Be heard at March 12 City Council meeting | AspenTimes.com
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Be heard at March 12 City Council meeting

Dear Editor:

What’s your definition of democracy?

The Aspen City Council will decide on Monday whether to reverse a relatively minor land-use decision that facilitates its plans for hydro power on Castle and Maroon creeks or allow an immediate election so the voters of Aspen can determine the fate of this wildly overbudget, environmentally questionable project.

Given the history and controversy surrounding this project, it’s time to refer this project back to the voters now – before even more money is spent.

The project now moving forward was not contemplated in 2007 when a non-specific ballot item in support of green energy that never mentioned dewatering more than three miles of Castle Creek down to its minimal streamflow was approved by a scant 11 percent of all possible Aspen voters.

The transparency of the process has been highly questionable with respect to the need for a $3 million-plus penstock, the accounting and allocation of costs, analysis of financial benefits and the city’s ownership of the necessary water rights.

The scientific basis for the city’s determination of environmental impacts has been found lacking at best by numerous independent studies.

Given the rapidly developing innovations in energy technology, is 19th-century technology the best answer to our very pressing 21st-century problems? No analysis of alternative uses of our community’s financial commitment was ever professionally undertaken. The city has attempted to reassure us that over a very long period of time, this will prove to be a financially viable project. Well, when it comes to energy needs and climate change, frankly we don’t have a long period of time.

The question has been reframed from “Would you endorse the city spending approximately $6 million to develop green energy?” back in 2007 to today’s question: “Would you spend at least twice that amount for a project that many experts believe would have significant negative impacts on Castle and Maroon creeks for a questionable long-term benefit that has no local environmental benefit?” The offset to any locally produced hydro power is the reduction in the amount of power we would purchase from a coal-fired plant in Nebraska. We could use the funds this community committed to simply buy more green power produced elsewhere and reduce the amount of power we buy from that coal-fired facility.

The current referendum was signed by significantly more people who now have an understanding of the project than the number of people that originally supported a nonspecific green project.

If City Council doesn’t consider it appropriate to listen to its community, then we’d like to know how it defines democracy.

The City Council has never found itself in more lawsuits with the community it represents than it does today. The land-use code seems to be only a starting point for out-of-control negotiations. The city is challenging the upper court’s rulings on a lack of transparency in our voting process.

We have no question that our councilmen are well intentioned and aren’t simply trying to cover up mistakes and to-be-expected project changes. Perhaps their enthusiasm has gotten the better of them. But at the end of the day, transparency and democracy must be our No. 1 concern and a vote our next step.

So what’s your definition of democracy?

On Monday, the City Council will make a decision either to respond to the referendum and allow the populace to vote on the current hydro plans or to make the decision itself to continue on with its plans for hydro power on Castle and Maroon creeks. Please attend that meeting, participate in the democratic process, and let your City Council know your preference. It’s our money, the city councilmen are our employees, and these are our rivers, our wildlife and our responsibility.

Michael Lipkin and Jody Guralnick

Aspen


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