Opinions heard, if not shared
August 31, 2007
I am sorry I missed the ACRA meeting this week. My absence does not imply a lack of respect for your organization but rather my own inadvertent failure to property calendar this meeting.
Since your organization and some members chose to communicate with me on this issue through the media, I feel compelled to reply in kind, lest the public be left with the impression that I am indifferent to your concerns.
I do plan to attend ACRA meetings as often as possible. There are other obligations, however. The July ACRA meeting conflicted with my obligations as a member of Gov. Bill Ritter’s Transportation Finance and Implementation committee in Akron on the same day. Aspen obviously has a transportation problem; attendance at those meetings carries some priority in my scheduling.
I do not agree with the repeated assertions that the council does not respect the ACRA’s positions on issues.
Debbie Braun is quoted in one of the papers as saying, “Sooner or later we will be heard … damn it!” And David Perry complains that he feels marginalized, apparently because the council voted not to approve a certain project that I am not free to discuss outside the public process.
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To respect and to listen to is not always to agree. The council supported ACRA’s request for funds and staffing to move the Fourth of July fireworks to the golf course, for example. This was done promptly in response to a last minute request. I personally supported a solution to the Entrance to Aspen, a priority expressed by the ACRA board. As a county commissioner, I worked for improvements to the Aspen airport.
Warren Klug, a kind and generous man and a committed member of the community, argues that “They don’t want any more people in town,” further, that he cannot “Imagine any other reason” for the council’s failure to follow the ACRA’s direction.
To Mr. Klug and the ACRA I suggest their consideration of another issue, the inability of this community to serve its residents and visitors at the current level of growth. The Entrance is very messy and not very vital. Traffic spills into residential neighborhoods creating parallel highways complete with road rage incidents. Many residents and visitors leave unattended garbage out at night imperiling the lives of bears and humans. Construction parking and work rule violations are the subject of a weekly standing feature in the Aspen Daily News.
With $2 million a day in building permits being issued and 1 million square feet of mostly commercial and residential construction on the books, none of this suggests a need to accelerate growth.
While I won’t comment here on any pending proposal, as a general matter, several of us on council have concerns about the sustainability of Aspen as exclusively catering to the narrow slice of the market at the very top of the wealth pyramid. Are we driving out the local-serving and moderately priced businesses by tailoring our lodging to the very wealthiest? And if so, are we excluding the next generation of visitors?
In any event, I hope you appreciate that your opinions are heard, if not always shared, and I look forward to the next meeting.