Help generate a community vision |

Help generate a community vision

Dear Editor:

The biggest public meetings of the year are scheduled for Tuesday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 31, 2009.

City and county staff hope to attract a total of 1,000 people to generate a Community Vision for the Aspen Area. The vision will guide the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County Commissioners for the next 10 years.

The gatherings at the St. Regis Ballroom and Aspen High School will feature instant voting using wireless keypads, a method that was first used in Aspen in July of 2006, when more than 400 people attended two meetings on the subject of “Core Beliefs.”

An overwhelming 89 percent of those who used the “clicker” technology at those meetings preferred the keypads as a method of expressing their opinions over traditional public hearings. When the clickers were used for these Core Beliefs sessions, it was typical to hear a buzz in the room as people reacted to the results on the big screen. It’s truly a collective community experience.

“Clickers” have been used to gain consensus on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and to identify strategies to rebuild New Orleans.

The process of establishing a Community Vision for the Aspen Area is rooted in the idea of direct democracy ” that the widest possible community should generate a vision for the future rather than professional staff and “experts.” The questions posed at these large public meetings come from the goals and visions expressed at a series of 11 small group meetings held last fall, when 174 people voiced their thoughts on the future of the Aspen area. They also come from sessions with almost 40 local students from Karen Green’s high school civics classes.

Results from the keypad voting will be considered along with results from a statistically accurate, randomly-mailed survey to generate a draft Community Vision for the Aspen Area. A total of 534 people have mailed in the lengthy survey, which is now being tabulated.

The city council and county commissioners ” and both city and county planning and zoning commissions ” will review and consider the Community Vision for adoption in March and April. That’s another chance for the public to offer their comments and concerns.

Once a Community Vision is adopted, our city and county governments will implement the visions with more detailed initiatives. That could mean amending land use codes, changing work programs, adding or subtracting programs and initiatives ” or new budgetary priorities. The public will get to weigh in on those too.

Time is precious, and spare time is rare. But if 1,000 people invest a few hours now, it will result in a coherent vision that could save hours of exhausting debate later.

No homework is required to attend the upcoming community meetings, and the questions will be crafted so that people can respond to them quickly and instinctively. But for those who want to study up, go to, where there is plenty of information to look through.

The meetings are from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the St. Regis, and from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Aspen High School. Food will be provided. Please RSVP and reserve your clicker for one of these meetings (one only!) at

Chris Bendon,

city of Aspen community development director

and Cindy Houben,

Pitkin County community development director

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