August 8, 2002
I am incredulous at the quote from Tony Hershey: “He can get 10,000 signatures and I’m not going to listen to him.”
I hope this was taken out of context. Clearly, Tony, as an elected official you have a fiduciary responsibility to listen to and respond to the will of your constituents. To abrogate that commitment, Tony, is contradictory to what you earlier refer to as “representative democracy.”
I applaud Barry [Gordon]. It takes a lot of guts to stand up for a principle. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page:
1. The city and county are suffering from decreased sales tax revenue.
2. The retail base in downtown Aspen has eroded appreciably.
3. The bed base in downtown Aspen has eroded appreciably.
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4. I am told that rents have not dropped in response to vacancies.
5. We are told repeatedly by outside consultants that our downtown core is out of sync. There is too high a percentage of non-retail storefronts at the street level.
6. The economic sustainability committee has met and discussed alternatives. A report is due soon.
I anxiously await the findings of the sustainability committee. In the meantime, Barry’s frustrations are felt by many. While we wait, spaces continue to be rented to non-retail entities. More businesses are forced to surrender to a weak economy exacerbated by unaffordable rents.
I expect more from elected officials than lip service, insults and a wait-and-see attitude. I previously offered a solution; make the landlords partners. Make landlords responsible for generating X dollars from their buildings that is taxable. Any amount over that target and the tax is shared between government and the developer.
That is the easy way out for the government.
There is another way. Define by law what businesses can occupy what spaces within the downtown core. Non-complying businesses will be evicted, or the landlords will be forced to make up the lost sales tax income to government.
Ditto the empty spaces. After a grace period, if greed precludes a space from being rented, make the landlord responsible for the lost income to the community.
Sales tax revenues sustain our community. Government must respond. Don’t force Barry to write petitions, work with the community.
Let us know what you are prepared to do and when you are prepared to it. Whatever the solution, it will only be successful if it stimulates our economy, adds vitality to our community and enhances us as a destination resort,
Please do not resort to shifting the burden for diminishing sales tax to others. That is not the answer, but it is one of the suggestions that I have heard.