August 27, 2002
If you want to learn about local politics in Aspen, you can skip City Hall and head straight to Bagel Bites. That’s where politics is happenin’.
Politicians in this town seem to enjoy bagels more than cops like powdered donuts. I sat at an outside table recently over lunch hour and, to paraphrase Billy Joel, watched “the regular crowd shuffle in.”
Mick Ireland munched on a bagel, Terry Paulson leaned on his bicycle chatting amicably, and my old ski-bum friend James offered his opinions about this and that.
“A concrete tunnel into town,” James ranted. “You gotta be kiddin’!” After a few minutes, Mick, who was casually taking in the conversation, rose to the bait and engaged James in an animated dialogue.
I listened thoughtfully as Mick gave all within earshot an Arnold Toynbee-style history lesson about the “straight shot.” Terry Paulson, like a hound dog trying to grab the scent, turned his head and cocked an ear.
Mick was impressive, demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of the details. However, I wondered how someone who was obviously so well informed and well intentioned could support such a terrible idea.
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It struck me at that point that our county commissioner has been “turning” toward this straight-shot goal so long that he was afflicted with what pilots call “spatial disorientation.”
Every student pilot learns that a continuous slow bank in one direction can lead to total confusion, where you literally can’t tell up from down. Inexorably, this results in the proverbial “graveyard spiral.”
I remain concerned that our best and brightest politicians are flying Aspen straight into the ground.
Mick told us that the state wants to give Aspen $62 million for this project. It struck me as ironic that county commissioners who have complained for years about the perverse effects that big money have had on our city would be sucked into this terrible decision because of the very thing they detest.
On top of that, unless you want to destroy open space, kill vegetation and wildlife, and live with choking construction, dust and mud for the next couple of years, the straight shot will never improve upon our historic S-curves or make you any happier.
Moreover, it is not reassuring to realize that this project will be brought to us by many of the same dedicated politicians who brought us “golf-course housing.” Is anyone out there paying attention?
If we allow the straight shot and concrete tunnel to be built at our entrance, the mistake will sit for decades on Aspen’s stomach like a two-day-old bagel!
Jerald A. Bovino