Stories the Times would like to see in the year 2003
Aspen Times Staff Writers
While most newspapers look back at this time on the top stories of 2002, The Aspen Times decided to look ahead to 2003.
Following are 10 “top” stories we would like to see happen in the next year. We’re not saying they will happen, mind you, just that we would like to see them happen. Here’s our wish list:
1. Pat O’Donnell comes clean. The Aspen Skiing Co. has proven to be a leader in many regards while Pat has been at the reins. It made a splash in guest services with its ambassador program and by handing out cookies, which, sadly, got crunched at budget-cutting times. It’s also a leader in environmental policy.
Now we’d like to see the Skico become ski industry leaders in honesty. Pat should come clean when it comes to marketing and admit that even if he had all the Crowns’ money, he could only entice a negligible number of additional skiers to town.
It boils down to Mother Nature, Pat would acknowledge. If it snows, skiers and riders come to Aspen. If it doesn’t, they go elsewhere or stay home. Marketing dollars make little difference.
2. Aspen club scene revives. Not too long ago, Aspen had one of the most vibrant, exciting club scenes in the country, with a multitude of venues catering to a variety of taste and style. There was great dancing and live music to be had on any night of the season at many locales throughout town.
These days, the only new clubs cost a boatload to join and aren’t much fun anyway. All that’s really left of the “good ol’ days” are the Double Diamond and the Grottos, the only regular live music venues left in town. They’re good, sometimes great, but they’re not enough. There’s no place in town for a solo singer-songwriter or an acoustic bluegrass band to play on a regular basis.
The big business story of 2003 should be that several live music venues join the already healthy dance club scene, returning Aspen to its rightful place at the top of the world’s club scene and perhaps launching a few bands toward major record label contracts.
3. Realtors head affordable housing program. In a true act of ingenuity, the Aspen Board of Realtors will establish a program where some of the top brokers in town go on sabbaticals to take turns running the Aspen affordable housing office. It would give new meaning to the favorite motto of public servants: “The community has given so much to me, now I decided to give something back to the community.”
4. Jack Hatfield finds his environmental conscience. Hatfield, in his first term as a Pitkin County commissioner, has increasingly voted in favor of development over the environment. With most politicians, that might not be either a surprise or matter for concern, but Hatfield likes to portray himself as an environmentalist.
Increasingly, Hatfield has been one of what is usually a three-vote majority willing to overturn established land-use policies that were designed specifically to protect the environment. Two recent decisions, involving the Turnbull property near Carbondale and the Wieben property on Capitol Creek, are cases in point.
In the first, Hatfield exempted the person who bought the Turnbull property, billionaire Les Wexner, from having to pay into the county’s affordable housing fund and approved their request to build four 15,000-square-foot houses. With the second, he amended the land-use code to allow that single development to proceed, even though it had not received especially high scores in the growth management competition, and the amendment may open a new avenue for developers in rural areas.
We would love to report that Hatfield discovers in his third year as a county commissioner that there is an environment that needs protecting beyond the confines of Snowmass Village and Brush Creek.
5. The trolleys burn, the community cheers. Acrimony over the Portuguese trolleys that have been rotting into the ground at Cozy Point since the 1980s comes to a spectacular end when a fire takes out the last of them.
Fire officials suspect arson, but no firm leads are ever found. GrassRoots TV airs footage of the trolleys’ last fiery moments over and over after it proves to be the most requested program in the station’s history. Jon Busch and other trolley supporters move to Issaquah, Wash., to be near the last remaining trolley. Terry Paulson resigns his seat on the Aspen City Council in protest.
6. Snowmass scores BIG. After searching for 35 years, mostly in vain, for an effective way to market the town, Snowmass Village residents will hit the mother lode. Reaching back to their roots ? when the place was referred to as Snowmass-at-Aspen ? they will take the concept a step further and simply rename Snowmass Village “Aspen.”
Aspenites will be justifiably upset. Under the bold leadership of the council, a citizen’s committee will be formed to study the problem and propose solutions. It is anticipated that action will be taken by 2005.
7. A gondola connecting all four mountains. Once upon a time, Aspen’s elite dreamed of making it a European-style ski resort with runs down several mountains and a gondola system connecting them all. Well, we have a few mountains but no gondola network. (One gondola on Aspen Mountain doesn’t qualify as a network.)
Now in 2003, decides the Aspen Skiing Co., is the time to build what we all really know is needed ? a series of gondolas connecting Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. In an innovative public-private partnership, the Skico and the three upvalley governments agree to get the system up and running no matter the obstacle ? be it persnickety homeowners or sensitive elk.
“The buses are great,” said Pat O’Donnel, Skico’s CEO, “but they’re not world class. And being world class is what Aspen’s all about. That’s why I’m for gondolas.”
8. Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey runs for re-election … or he doesn’t. After making the community hold its breath for what seems like a lifetime for the sometimes popular, sometimes controversial councilman, he says he’ll run for a second term. Or maybe he says he won’t. Whatever the decision, it will be GOOD for the community and GOOD for Tony Hershey.
9. Commercial landlords show some heart. Remember the scene in the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” where the Grinch discovers the true meaning of Christmas and his undersized heart grows several sizes larger?
Wouldn’t it be great if that happened to Frank Woods, Tony Mazza, Harley Baldwin and some of the other major commercial landlords in Aspen? Imagine if they realized that the true meaning of “community” isn’t how much they can wring out of tenants but maintaining a healthy, vibrant and fun downtown while still making a buck.
10. Common sense comes to CDOT. This just in … The Colorado Department of Transportation has decided that Aspenites are, in fact, superior beings who are always correct and deserve to get everything they have ever asked for. So, beginning immediately the following changes will go into effect:
?Magnesium chloride, that nasty liquid de-icer that melts cars and buses alike, is discontinued throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
?The right of way across the Marolt Open Space is returned to the city, and, simply as gesture of good will and intergovernmental cooperation, the cash-strapped state agency coughs up $10 million to go toward purchasing Smuggler Mountain.
?A train is built and operated free of charge to the residents of Aspen.
?Work in Snowmass Canyon is discontinued and the agency pledges to return the highway to its original state as a dirt road.
?All the traffic lights between Mill and Main in Aspen and the Grand Avenue bridge over the Colorado River are replaced with roundabouts.
Said Tom Norton, the former Republican lawmaker who heads CDOT: “If CDOT had followed Aspen’s lead, we wouldn’t have all these problems over all these years, either.”
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Crews promptly contained a small blaze that broke out next to the Castle Creek bridge just west of Aspen on Sunday afternoon after a transformer caught on fire.