On the soapbox | AspenTimes.com

On the soapbox

I just stopped off at City “Mercado” for a few of the essentials to throw together for dinner and a hockey game – a modest young game hen and a picante lemon dijonaise sauce with an amusing adolescent merlot (what the hell, it’s Aspen ain’t it?) – and couldn’t help but notice two women and a man posed by the entry dressed understatedly, but prepared for some moderate inclemency, and scanning the comings and goings of the populous of the late afternoon.

The thing that caught my attention about them was not the ubiquitous (to Aspen) clipboard petition, but the blatantly plagiarized “I’m mad as hell,” etc., etc., placard in military stenciled red lettering that they were casually, and somewhat uncomfortably, stationed behind.

I guess I can understand why some of our homeowners over on the West Side of town might be “mad as hell” about a highway coming through their manicured backyards and posing a threat to the health and well-being of toddlers and mindless small pets, but these folks were past the ankle-biter-at-home age. No offense intended, but they looked rather “comfortable.”

At any rate, I got my provisions, and just out of curiosity I sat in my car for a few minutes watching them to see what sort of success they were having. The success rate I would have to give a less than moderate grade, for the time I observed them, but the interesting thing that I perused (being a certified dust-gathering, diploma-owning anthropologist/sociologist) was that the people coming and going were not verbally assaulted by the solicitors, an absolute no-no in the petition business, but were given a courteous tennis smile in passing, and if they entered the petitioners space out of curiosity or affinity for the issue, they were greeted warmly and given the indoctrination to the “cause celebre.”

Interestingly, though, no one who appeared to be a construction worker or a manual laborer of any type was either approached or even acknowledged in any was as significant to the cause, I guess on the assumption that these people wouldn’t live here, or if they did, wouldn’t be the type to be politically motivated, or for that matter, even vote.

Interesting, but not new to the way we have stratified as a community since the early ’80s when our oneness was fractured by the definition of worth by real estate; either by how much you have, or your proximity to those who have (i.e., agents and property managers, et al).

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The stratification stuck, and we now live in a society where there is definitely an illusory importance placed on wealth, or simply, perceived wealth. Long live the cell phone!

Background for my message, interesting observationally, but not necessary.

At any rate, I think that what we have here is a group of homeowners from the Villas of Aspen out there at the western edge of town, and the surrounding neighborhood, who are puffing up this smokescreen of community well-being and the maintenance of the eclectic wonder of our current highway alignment as well as preservation of the all-important “open space,” but not ever mentioning for a nanosecond that the true reason for them being “mad as hell” is to preserve their incredibly inflated real estate values.

Let’s face it folks, you can throw a rock in any direction in Aspen and you’ll hit OPEN SPACE! So, if they take out the current highway alignment from Cemetery Lane to the intersection of our beautiful one-of-a-kind traffic circle, and cover it with weeds, you have just mitigated any “loss” of open space taken by the … I’m going to say it … STRAIGHT SHOT proposal. Null game, and moot point.

Now, it you remove all persons from the “mad as hell” group who own real estate (or condos) allegedly impacted by the new highway alignment, their agents and representatives, you are left with Terry Paulson and Dan Kitchen, and a few people who truly do believe in preserving the Marolt property as is.

And since there are no beavers, weasels or ferrets or rutting elk being upset or misplaced by this project, that eliminates Dan and leaves Terry. And I think even he would be happy with a nice pseudo-straight highway with bike lanes and all of the other amenities we absolutely can’t live without here in Fat City.

Let’s keep in mind, too, that one of the original rail rights of way from the 1880’s crossed exactly where the new highway would enter town.

Now, the other bone in my craw about this project is the moronic proposal of a tunnel of about a quarter-mile in length UNDER the Marolt property. PLEASE! Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

For all of those of us still sensitive to public opinion about us out there in the real world, what kind of a laughing stock do you want to make of this?

People drive, for example, from Denver up through the mountains, over 60-some odd miles of fantastic Ralph Trapani engineered highway, and just before they reach the city lights of beautiful downtown Aspen they are thrust into a filthy, smelly, wet, dangerous, dark, fluorescent-lit, smoggy, frozen, graffiti-riddled TUNNEL, for absolutely no earthly reason other than “we love the way the goat grass grows on that property”?

An embarrassment to even the most rabid of tree-hugging environmentalists. And at what cost? Multi-millions in a slumping municipal economy and that will drag the project on for years and years?

They think they’re mad now; consider that possibility of day after nerve-grating day, digging and blasting and blasting and digging … ah, the Myth of Sisyphus reborn!

And they want this project to be overseen by the same people who gave us that ugly big black “temporary” walking bridge next to the Maroon Creek bridge nine years ago THAT’S STILL THERE.

AND the only traffic circle on the planet built 16 feet narrower than the 1992 CDOT specifications call for, and with a forest of weeds and trees in the center ON TOP OF A HILL, (all roundies are supposed to be concave for safety reasons – line of sight, etc., so if there is an accident in it YOU CAN SEE IT IN TIME TO STOP!).

AND the new Buttermilk-to-Tiehack drag strip on 82. You know what I mean: you stop for the red light and the guy on your right spots the 10-by-12-inch sign that implies that he’s in the wrong lane for through-traffic … and the race is on!

AND the convenience store/deli at the corner of Seventh and Main, where no one could, or would, stop for the implied “conveniences,” and that is costing the city another $125,000 to convert to a $400-a-month rental unit on top of the cost of building it in the first place and losing rent on it for over a year.

And, by the way, parking for some of those “convenient” employee housing units at Seventh and Main is a MILE AWAY at another employee housing complex downtown!

But my favorite is the Truscott affordable housing project that looks like a junior achievement project from a juvenile prison school. I will give them a moderate atta-boy for the new golf clubhouse facility. It looks … just like River Valley Ranch’s, and that’s OK, I guess … let’s see how it works.

Let’s get real folks: the people who are screaming the loudest knew when they bought their condos/properties at the Villas that this highway was a possibility, and has been for 30 years. They bought for less than some of the modest employee housing units sell for now and are sitting on, believe it or not, some properties listed at over a million semolians.

I think we all know a few of the pithy Latin phrases that are appropriate here, and used very often in the smile estate trade. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) is the first and most appropriate here, as well as, eminante domaine (for the good of the majority) and, last but not least, for those making this decision, carpe diem (SEIZE THE DAY).

Let’s just make it simple and go for the obvious over the shallow whining of the few.

And by the way, while I’m up on the soapbox, who is the nitwit who thinks that giving us a highway that will mitigate the bumper-to-bumper morning and evening commute for the “working class” will bring more traffic to town? How does that work?

Like people from Pueblo load up the kids and pets on the weekend to drive up here to see that great new piece of highway engineering and then drive home again? “Quick, quick Martha, it’s OPEN! Let’s get on the road before dark! I wanna see the glory of the Straight Shot in the daylight!”

This guy is probably out selling commuter trains to some gullible politicians somewhere!

And the band played on …

Michael J. McAllister

Aspen