Marolt: The surreptitious ranking of job values | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: The surreptitious ranking of job values

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

Our fire department is great. It also is huge; the building, that is. I wonder if its value to the community is proportional to its size. I’m not saying this like I know the answer, which would make it a sarcastic comment. I mean it more like an honest question. Is the new fire department building in proportion to its importance to our community? That’s better.

The new fire department next to the church and up the street from the art school is taking shape and a good way to describe that shape is that it creates a large shadow. Shadows can be good, like when you are hot or when trying to take an interesting photograph or keeping your dog cool in the car while you run into the church or school for a minute.

I like to describe the location of the fire department the way I did, calling the chapel a church and the art center a school because it makes me feel like I am living in a small town, which is officially called a village, as if we are all natives and wise in the way of mountain living and possess an inherited copacetic appreciation for skills we have acquired from our ancestors to help us accomplish living completely off the land around us.

I suppose the plan with the new fire department infrastructure is that it was built with a forward-looking view, a complex our town will grow into. I don’t see that coming to fruition even when Base Village is completed. Certainly the mass will be there after all the timeshares are built into magical boxes for creating eternal vacation memories, but the density will be such that a fire hydrant or two in the center of it all, along with a few long hoses, should provide sufficient coverage for getting emergencies of conflagration quickly under control. When not in use, they could be used to make ice for a skating rink and fill a swimming pool.

I know our fire department is a professional one, like they have in New York, and not a volunteer one like they have in Aspen and Basalt and most other small towns, so I’m sure our new, large fire station is not all about keeping the shiny trucks out of the weather. A guess is that, for all it’s square footage, it must also provide housing for at least a few firefighters, too.

I am all for affordably housing firefighters. They are obviously important members of the community. I’m also for affordably housing police officers, teachers, nurses, doctors, service industry employees, ski patrollers, lifties, baristas, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and accountants; not necessarily in that order.

I am basically for housing all community members who need it, except lawyers, under the theory that there is no community without all of us. I am even kidding about attorneys. We need them, too. The foundation to appreciating humanity is faith that all people are valuable and that, in the long run, which includes death and what comes after that, ranking people today by how important we think they will be forever is nothing short of an exercise in foolishness and some strain of vanity and fleeting values, and an inadvertent way to indenture the servants, as well.

There will always be a debate about who should be given priority in affordable housing. Are teachers more important than police? Are retailers more necessary the realtors? Are the young more valuable than the old? It depends on what we are short of at the moment, or is it what we have more of in the way of voters? I’m not sure.

My fear in the debate about relative importance of jobs for housing is that we could end up engineering our cozy micro society into something that has the feel of a dystopian novel that we live in and can’t move past chapter eight, after which some form of hope might conceivably materialize.

My gut feeling is that most people living here do not support ranking jobs and doling out affordable housing accordingly. At the very least, most would agree that we will never agree on how those rankings would be determined.

So, if the fire department has not circumvented this undesirable process of providing value-ranked housing to their own on taxpayers’ dollars, and I’m not saying they didn’t, the sheer scale of the new fire department suggests that they and every other governmental or quasi-governmental institution might be able to accomplish it. In as much, I’ll throw this out there again: If the size of a structure in the community appears to be out of scale with the size of the community itself, maybe the organization occupying it is out of touch with community values as well.

Roger Marolt understands that securing housing is a larger barrier to enjoying life here than is snow every other day in April. Email at roger@martoltllp.com.


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