Whose side is the city really on?
The city of Aspen is plumbing new depths of ineptitude, or at the very least scaling new heights of indifference with its handling of the Case of the Mysterious Tree-Topper.Last month, a city employee discovered someone had killed six relatively young cottonwood trees in what appeared to be an effort to improve the view of a duplex behind them. The city launched an investigation. Mayor Helen Klanderud called for the prosecution of the guilty party to the fullest extent of the law. The community, which paid for the trees as part of an ongoing replacement program to keep Aspen’s canopy healthy, was justifiably outraged.Attorney Fred Peirce, apparently representing at least one of the owners of the duplex, has been negotiating a settlement with the city of Aspen. Reconciliation reportedly is at hand. Peirce’s client apparently is willing to spend thousands to rectify the situation, an apparent admission of guilt of some sort.So who is the true culprit? You may never find out. In fact, the city itself wants us to believe it doesn’t even know who the bad guy is in this case.City Attorney John Worcester said last week that while he had an idea who the responsible party is, he wouldn’t say because of a lack of hard evidence. And David Hoefer, the assistant city attorney and lead negotiator for the city, has dodged inquires from The Aspen Times and, when confronted, pleaded ignorance of the culprit’s identity. Is all this because they truly have no idea who they’re dealing with? Or is it because they’re shielding the tree killer from embarrassment and public scrutiny?If it is protecting the guilty party, then our city government is lowering the cost of committing property crimes against the people of Aspen. Would-be tree-toppers can simply lop off whatever they desire, knowing full well they’ll be able to buy replacement trees that might be more to their liking. And they’ll be protected by the city from any public embarrassment.Destruction of public property is a serious crime, carrying serious potential penalties. It’s unfortunate that the city’s bureaucracy appears to be doing the exact opposite of what Klanderud suggested. Instead of prosecuting the culprits to the full extent of the law, it looks as if our public officials are helping the culprit cover it up.
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