Put it to a vote
July 15, 2002
As is our Aspen custom, the Entrance question has heated up again complete with the usual shouting, vitriol, accusations and bad faith. After 20 years it’s amazing such an intelligent town is incapable of simply deciding if we want improvements to our entrance and move on with life.
In April, the City Council was presented with an administrative action to complete a 1998 agreement with Pitkin County and CDOT, completing a land exchange for granting of an easement across the Marolt property. (The council was authorized to make this land swap in a 1996 vote.)
The 1998 contract was agreed to by Terry Paulson. CDOT and Pitkin County had already performed on their portion of the land transfers, and Aspen City Council was asked to complete the last portion of the previous agreement.
We were told in April by CDOT and other transportation officials that reneging on our contract would remove the Entrance to Aspen from consideration in the CDOT budget process, effectively killing the Entrance to Aspen project for decades and committing us to the S curves
At the time, I personally could find no vote, no official action, to indicate a majority of our citizens wanted the council to keep the S curves forever, so I supported a prior council’s contract and voted to grant the easement across Marolt to CDOT.
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The uproar and accusations at the time was there was no need to honor the prior contract, how could we possibly do this “without the citizens’ consent,” it was somehow done in the middle of the night without anyone knowing about it, how do we honor this prior contract without another vote, etc., etc., etc.
What was never reported clearly was a decision NOT to honor that contract was a defacto decision to keep the S curves with no turning back, because without entering the CDOT budget process there are no bucks to make the Entrance to Aspen a reality, at least for decades.
Subsequently, a group of concerned citizens exercised their right to in initiate a petition asking the council to renege on the easement contract. This is their right an privilege, and the signatures gathered have been deemed proper and sufficent.
I personally recognize that if 800 people want to vote on this again, it’s certainly appropriate to do so, and for God’s sake let’s once and for all vote on a simple yes or no question and whoever loses accept the result without whining.
Unfortunately the intent of the petition is to force the council to renege on the 1998 contract, which again would pull the Entrance to Aspen out of the CDOT budget process (which will be decided on before November) and is a de facto decision to reject the Entrance to Aspen prior to knowing the result of another vote.
To me, it is unfair to allow a vocal minority to make a decision for the silent majority, so I will not agree to welch on our 1998 contract prior to a vote. State law says a petition cannot force the council to reverse a prior administrative action such as completing a contract, so I believe the council still has the legal right to convey the easement.
Of course there is no doubt this will be taken to court if the council does not obey the will of the petitioners and unilaterally kill the funding for the Entrance.
If we convey the easement we keep our funding slot for the Entrance to Aspen, and if we vote the Entrance down in November, CDOT will be more than happy to take their dollars elsewhere. No harm, no foul, and we retain the ability to execute whatever we voters decide in November.
In the meantime please join the fun and games as the council meets on Monday, July 15, at 5 p.m. for another interesting and never-ending discussion. I’m hopeful for a clear and simple yes/no ballot question, but one never knows what will happen in these difficult times. The facts, just the facts, for a change.
Personally I will do my best to execute the majority will, whatever the outcome of our next vote. What I will not do is allow what may be a vocal minority to dictate the future of this town. For that reason I will not support the petitioners request to renege on our 1998 contract.
Now if I could only afford a nice beach vacation (with no newspapers) until November …
One Day This Will End.
Aspen City Council