The republic of Aspen
October 4, 2010
Tony Hershey is correct that we live in a republic rather than a democracy. Democracy, wherein every person votes on every issue, is not practical beyond the level of the board meeting. As a republic, like all the world’s “democracies,” we elect representatives to make decisions for us in their legislative bodies.
The problem with Tony’s letter is that it does not complete the process. Our representatives, once elected, have the obligation to follow the rules already in place and to receive public comment before they make decisions. That process was cut short in the case of City Council’s approval of the Aspen Art Museum. A high-impact project was passed abruptly, without studies to determine whether the building conforms with the city’s land-use codes and without constituents being able to register their opinions and advice to the representatives they elected. What is repressed here will find outlet there: in this case, in an outpouring of letters to the paper and a petition opposing the project signed by more than a thousand citizens.
As impacts of the project become clear, resentment of the building’s scale has fused with resentment at the aborted process, and that resentment is only growing in the republic of Aspen.