Aspen pounds its liberal chest |

Aspen pounds its liberal chest

Often we in the newspaper business poke around for trends in Aspen and the midvalley. We seek out events and episodes that illustrate a direction in which this town is headed.

The trends aren’t always the most uplifting, whether it’s a drop in sales tax revenues or a spike in foreclosures.

But most notably, recently we have seen Aspen’s leaders take positions that some outsiders might be deem haughty or elitist but we find praiseworthy.

Three episodes come to mind:

• On Feb. 2, the Aspen affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced that it would defy the national Komen policy to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. In doing so, the Aspen branch said it would continue to provide financial support for the Planned Parenthood in Glenwood Springs, in direct contrast with the national organization’s new policy.

The day after the Aspen affiliate’s announcement, Komen’s headquarters said it was reversing its stance and would continue to support Planned Parenthood, which provides a vast array of services to women, among them abortions at many of its clinics.

“The Colorado affiliates of Komen sent a strong signal to their national foundation by echoing the sentiment of many Americans, which is to keep politics out of women’s health,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

• In October, the Aspen City Council passed an initiative that prohibits Aspen’s two grocery stores, City Market and Clark’s Market, from giving customers plastic bags, which many consider environmentally unfriendly. It encourages the use of reusable bags, but if a customer doesn’t have one, the grocery stores will sell a paper bag for a 20-cent fee on each. The law takes effect Tuesday.

We won’t recycle all of the arguments by the naysayers of the ban, some of which hold limited merit.

The bag ban is merely a small step toward creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment. By no means is it a panacea for the world’s problems, but it reflects a mindset and awareness of one of the most critical issues of our lifetimes – the health of our environment. We applaud our city leaders for having the foresight and guts to take on a position that won’t be popular with everybody.

• And earlier this week, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, by an 11-1 vote, decided it was time to part ways with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ACRA’s chief reason for dropping out was driven by the national chamber’s attitude on climate change and other perceived issues, such as a swing by the group’s leadership to the far right of the political spectrum, lobbying efforts on behalf of certain candidates and the recent influence of Big Oil on an organization that historically has worked on behalf of small businesses.

“Aspen and our major governmental bodies and major employers all see things so very differently (from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce),” ACRA Chairman Warren Klug said in a statement. “I believe it is time for ACRA to withdraw from the U.S. chamber. While I applaud U.S. chamber efforts on U.S. travel policy, immigration reform and other issues, its position on environmental policy is too opposed to our community values to ignore.

“It is time for us to say goodbye.”

These are three powerful statements – yet hardly zany or even quasi-radical – that show that despite all of the change in Aspen, we remain a community that uses a common-sense approach toward implementing liberal values we consider sacred, outside perception be damned.

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