Yet another ‘critical’ election – we all must vote |

Yet another ‘critical’ election – we all must vote

The Aspen Times Editorial

Every other year, it seems, Aspen voters are faced with difficult choices concerning the future of this town and the territory around it.

And every other year, those choices are critical enough and tough enough that local pundits feel justified in saying, “The town is at a crossroads, this election will decide our future for decades to come.”

And, in fact, every other year, those dire statements are true. They have been true for so long no one can remember it any other way. For decades, Aspen’s unique natural beauty, fabulous snow and iconoclastic social structure have combined to attract a type of growth that has proved to be as perilous as it is profitable.

And so, at every election, the voters are called upon to pick their way through a veritable minefield of conflicting priorities and socioeconomic issues. And over the years they’ve done an admirable job.

But it appears that the voters, as a group, are becoming weary. They have been showing up in smaller and smaller percentages, and the outlook for the future is alarming.

In the last municipal election, a mere 27 percent of the city’s registered voters bothered to show up and cast ballots. In the 1997 county election, out of 11,800 registered voters, only 1,567 voted.

There are many potential causes for this apathetic trend.

Some will say, with great heat and vigor, that the fault lies with the city government. The city, according to this argument, has refused to listen to the will of the people regarding the expansion of Highway 82 to four lanes. Others will point out that the same City Council members who have resisted having a straight-shot, four-lane highway dumping onto Main Street have been re-elected time and time again, indicating they were responding to the will of the electorate.

On another front, some will point to the city’s unabashed advocacy for a valleywide train from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, and will claim that the voters have rejected the idea. This is, at best, a half-truth, since the voters were pretty well split on the subject of a train in the last election – and their decision, in any case, was not to reject the train, but simply to set a final deadline and call for one last vote that ought to decide it all.

But the fault probably cannot be linked to any one issue, candidate or political persuasion.

No, the problem, like as not, is related to the fatalistic fatigue that permeates this town’s resident population. Living here has always been tough. But rising costs and stagnant salaries have made it worse for those who have a foothold, whether a house or a condo, or that greatest rarity of all – a benign and caring landlord. The people, to put it mildly, are not as happy as they might be, or even as they once were, and seem not to give a damn about politics any more.

But we must give a damn. We cannot allow important electoral issues to be decided by a few hotheads whose highly partisan temperament drives them to polls while we stay at home and bemoan our fate.

And make no mistake about it, this will be an important election. We have a full roster of candidates to pick from, as well as a couple of tricky ballot questions.

This is our future we’re talking about, not some petty bureaucratic detail that can be ignored in the hope that it will go away.

Monday, April 5, is the last day to register to vote in the May 4 election, and we strongly urge anyone who lives here but is not registered to get down to City Hall.

And come May 4, if you have any sense of pride in your town or even in yourself, you’ll get down to the polling place and cast your ballot. Whatever decision the voters make is likely to have a great effect on the future of this community – and great decisions ought to be made by substantial numbers of citizens.

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