Putting 2009 on a better track
2008 will be remembered for a lot of things. We learned that Aspen is not recession-proof, as many had previously claimed. And we mourned the deaths of some of our most beloved locals.
And on the year’s final day, one man sent a chill through town that won’t be forgotten for a long, long time.
Aspen businesses were crippled on the biggest money-making night of the year ” New Year’s Eve ” and an apparently deranged individual killed himself. But only after he left cryptic phrases like “Aspen will pay a horrible price in blood” and “mass death” peppered in letters left with two downtown banks.
Judging by police accounts, suspect Jim Blanning’s threats were real. And Aspen responded.
Hotels, restaurants and businesses in a 16-block area were evacuated, while up to 190 law enforcement officials and other personnel ” from local to federal ” worked through the night to keep the town safe. Blanning was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in a Jeep he had driven east toward Independence Pass.
We thank the stars that nobody was injured or killed by the devices. Police said Thursday they recovered four homemade bombs made of cell-phone components and gasoline.
For sure, the physical harm could have been severe. But for businesses, the timing could not have been worse.
Millions of dollars in potential income vanished, and anyone who depends on New Year’s Eve revenue was hit where it counts ” in the wallet. From taxi drivers to food-delivery services, from busboys and bartenders to musicians and cooks, the lifeblood of Aspen’s economy was sawed off at the ankles.
But the closure and evacuation were measures that had to be taken. We applaud our law enforcement officials for making the right decisions in the face of danger. Aspen’s safety depended on it.
As the national media shines its spotlight on Aspen, we’ll hear the usual catch phrases such as “playground for the rich,” “glitter gulch,” and “tony Aspen.” We’re fair game, so we’re used to it.
But it was Aspen’s working class and business owners who took it in the gut on New Year’s Eve.
To that end, we raise our glasses in a toast to the people who kept residents and visitors safe on a night that was supposed to be celebratory. And we urge people to support downtown businesses, which are already bracing for a slow tourist season because of the recession.
If anything, spending money downtown and tipping your servers this weekend might salvage an otherwise unthinkable New Year’s Eve, and help put 2009 on a better track.
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: The Colorado Department of Transportation gives Aspen’s roundabout a poor grade in terms of level of service so it’s thinking about making changes. But first, a study or two must be done.