Too much faith in the city

Dear Editor:

The Aspen Times probably inadvertently caused some short-lived optimism for Pitkin County’s second-home owners by reporting the potential opportunity to vote on future tax measures if Amendment 60 passes in November. Unfortunately, the proposed provision includes only Colorado registered voters, not out-of-state owners. For example, a Denver resident who owns an Aspen condo could vote on specified tax measures, but not his neighboring owner who is a Chicago resident.

Local governments seem desperate to fight these tax relief proposals on the November ballot. Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick reportedly said that the intent of Amendment 60 is strictly to allow second-home owners a say. Barwick’s reported statements should be challenged.

Aspen voters tend to put too much reliance on government leaders to inform us of the impact of ballot questions. As a result, we spent tens of millions more than taxpayers were told for Burlingame, adopted a terribly flawed IRV election method, and now have a $2.3 million pipe to nowhere built as part of a still-unapproved hydro plant project. Aspen spent hundreds of thousands on swimming pool plans only to find out that the original estimate given the voters was short by a few million. That just begins the list of “trust us” kinds of disastrous ballot question decisions. Aspen voters should become more skeptical of such ballot measures and what officials say to the press in attempts to keep the coffers filled and their irresponsible spending unchecked.

In the meantime, second-home owners need a voice. They pay the vast majority of property taxes, support local businesses, and drive the philanthropic efforts that give life to the Music Festival, Art Museum, Aspen Institute, Theatre Aspen and other cultural and nonprofit programs that make Aspen so special. They pay for our trails, bike paths, Wheeler Opera House, snow removal, public safety, animal shelter and hospital, to name only a few recipients.

Yet many locals would like to continue to deny them a voice in the local government, under the absurd excuse that these generous community members would be tightfisted and vote down needed public programs. If anything, second-home owners have shown a generosity and commitment to Aspen beyond imagination in most resort communities. To continue to deny them an official voice based on city officials’ reported theory that they would “be a bane” on funding for needed public services, is hostile, irrational and irresponsible.

My recommendation to voters and The Aspen Times – do your own homework on ballot measures and be especially skeptical of what government officials say about such measures.

Marilyn Marks