Fix the council, then the Entrance
October 7, 2010
Both Sheldon Fingerman and Jim Dowley meant well in their criticism of the city of Aspen’s plan to spend $12,000 to survey city voters regarding what should be done about the Entrance to Aspen, but they are right for the wrong reasons.
The idea that Aspen voters don’t care about the entrance is a myth. Somewhere between 55 and 60 percent want to fix the highway in a manner which will eliminate or dramatically reduce the traffic jam. “Fix” in this context means to increase highway capacity by straightening the alignment to pass through the Marolt property and adding two additional lanes that can be used by all of us – not just buses.
The image of Aspen as a bastion of free-spirited libertines is completely outdated, and at some point the local political establishment figured out that you can get a negative polling reaction if you use the word “unrestricted,” as in the phrase “unrestricted four lane,” as one of the survey options. Although I’ve been involved with this issue for nearly 30 years, I still don’t know what an unrestricted four-lane highway is or looks like. No speed limits? In any case, the thought of anything being unrestricted is apparently pretty scary to Aspenites, and that characterization will be the only mention of a highway option that could possibly provide the added capacity needed to solve this pathetically ugly, time-wasting mess.
By now you may be reminded that a survey is only as good as the questions asked and how they are worded, which is the real reason why Sheldon and Jim are right about this being an entirely worthless process. The city will negatively portray the only option which will actually function properly, and list enough other non-functioning mass transit-based ideas to prevent there being a majority in favor of anything. Voila, the Aspen voter can’t make up his or her mind – the confirmation of which is the purpose of the survey.
If it sounds like I’m being too tough on the Aspen political elite, it is worth noting that they hope to get 360 responses to their survey, which will be split between however many options are offered. In contrast, 800 Aspen registered voters signed petitions asking that two specific four-lane highway designs be placed on the ballot, neither of which is ever spoken of by City Hall.
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So, why expect that more weight will be given to some portion of 360 survey respondents than is afforded the signatures of registered voters on an actual petition – which the city is currently arguing, before the Colorado Supreme Court, that the citizens have no right to place on the ballot?
About 25 percent of Aspen voters want to keep the entrance exactly as it is, and they have been represented by a majority of elected officials for the last two decades. The question is not what to do about the entrance – that couldn’t be simpler – the impenetrable mystery is why these officials keep getting elected.