The voters have spoken. So … what did they say?
The voters have spoken, but in what language? For all the understanding that has come out of the recent municipal election, the Aspen electorate might as well have been speaking Ukrainian.
By now the fact that the voters basically gave a resounding “NO” to virtually every critical item on the municipal ballot has become very clear.
We’re very lucky that neither Motherhood nor Apple Pie was on this ballot, because if they had been, they might have been canceled.
To recap, the voters said “no” to rail, “no” to buses, “no” to parking garages, “no” to more traffic, “no” to less traffic, and “no” to Bass Park in just about any form.
Only two clear winners emerged from Tuesday’s carnage. One is the vital Pitkin County open space program. The second is the idea that the city ought to have another election comparing trains vs. buses by the fall of next year.
As we have said before, if the voters say they want an election, it is best to heed that call.
But it should be made very clear now, before the planning even gets started, that the coming election (or elections, since Bass Park may wind up on a spring ballot) must remain free of the kinds of encumbrances that messed things up so badly this time.
We need no sidetracking advisory questions that anger voters with their condescending wording; no confusing multiplicity of questions; no deliberately misleading initiatives, placed on the ballot by the very people who intend to make every effort to defeat their own initiative.
Naturally, there is no way to contain the exuberance of the various citizen factions that will undoubtedly rise to the challenge of muddling our electoral waters. All we can do is require that such muddling be left to the citizens – our governments must strive to come up with an election that cannot be attacked as a procedural nightmare.
What we need – what the voters demand – is clearly worded ballot questions that leave no doubt as to the nature of the issues involved and the financial implications of those issues.
Of course, in the case of our tangled transportation situation, there are multiple elections facing us, so one more should not be unduly problematic.
For example, the county’s voters have yet to get their chance to choose between buses and trains as the best mass-transit system for the upper valley.
Then there is the matter of the downvalley transit system, which, if it were built today according to the wishes of all but one of the elective bodies between the Pitkin County line and the Colorado River, would be a train.
Nothing, however, will be built north of Brush Creek until we have a Regional Transit Authority in place, with taxing powers and a mandate to either build a train or get to work on making the Roaring Fork Transit Agency the best bus system possible. This, unfortunately, will require approval from voters in the various jurisdictions to be included within the district, and perhaps another election to establish the taxing authority.
So there are many battles yet to be fought on the transportation front, and each is likely to be bitterly contested by the forces who believe in the efficiency of trains, and those who have put their faith in rubber-tired vehicles.
It is perhaps too much to be hoped that we might get a little better at keeping to the subject at hand, rather than resorting to the kind of invective and hyperbole that so confuses matters that in the end, nothing gets done. We deserve better, but to get it we have to settle down and work for it.
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