The buck stops where?

Aspen Times writer

Dear Editor:

Many years ago, President Harry Truman addressed a serious governmental “screw-up” by stating that “the buck stops here.” As president, he accepted responsibility for what happened in his administration. Apparently, Tom Baker does not subscribe to the Harry Truman philosophy. As town manager of Basalt, Tom reorganized the construction approval process in 2000. After this reorganization, three homes that exceeded the 5,000-square-foot limitation were approved for construction. The new policy failed to work properly.

Under the new procedure, the planning department and the building department both examined the construction plans. The head of the building department (Mark Kittle at that time) then had to approve the plan before a building permit was issued. When the

reorganization occurred, Mark apparently was not aware of the 5,000-square-foot size limitation. One can criticize Mark for not coming up to speed with the new responsibilities of his position. One could also criticize the town manager for failing to educate his staff properly.

The oversight in approving three homes of excessive size could be attributed to the planning department, the building department, or to the town manager. Scott Condon’s article in the Times placed the blame on a single person (Mark). I thought this was unfair. I also objected to the extensive use of a witness who would be happy if Mark lost the upcoming election.

In my letter, I did not condone the violation of the ordinance, only the one-sided attribution of the blame. This affair is an example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Experienced corporate types would attribute these failures to poor management. It is ironic that the person with overall responsibility for the process, namely the town manager, would blame a staff person rather than himself.

Peter Frey