Hope keeps communities alive | AspenTimes.com

Hope keeps communities alive

Dear Editor:A soon-to-be Aspen resident in affordable housing at Burlingame is trying to scare us with unfounded claims that 236 units at Burlingame will force us to build new schools.Personally, I am exhausted after a summer and fall of “Fear Factor” politics. Ms. Kronberg issues an almost daily series of alerts: Danger: children, schools, children, taxes, children, traffic, children, children everywhere.Next thing you know, we’ll have families shopping in Aspen, music at night, people under 50 running for office. Maybe the next movie about Aspen will look like “South Park” or the “The Brady Bunch,” all those under-50 people ruining the neighborhood with their toys and noise and sports.Silly me, I always thought the point of community was to educate and provide for the next generation. Not withstanding Ms. Kronberg’s homeland-style-security warnings, the simple facts are these:Enrollment in the Aspen school district remains well below the levels of 30 years ago.And all the housing built in the last two decades has barely replaced the housing lost to gentrification and second-home conversion.In the six years ending in 2003, in-district enrollment grew by 26 students even though more than 200 units of housing came on line during those six years. A majority of these units were single-family homes at North 40, Five Trees and Pitkin Iron, presumably the units most likely to propagate the little guys that can bring this town to its knees.Ms. Kronberg’s fear of families is not a healthy one. Housing 236 families here instead of in Silt will not ruin the community, even if some of them have babies and educate their children here. As it is now, our school system imports more than 300 out-of-district students to make ends meet and utilize excess capacity. The reality is that Aspen continues to lose its under-50 residents and middle-class workers. Total in-district enrollment in the Aspen district was 1,500 in 1975. It fell to 942 by 1981 and was 1,097 in the 2003-04 year, an average increase of seven students per year for the last 22 years.The average age of our residents and voters is growing at a rate matched only by the price of real estate. Is it any wonder that there has not been a full-time live music venue for more than a year in a town that brags about its nightlife? Build all the downtown fire pits you want, not many 50-somethings are going out at 11 p.m. to hang on the mall.Hope – not scare tactics, deception and fear of children – is what keeps communities alive. One difference between Aspen and our many sterile, theme-park rivals is that we have the heart to offer workers and their families a chance to become real members of the community. Another is that we have the brains to reject “Fear Factor” campaigns.Mick IrelandAspen