It’s your town; get involved
September 27, 2005
An active, longtime resident of Aspen recently posed this question to The Aspen Times: What can we, as a community, do to better motivate people to be involved with the city government, the schools and all the other forces that make Aspen what it is?She was especially concerned over the lack of interest in city government, which oversees a budget in the neighborhood of $100 million and is reviewing significant redevelopment proposals in the city’s lodging core. The paltry turnout at the recent community meeting with City Council may well indicate flagging interest in local government and the issues it is considering. Similar uninterest has been the order of the day at various pre-election candidate forums in recent years.Maybe Aspenites are done fighting the good fight, except on a few old sticklers like the Entrance to Aspen, which seems to draw widespread interest any time there’s a threat to change anything. But there is a bright spot when it comes to community involvement – 35 miles downvalley in Carbondale. Last week, more than 100 Carbondale residents showed up to participate in a three-hour community visioning meeting, the latest step in the town’s effort to chart an economic road map for its future.An economic road map committee, consisting of Carbondale residents with vastly differing views of what the town should do to build its tax base, spent the better part of the past year considering a variety of issues and solutions. Their work and the broad interest in their proposals shown at last week’s meetings means the town’s future is in the good hands of its citizenry.Past generations of residents and political leadership in Aspen have done much to ensure the town didn’t go the way of Vail and other development-driven resort economies. The affordable housing program makes it possible for all sorts of people to live here, regardless of their personal wealth and income. The environment in the immediate area is largely protected. Historical buildings are protected from the blade.Aspen has a lot going for it, but residents cannot rest on the laurels of the past. Decisions we make today will affect the town for decades to come. The way to make sure this remains a phenomenal place is to get involved, learn what’s going on and let your views be known.Both the city of Aspen and Pitkin County are working on next year’s budget. The school district is seeking more than $50 million for replacement of the middle school and improvements to the elementary school. The Aspen Historical Society is asking voters to approve a relatively small increase in their property taxes to help fund the many programs it offers.Hopefully, the good fight can still be fought here.