Read the audits for yourself
August 5, 2008
Aspenites have a lot of conflicting information to sift if they’re trying ” God’s praise be upon them ” to make sense of the Burlingame affordable housing controversy.
As evidenced by the latest war of words between the city of Aspen and its critics (see today’s letters to the editor on page A12 for a taste), we have a government on the defensive and an opposition on the offensive. The former is doing all kinds of damage control, from press releases to public meetings, in order to regain credibility, while the critics seem as focused on discrediting City Hall as they are on government transparency and accountability.
What’s a concerned resident to do?
We say, read two city-commissioned audits yourself and make up your own mind.
They’re online at aspenpitkin.com/burlingame.
Ever since local resident Marilyn Marks discovered an error in a 2005 city brochure that severely understated the construction costs of Burlingame, the community has been embroiled in a debate about how it happened, whose fault it was and how to keep it from happening again. The two audits will not answer every question ” nor were they designed to ” but they are revealing.
Recommended Stories For You
When the city released the audit results last week, officials were only too pleased to announce that the reports found no evidence of wrongdoing, and actually said the city did many things right. City officials selected certain quotes from the reports to emphasize their point of view and, excuse the cliche, put their own “spin” on things.
Boiled down to its essence, the city spin is “We’re not liars and we can be trusted with taxpayer dollars.”
This, of course, opened a door for Marks and friends, who cried foul and convinced city officials to edit the glowing press release. This group has its own spin, of course, which can be loosely described as “Don’t trust City Hall.”
For the average Aspenite, this kind of stuff typically results in cognitive dissonance. They don’t know what to think, and they often just shut down and stop paying attention.
This matter deserves everyone’s attention, however, and the audits are an excellent third-party source of information. They paint a picture of a city government that was simply in over its head in trying to effectively manage a huge construction project like Burlingame. Of the 70 pages encompassing the two reports, the vast majority of the ink concerns remedial measures ” from better communication between city departments to creating an entirely new “development function” to oversee construction projects. In fact, the audits recommend four to six months of internal work at City Hall, simply to set up systems that will ensure against future financial debacles in the affordable housing program.
We think this is probably good advice. Which begs yet another question: Shouldn’t city officials put these measures into place before going to voters in November for permission to borrow millions more dollars to spend on Burlingame’s second phase?
Read the audits and make up your own mind.