Be careful what you ask for
Take a look at today’s news in The Aspen Times. Look at the headlines. Despite our best efforts to vary the mix of local news, almost every local story today involves growth and development. In most cases, the story involves someone crying urgently that “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!”Some are calling for the Aspen City Council to stop ruinous growth; others are calling for the Pitkin County commissioners to stop a ruinous (and restrictive) revision of the land-use code. There are people arguing over a proposed party-pool project above Hallam Lake, and others arguing about the “Blue Vic” redevelopment at Bleeker and Monarch.Down in Basalt, they’ve just elected three new council members who share a slow-growth bent.The Roaring Fork Valley has returned to its favorite obsession: arguing about growth. It’s worth wondering at this point what we’ll have when the political dust settles. Which is another way of saying “Be careful what you ask for.”Remember a few years ago, after Sept. 11, when Aspen was up in arms about its empty downtown? The Double Diamond had closed, and a consultant had stated that Aspen was “ossified,” frozen in the past. People were worried that Aspen had lost too many of its hotel beds. Would the town recover from the economic doldrums? The City Council approved measures to liven up downtown and encourage redevelopment – and guess what? That’s exactly what we’re seeing today. Aspenites got what they said they wanted and – surprise! – it came with a few side effects, like traffic, construction noise, demolitions, big changes and oversized “fire hearths” on the mall.The political pendulum has a way of swinging in extreme ways, and politicians can anger the public even when they try sincerely to listen and respond to the public will.Let’s remember, as Aspen comes to grips with the current tide of development, that in many respects we’re getting what we asked for. And it is possible that, even as this tide certainly carries threats to Aspen’s character, it may also include opportunities.Before Aspen divides into warring camps of “no-growthers” and “greedheads” using full-page newspaper ads to call each other names, let’s take a breath. The political gridlock that has characterized the Entrance to Aspen debate has led to literal traffic gridlock, which fouls the air and plagues this town. Aspen doesn’t need more of that civic dysfunction.
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Contact with two presumed positive COVID-19 cases has led to 65 students and staff at Basalt Elementary School transitioning to remote instruction.