Bedlam looms for Aspen Area Community Plan |

Bedlam looms for Aspen Area Community Plan

Dear Editor:

Regarding your Jan. 30 Aspen Times Weekly cover story “The Aspen Area Community Plan, Bible or Bedlam?” my first thought is: What’s the difference?

Christians decided five centuries ago that their most sacred texts were not the sovereign province of high priests. Martin Luther translated the Bible from Latin into German, Gutenberg printed it for the masses, individuals read it and dared to decide themselves what they believed, and the Reformation was on. Our current freedoms of petition, speech, religion, assembly, and even property were first kindled through the birth of this “Priesthood of all Believers,” and it’s been bedlam ever since.

Long a refuge for fiercely individualistic people who dare to decide for themselves of all political, social, and cultural stripes, Aspen is experiencing a kind of reverse Reformation. AACP participation has been encouraged and active. However, some argue the draft plan doesn’t completely or accurately reflect the true results of that participation. Welcome to democracy.

Tabulated with that mystical instrument, “the clicker” – a wireless electronic tether connecting “AspenPitkinites” to their “high priest” equivalents on the City Council and County Commission – community members have on numerous occasions expressed individual sentiments then watched the big screen in wonder as before their eyes, these personal expressions were summarized, sanitized, and homogenized.

Public input at its most expedient. Everyone is heard and no one is heard at the same time; so much for fierce individualism.

Similar to the Bible, the work of scribing original intent into sacred text falls to a small group. A necessary exercise for such a complex guiding document intended to honor the highest power in our grand civic experiment called democracy, the people. This humbling, herculean, and genuinely impossible challenge is only acceptable for framing a plan whose purpose is to guide the further critical progression of detailed regulations designed to actualize the people’s collective vision while treating all fairly. It’s hard work.

But some seek to define the AACP itself as a “regulatory” instrument; a sort of pseudo-metaphysical guide, accessible only to high priests who use it to judge suitability to the larger community interests those hopes, dreams, and property rights of individuals. Zoning ordinances and building codes, time tested legal structures for detailing a community plan’s mutually understood intent through rigorously detailed descriptions wither to the interpretive acumen of the high priests of the moment.

But let’s put responsibility where it belongs.

Not the doing of the scribes, the plan, or even the high priests themselves, abdication of the AACP to the few, if it happens, will be due to the inaction of the many who will either today or someday find their interests out of favor, and will suffer the consequences of their inaction.

Such would be a very un-Aspen like outcome. One thing however is certain. Once the impact is realized, there will be bedlam.

Paul Menter


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