Start paying attention
I attended the Pitkin County Commissioner meeting Aug. 27 and learned the following:
1. Working people don’t really have the time it takes to comment at a commissioner meeting.
2. The board thinks this is a “good” board because they almost always agree with each other on everything.
3. The commissioners came across as well-intended, but two seemed disconnected from the stresses facing their constituents.
As to two of my three reasons for attending, I learned:
1. That that the majority of commissioners do not support even a single affordable home outside the urban growth boundary(s).
2. The board believes the most important current issue facing the county is water quality and quantity.
3. The county doesn’t talk about Highway 82 congestion or that it causes traffic to overflow onto McLain Flats and Aspen’s West End when it discusses road issues.
As to my third reason for attending, “exempting the county from portions of their code,” the commissioners explained that it is very time-consuming and expensive to get things done in Pitkin County, and citizens can sue if they disagree with county actions. Michael Owsley asked the many members of the public at the meeting to offer concrete suggestions to solve their dilemma. So instead of pointing out that the Chinese at the Beijing Olympics proved a dictatorship is the best model for achieving perfect public projects and they could send dissenters to re-education camps, I accepted his challenge.
Reflecting on the applicant next to me who had spent three years trying to get a micro-hydro permit, I suggested that instead of exempting the county from the county’s code, he could use the county’s own experiences with their code to amend it to make it less frustrating and expensive for private citizens as well as themselves. Unfortunately, I was 45 minutes late for work and left before anyone could respond.
The sad fact is this county commission doesn’t seem to be focused on Pitkin County/Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Redstone or Meredith anymore. The county used to be the big brother who would hammer on the cities when they ignored the needs of people. A prior commission levied a use tax and four-laned Highway 82 from Shale Bluffs to Buttermilk. A prior commission pushed to get the roundabout built and was reimbursed later by CDOT. A prior commission jumped all over Aspen’s City Council when it considered denying affordable housing at Burlingame and urged the same council to increase Burlingame’s density. A prior commission got approval from the FAA to extend the airport runway to allow more fuel-efficient planes to land, but the runway remains short.
There is an election Nov. 4 for three county commissioners, and I urge everyone to start paying attention to what the candidates say or have done.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”