August 1, 2002
There have been some recent admonitions that letters to the editor should be kept brief, in apparent capitulation to the sound-bite, short-attention-span age in which we live.
Unfortunately, in the politically charged atmosphere in which we function, any detail which is omitted for brevity becomes the basis for an attack designed to divert attention from the central point being discussed.
Case in point: Cliff Weiss thinks there is some political value in mentioning that the 1984 vote on the Entrance to Aspen, ” … was a countywide vote. But the entrance is a city issue.” Had I been willing to commit the space, I could have dealt with this point in my original letter in a couple of ways.
1. The city staffer who worked with our committee actually went to the trouble to break out the 1984 vote results in city precincts. By so doing, he was able to demonstrate that support for a four-lane between Basalt and Aspen (80 percent in the county) plummeted to a mere 78 percent among city voters.
2. This is not just a city issue. Highway 82 serves United States citizens seeking to access their national forest. The highway serves Colorado residents in a similar manner, and requires their tax dollars to study, fix, expand and maintain.
The highway serves every Pitkin County resident who needs to access their county seat, and every citizen of the valley who works or has business to conduct in Aspen. This is not a city issue, but the State of Colorado has erred mightily in enhancing that impression by acceding too much power to the City Council and city voters.
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Cliff perpetuates the fraud that subsequent votes since the decisive election of 1990 indicate a shift in voter sentiment regarding the use of the Marolt property. This totally ignores several facts, and most significant among them is that there shouldn’t have been any subsequent votes.
We shouldn’t be having this conversation. The money was in place, the state was prepared to complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and issue a Record of Decision (ROD), and the voters approved the transfer of the property. We should have been driving on the completed Entrance to Aspen for about the last six years.
The vote was so decisive in 1990 that it was generally assumed the issue was finally settled. Consequently, during the election of new City Council members the following year, little, if any, attention was given to the Entrance question.
A new council majority thus took power without ever mentioning their intentions, and the prior election was stolen in an inexcusable desecration of the democratic process.
The boldest of the miscreants was not willing to argue that the choice of alignments could be questioned, which is why subsequent elections have focused on lane configuration questions: i.e., two lanes plus rail, two lanes plus bus lanes, etc.
The finality of the alignment decision is immortalized in the Record of Decision issued by the State of Colorado, and by their agreement (contract) with the city to trade for the necessary property.
Having said all of that, I am willing to work with Cliff Weiss and the rest of the no-build contingent to get the question I believe they really want on the ballot. There are conditions.
1. Stop whining about reintroducing the bus lane question even though it was defeated just last year. Let’s revisit all legitimate options on the same ballot.
2. Accept that there are only three legitimate choices other than keeping the existing highway “as is.” In other words, no more confusing the issue with impossible solutions.
3. Join me in persuading City Council that no entrance question should go on the November ballot; this issue should be decided in May so that voters can also choose representatives who pledge to abide by the results. Let’s not have a repeat of 1990-91.
4. Choose one of the versions of your question below, or provide a revision to your liking, and get your group, including the “Friends of Marolt,” to agree to drop all lawsuits if the council agrees to put your question on the May ballot.
5. Accept that I’m not going to bother to articulate those other three choices unless you agree to points 1 through 4. I wouldn’t want this letter to be too long.
6. Accept that the outcome you prefer is only legitimate in the political (funding) sense, because the no-build option was rejected in the FEIS and ROD. Nobody can be held responsible if the state eventually decides to assert its authority and proceed without further local approval; we will all be working under the assumption that they simply have better things to do with the state’s money.
7. Accept that the Marolt alignment will still be transferred to the state, so as not to renege on a prior agreement, and trust that it won’t matter much, given funding realities (Point 6 above).
Taking into consideration both your interests and public safety, I believe this question comes closest to expressing what the no-builds really want: “Shall the City of Aspen refrain from any actions which would cause, encourage or facilitate the State of Colorado to proceed with construction of improvements to the highway portion of the Entrance to Aspen, with the exception of the replacement of the Maroon Creek Bridge?”
If I or the Aspen City Council were to propose this question, and it lost at the polls, we would have every expectation that your group would claim that people wanted to keep the existing highway, but voted no rather than accept replacement of the Maroon Creek Bridge.
Therefore, it will be up to you to decide whether the question should read: “Shall the City of Aspen refrain from any actions which would cause, encourage or facilitate the State of Colorado to proceed with construction of improvements to the highway portion of the Entrance to Aspen?”
So, Cliff et al, what about the courage of your convictions? Are you willing to risk it all, or is your confidence in your reading of the electorate too insecure to be willing to give up court challenges as an option?
Up the Crystal