to their income.

If the empty stores become occupied with real estate offices and there is no sales tax revenue generated, the future does not bode well for Aspen’s survival, as no one will come to Aspen to stroll down the street and look at windows with photos of real estate properties for sale.

I implore the City Council to take immediate action to preserve street level for retail space before this deteriorating situation is irreversible, and I ask that we remember that economic survival is in the best interest of everyone, so we are in this together. There is only “us.”

Susan C. O’Neal

Aspen