Time to pay the price | AspenTimes.com

Time to pay the price

Aspen’s current downward business spiral was inevitable and predictable. We have successfully “cut a fat hog” up here in the mountain paradise of America. And, eventually there is price to pay.

The current world economy, the governor’s impolitic statement about the “nuclear winter,” the USFS recognition that skiing has lost its luster, and our own arrogance and greed have all combined to sound the “wake up call” we so badly need.

My hat is off to Barry Gordon, Lily Garfield and the others who are now standing up and saying “enough.”

But, enough is only the battle cry, there must be a battle plan if Aspen is to rebound from the current sorry state of affairs and regain the preeminent stature we once enjoyed.

A three-point surgical strike at preserving the economic and retail viability of the community should be launched.

First strike: Stem the outflow of badly needed tax dollars. Aspen’s high-end boutiques readily admit that up to 70 percent of their sales are shipped out of state, thereby depriving Aspen, Pitkin County and the state of Colorado of 8.6 percent revenue.

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This needs to be stopped. The mayor and chairman of county commissioners should meet with the Colorado Municipal League and the Colorado Counties Inc. to introduce legislation to require collection of sales tax at source, regardless of whether the goods are shipped out of state or not. Using city/county data, over $2 million would stay in the community.

Strike two: Redirect a substantial amount of the funds now going to housing projects (you don’t need employee housing without jobs) and use it for city acquisition of leases in the core area.

The city then sublets, with rent subsidy to genuine “local retail businesses,” the true heart of our retail community. Thus, reinvigorating the entrepreneurial spirit of Aspen that once separated us from the run-of-the-mill ski towns.

Strike three: Rezone the street level core area, as has been done in Santa Fe, to preclude real estate and service businesses from occupying this space – thereby preserving it for retail and probably lowering the rents, since retailers can’t support the rent structure of real estate offices. This could be incorporated with the “infill program.”

This approach, though perhaps perceived by some as “draconian,” is the battle plan Aspen needs to adopt if we are to reestablish our economy rather than continue to deteriorate further into merely a bedroom community in the mountains.

Stacy Standley

Aspen