Government isn’t responsible for growth
September 14, 2007
Mr. Stone’s bizarre premise (“Not historic, just cruddy,” Sept. 13) ” that government growth controls are responsible for Aspen property appreciation ” is reminiscent of the story of the Amazon basin Indian who regards the heavens and concludes that a great dragon belches smoke and causes the sun to weep tears of rain each afternoon. The Indian sees the clouds (smoke); he hears the “dragon” (thunder), and he’s worked out a theory that fits observable facts.
And so it is with Mr. Stone and his fellow theoreticians at The Aspen Times: They don’t think America is great because of her industry, her risk-takers, her investors, entrepreneurs and builders. They think America is great because of her government.
Growth in Aspen is limited ” not by City Council ” but by geography and geology. We have these bumps in the landscape that compress and limit our buildable land: “mountains”. Limited land, coupled with great national affluence and doubling of America’s population, has resulted in enormous property appreciation.
It’s not about City Council pulling the rabbit of prosperity out of its hat (cue “oohs and aahhs”); it’s about an economic law that’s far more basic and powerful ” supply and demand.
To hand all the laurels to government ” while completely overlooking the enormous creativity, resources and faith that private citizens and developers (boo! hiss!) have invested in Aspen over the decades ” is willfully wrongheaded and ignorant.
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People in the ’60s and ’70s purchased “cruddy” properties, and put up with their drafts, leaks and discomfort ” not because they admired the town’s slate of government officers ” but because of the promise of Aspen, herself.
Every town needs a city council, I guess, just as every animal needs a brain, an alimentary canal, and an anus to function and survive. Let’s give the Aspen City Council its due, but let’s not confuse which end of the animal’s anatomy the council truly represents.
Early home-owning pioneers placed significant economic bets on this town. They went out on a limb, and so did the founders of Skico and other commercial entities, including the past and current owners of the town’s hospitality infrastructure.
Nothing happens unless people take financial risks and have optimism about their futures. This implies enormous trust in the fairness and orderliness of civic process. There’s nothing fair about a capricious government that changes the rules of the game after bets have been placed.
When we buy a home and take out a mortgage, we expect protection from government ” not mercurial rulings from on high. It’s simply wrong to pass, overnight, laws that reduce property values and options. We should feel secure in the continuity and fidelity of the process.
Without faith in the process, property values decline, and Aspen becomes, once again, a town filled with “cruddy” buildings, stoners, and “stupidly low” prices.
Far from being an example of something laudatory, as Mr. Stone implies, Ordinance 30 is an example of what can go wrong when local government begins to believe that it’s “the rainmaker” responsible for growth, instead of the protector of the citizens it serves.