I read with interest in local papers last week about the city’s efforts to “take responsibility” for the debacle now commonly referred to as Burling-gate. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the usual suspects, namely City Manager Steve Barwick and Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, to go from offensive to defensive.
Speaking before directors of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Barwick continued to offer the same weak explanations and excuses, and basically admitted the massive debacle was the result of too many people making too many decisions, over too much time, about a project none were properly qualified to understand or oversee. When both were recent guests of KNFO-FM radio host Michael Conniff last week, Ireland was asked if he cared to expand on his recent assertion (conspiracy theory) that he is the subject of an illegal “smear campaign” by unknown operatives. He refused to do so or provide any specifics or retract his accusation.
Meanwhile, Councilman Jack Johnson continues to behave like a 5-year-old, saying he “can’t apologize” to Marilyn Marks after publicly chastising her in council chambers after she paid a local camera crew to record a recent work session (after telling the council she intended to do so and numerous requests to have the council tape itself for the public good). Perhaps Johnson needs a hug from one of his teddy bears?
My question is simple. At what point did these public figures decide they were no longer accountable to their constituents? Questions should be asked, politicians should be held to account, sunshine should be shed on every dealing, every comment, every decision, especially now, in the wake of one of the biggest financial missteps in the area’s history. No matter how controversial a figure she has become, I commend and thank Marilyn Marks for her efforts.
Without her and her supporters, the issue of Burlingame would not have come to the public’s attention and now be open to healthy debate. That fact alone is reason for not only a full-scale independent investigation but, perhaps, as some have suggested, a moratorium on more public housing projects until we figure out what happened, how to correct it and how to move forward in the future.
There is a blind agenda at City Hall and perhaps blind ambition ” none of which have any place in a transparent democracy. The only way to regain the public’s trust on this issue is to respond to voters’ concerns in a contrite, honest way. This is no time to play offense or defense ” the game is over (at taxpayers’ expense), and the general public is too smart to be manipulated by a half-baked public relations campaign. Let’s just throw it all on the table, learn from our mistakes and get on with it. The real tragedy is that limited public housing makes sense for Aspen and surrounding communities, and its future development could suffer as a result of this controversy, if not properly addressed. Council should take its licks and get back to work without insulting or discouraging those who have taken the time to hold them to account.
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.