Vote with your eyes open |

Vote with your eyes open

Dear Editor:In every good issue debate, each side will inevitably roll out the facts. But as readers and voters, we all must keep in mind that each side will roll out only the facts which support their position and omit the facts that don’t.Well, Mick Ireland took a stab at the growth issue and presented his facts (Aspen Times, April 26). In response here are some additional facts about growth. Aspen population grew 17 percent from 1990 to 2000. In 2000, there were an average of 23,500 heads in Aspen which the Aspen Area Community Plan will allow to grow to a cap of 30,000. Affordable housing units have increased 48 percent since 1997. There are 1,760 units in the city and 800 more units in the county, totaling more than 2,500 units. The affordable housing units in Aspen make up 66 percent of all housing. The total number of building permits issued in 2002 was 293. That increased to 344 in 2003. In 2004, permits increased to a whopping 613. In 2005, permits issued have increased between 40 and 50 percent in just the first quarter. Commercial development is flat and lodging is declining. You were presented with statistics for a couple of flat years and facts for last year and this year were omitted.Mick’s school figures don’t tell the whole story. The elementary school was designed for 25 classrooms, today there are 28, and next year there may be as many as 30. Enrollment in each grade and class sizes are also factors in school growth. His facts don’t take into account the growth in Snowmass Village, and make no mistake, Snowmass is in the school district and its growth will impact Aspen schools. If the school district were to take the unfortunate path of eliminating some out-of-district kids, the combination of new kids from Burlingame, Stillwater and Little Ajax, combined with new kids from Snowmass may be equal to or greater than the number of disenrolled students. The new enrollment per each grade level and class-size limits may result in an immediate need to expand schools. Sounds like growth to me.Mick suggests that slow-growth candidates are focused on affordable housing. There is no cap on affordable housing development and I did not suggest one. Affordable housing proponents love to claim they are the victims of the rich and elite. However most of the wealthy people don’t vote in this community and it’s the middle-class, full-time residents that are concerned with their plans. We are troubled by affordable housing system abuse and impacts on the community’s schools, roads and transit. Mick and I do agree on one fact. We must begin controlling growth by reducing the number of permits issued for new second homes. Second-home construction is adding to the impacts from growth while contributing little to community vitality.Growth is real in this valley, and any candidate who says otherwise is asking you to ignore what is happening around you. They are presenting facts that simply go against what you can see with your own eyes. I suggest that you vote with your eyes open and select candidates who will offer reasoned debate on the issues, and demand accountability from those who are driving our community toward unbridled growth.Cliff WeissAspen City Council candidate

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