Wheeler expansion should go to voters
Dear Editor:Ron Erickson, a dedicated, longtime Aspenite, has served with distinction and diligence on many volunteer boards. I had the pleasure of working with him on the Aspen Planning & Zoning Commission for several years. He has brought his customary zeal (as chairman of the Wheeler Opera House board of directors) to the issue of the Wheeler’s proposed addition.However, his dismissal of the “cart before the horse” comment about funding this project through the Wheeler Real Estate Transfer Tax overlooks some important background information. Ron asserts that “expansion … has been a community goal for more than 30 years” and that “when Aspen voters approved the … tax … they did so in order to fund the adopted renovation Master Plan.” Unfortunately that claim is not supported by public records.The actual ballot language submitted to Aspen voters contained no reference to this plan. It consisted of one paragraph asking citizens to vote for or against a real estate transfer tax, which “will be used only for the purpose of renovation, reconstruction and maintenance of the Wheeler Opera House and for the purpose of supporting the visual and performing arts.” There was no mention of addition or expansion.When voters approve a tax for specific purposes, their government, as a matter of good faith (if not legal requirement), should give them the opportunity to determine whether subsequent changes are appropriate. That’s why Aspen voters are the ones who should decide whether to use WRETT funds for the proposed Wheeler Opera House addition – not City Council or any volunteer board (no matter how well-intentioned). This is not a mere technicality; it goes to the basic issue of government’s responsibility to abide by the expressed wishes of its constituents.Jasmine TygreAspen
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