Read your lips | AspenTimes.com

Read your lips

Memo to Tony Hershey: Read your own lips. Please.

Aspen Councilman Tony Hershey pledges there will be “… no tax increase in the city if I can help it.” The least government is the best government, he says.

That’s what his letters say, but not how he votes on City Council and not how he campaigns on tax questions, unless they are county tax questions.

Like the first George Bush, reality has made Mr. Hershey prisoner of his empty vow. Mr. Hershey has voted to put eight separate tax increases on the ballot, raising millions in property tax and a like amount in sales tax. Now he complains that the county wants to raise an extra $8 in taxes for human services, wildlife and roads. (80 cents per $100,000 home.)

There is no evidence that Mr. Hershey has ever campaigned against a single council-sponsored ballot question raising taxes. He did join Andrew Kole in actively pushing for the purchase of the Isis Theater with sales tax funds.

His letters to the editor may be towing the Rush Limbaugh, anti-government line, but his lips at council were voting to ask for taxes and the good things that money can provide the public.

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Property taxes collected have risen much faster in the city since Mr. Hershey was elected in 1999 than they have in the county. In fact, the city will collect an additional $3 million for Iselin Park through the mill levy retention.

Another $158,000 has been collected and spent for pedestrian improvements. The sales tax was raised in 1999 by 1 percent, about $1 million a year for city residents, to pay for marketing and transportation.

If Mr. Hershey wanted government that is least, he could have opposed any or all those questions.

The city has kept its mill levy at a constant 5.4 mills for the last decade while the county’s mill has fallen about 15 percent, from 3.5 to 2.9. As a result, city taxpayers pay about $450 to support their general fund while county taxpayers pay about $240.

Mr. Hershey could have opposed any of the eight questions referred to the voters for tax increases since 1999, he could have campaigned against any of them and he could have voted not to spend the money once it was collected.

Of course, that would have meant telling the voters no Iselin Park rec center, no pedestrian improvements, no theater, no marketing fund, no open space. And it would have meant facing the tough decisions on cuts that the county commissioners have made.

The simple fact is, Pitkin County’s general fund asks less of taxpayers than any county in the state. A community that can afford to purchase theaters, rec centers, open space, tourism marketing departments and pedestrian upgrades can surely spare $8 a year on a million-dollar home to help ensure we have senior services, a wildlife biologist and human service agencies.

In his heart and in his votes to fund public improvements, Tony Hershey has shown by deeds that the right wing rhetoric about the least government is not in the public interest.

Will Mr. Hershey run for election next year on a platform of no Iselin Park, no tourist promotion tax, no housing? Or is it only the county taxpayers who should live the libertarian dream of minimalist government?

Please vote yes for the charter change next Tuesday, Aug. 13.

Mick Ireland

Pitkin County Commissioner