Who is essential?
Dear Editor:Instead of building new housing at Burlingame, some opponents are advancing a “just allocate it better” approach for an “essential worker list,” getting three of every ten units. This ignores the extent of our housing shortfalls, but beyond that, where would such a list begin or end? If you volunteer for the Big Buddies and music festival but “only” manage a shop, are you nonessential? Is the lifesaving ski patroller more essential than the gondola maintenance worker? Isn’t the parent who coaches kids’ hockey and basketball vital to our community’s heart? Where do local musicians and artists fall – aren’t they essential to Aspen’s soul? Do you care to sit in judgment? Who is “essential” – just K-12 teachers, or also daycare providers and CMC educators? Is the hospital supply officer and kitchen manager essential to its operations, or will only doctors, nurses, lab techs and, well, maybe physical therapists make the cut? How about mental health counselors and human service providers? What about Mountain Rescue or fire department volunteers? Mßust you be paid to be essential? What about career changes after receiving a job-based housing priority?The “essential list” idea itself illustrates how crucial permanent housing is to Aspen, now and for our future. The notion that 10 units here and there (who knows where) divvied out to whoever the “right people” are, while rejecting Burlingame after years of planning, investment and a public vote, is shortsighted and flawed.It would pit Aspen’s citizens against each other over increasingly scarce housing resources, with preference based on discrimination against guest services people, who make our resort one of the best in the world. This nonsolution would put arts and cultural, nonprofit, shop, restaurant and lodging personnel in a lesser pool, no matter their tenure as dedicated employees or civic contributions. Even a safety or education only list shows why we need Burlingame: police and sheriff’s deputies, 911 operators, EMTs, pool lifeguards, snowplow drivers, water, electric, transit and airport operations personal, and the many other positions that keep our community functioning and healthy.We have a one-time opportunity with Burlingame Village to address our needs. It was identified for housing and has been within our Urban Growth Boundaries since the 1993 community plan. It is our only real chance to stem our continued loss of community: longtime locals, families, singles, young people and volunteers. Burlingame is closer to downtown than the AABC, CMC, North Forty and the new animal shelter. Daily commutes and greenhouse emissions will be cut by over 3 million miles annually. The village will have an integrated mix of units and income ranges, energy efficient quality living spaces, pedestrian and transit-oriented neighborhoods with trails and parks. The overall proposal will see 80 acres of the Bar/X Ranch protected with permanent conservation zoning and 115 acres of land, bought with housing funds, restricted for open space. Please Vote Yes on May 3 for the Bar/X annexation and Burlingame Village.Rachel E. RichardsAspen
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