Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw | AspenTimes.com

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

I see that one of the always-delightful Koch brothers is taking time out from the family’s efforts to seize control of the U.S. government just so he can get our little county to straighten up and fly right.

Wait! I have already made a couple of errors (and I’m not including the egregious error of daring to write anything unpleasant about billionaires).

So, timeout for quick corrections:

1. It’s not the Koch brothers fiddling with Pitkin County. It’s just one brother: Bill. And he’s not one of the officially nasty Koch brothers. Those bad guys are his twin brother, David, and older brother Charles. (There’s another brother, Freddie, the eldest, who seems to spend all his time in Europe, buying castles. Go, Freddie!)

2. Bill (if I may call you that, sir) doesn’t seem to be involved in the family’s effort to take over the U.S. government. I don’t know anything about his politics, but he does join so many of us in loathing his brothers David and Charles. It’s just that his loathing is entirely personal in nature. (And who can blame him?)

We’ll get back to that government takeover in a little while (News alert! They’re trying to buy control of the United States for the bargain-basement price of $400 million!), but for now I don’t want the gnashing of teeth to distract us from the local discussion.

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OK.

Mr. Bill Koch, it seems, is made nervous by the treacherous mountain road leading up the Castle Creek Valley to his little $30 million Castle Creek Castle, formerly known as the Elk Mountain Lodge (a folly by another rich man who, sadly for him, wasn’t rich enough to buy and sell governments and get what he wanted).

His solution to the road’s treacherous nature is to demand a guardrail. A lot of guardrails, in fact.

Now, speaking as someone who has spent several winters living partway up that road – at the mouth of Conundrum Creek – I agree that it is a somewhat scary mountain road.

There most certainly are drop-offs – off which one would not wish to drop.

However, mountain roads are part of what one should expect when one lives in the mountains.

Those who prefer life without drop-offs are free to choose, for example, Kansas. (No insult to Kansas intended.)

The problem is that the character of a valley changes when it is subjected to major improvement for the purposes of safety (and, more often, convenience).

Anyone whose memory stretches back far enough will acknowledge that Glenwood Canyon has been drastically changed by the interstate that now runs through that spectacular gorge in place of the former, meandering, two-lane road.

And the Roaring Fork Valley has been forever changed by the four-lane highway we now have.

Certainly, both those drives are faster and, almost certainly, safer than they were.

So be it. Those changes and the losses that accompanied them were arguably necessary.

But a permanent change to the character of the still tranquil, still rural road up Castle Creek is far from necessary.

Except to the mind and wallet of Mr. Bill (who has founded a nonprofit organization to further his desires – meaning, one must suppose, that his efforts to improve his life are tax-deductible).

I am reminded of the grumblings from our former sheriff, Bob Braudis, who complained about the strains on county government from people “who moved into this rural county from the city and began demanding urban-level services.”

They loved it enough to move here – just not enough to leave it the way they found it.

And, of course, those same people complained about the taxes required to support the services they demanded.

Yes, Mr. Bill is proposing to pay the cost (tax-deductible, we assume) of his new guardrail. However, the county will be saddled with future maintenance and whatever other financial burdens those guardrails will impose.

We should also point out that the county has evaluated the safety of that road in the past and has added guardrails on its own. The specific guardrails that Mr. Bill so deeply desires were not considered necessary.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Bill is among those who fiercely oppose the city of Aspen’s plans for a hydro-electric plant on Castle Creek.

I mention this seeming irrelevancy because one tenet of faith among those hydro opponents is that the city has been lying about its claims that a new water line out of the existing reservoir was necessary as a safety measure – in addition to its usefulness as a feed line for the hydro plant.

So Mr. Bill is arguing that local government is carelessly unconcerned with safety when it comes to guardrails, but is dishonestly pretending to care about safety when it comes to reservoirs.

I suppose it’s not surprising to find that Mr. Bill just plain hates government, no matter what it does.

Almost as much, one imagines, as he hates his brothers.

Which brings us back, as promised, to brothers David and Charles.

These two gentlemen (if that’s the right word – and I suspect it isn’t) are reportedly planning on spending $400 million on advertising during this year’s election.

That $400 million – first reported by Politico and then confirmed by Pulitzer-Prize-winning Huffington Post – dwarfs the total spending by and for the John McCain campaign in 2008. And it is only part of the planned right-wing super-PAC spending of $1 billion for 2012.

These people truly are planning on buying control of the country.

All, of course, in the name of “freedom.”

I don’t care what your political persuasion might be, you ought to be outraged at the thought that a handful of billionaires might be able to manipulate our national election to serve their own selfish needs.

Hey, you tea party guys, was a new king what you were really looking for?

It would seem that democracy needs some guardrails. Much more, I think, than Castle Creek does.

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