Aspen’s democratic feudalism | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen’s democratic feudalism

Dear Editor: Each year passing, Aspen seems to be inching closer to what is best described as democratic feudalism, where at the top of the food chain you have an increasing number of very affluent, socially encapsulated gentry, and at the bottom, an increasing number of bidding serfs.This almost imperceptible social change seems to be a national phenomenon, and Aspen, as usual, seems to be ahead of the curve. What makes Aspen unique among vacation destination towns is the long-established resident middle class who own free-market property. They are slowly but surely being displaced by the nonvoting second-home owner.Moreover, county and city governments are increasingly staffed by nonresidents who make grinding commutes or by residents living in subsidized housing. A lopsided social economic mix, as this generally follows the precepts of human behavior – and Aspen is no exception – where a perniciousness undercurrent has taken root and seems to be present in one form or another during most interactions between the perceived haves and the have-nots. This material envy in Aspen seems to be relative and is seen at all social levels but most prevalent with those near the bottom of Aspen’s long social economic ladder, namely those who own RO housing or that rent.Undeniably, Aspen is more about the display of privilege from wealth and power and less about that elusive “Rocky Mountain high.” As each season approaches an end, the serfs of Aspen seem more emboldened, voicing publicly their discontent to sucking the toes of the transient gentry. This seasonal bitch from the longtime working local is fast approaching a continuous bitch, which after years of silent fulmination surfaces as burps of hostility. This pious and pernicious mindset of the majority perceivably taints to some degree the decision-making processes and polices of our governments, businesses, press and schools.Tried and true “tyranny of the majority,” or election by largess, Aspen’s second-home owner and long time resident home owner alike have no effective government representation. Ironically, the feudalistic hierarchy between the classes has strengthened over time directly from the very legislation designed to mitigate it. The convoluted wordy development codes, excessive fees, controlling legislation, subjective boards and the protracted time to go through the process are in part a direct consequence of Aspen’s pernicious undercurrent and the city’s obsession to control. The prerequisites to go through the city’s development process are patience, tolerance of corruption and the absurd and most importantly, very deep pockets. Aspen’s governments seem indifferent or willfully ignorant to the financial damage these added development process costs have impacted the middle class businessman, but seem proactive to large scale, big money corporate development with lucrative quid pro quo negotiations.Aspen’s governmental boards, “if-I-can’t-do-it, you-can’t-do-it” mentality and their vocal disdain to any local turning a profit has historically been deleterious. These added bureaucratic costs above the national norm are as exclusionary and just as an effective social filter as excessive membership fees are at a country club. The real effect has been, out with the old small-scale owner operator, in with the corporations.Scott McDonaldAspen


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