Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Just in case you haven’t heard, the financial situation is terrifying. Globally, nationally, locally … we’re screwed. Terror is the only appropriate response.
I’m certainly terrified ” although I realize my terror may just be the result of professional pressure to behave appropriately in a time of crisis. A columnist can’t really write unless he grabs the terror du jour with both hands and hangs on tight until the high voltage sets his hair on fire.
So, being a community-minded kind of guy (with hair on fire), I came up with a plan to boost our little town’s financial fortunes in these days of uncertainty.
Legalize gambling in Aspen.
Wait! Hear me out. I’m not talking slots or Keno or any of that low-rent nonsense. This is Aspen.
We go first class. We start taking bets ” running a book, as they call it.
But we don’t take bets on horses or boxing or the NFL.
We make book on development. Yowzah! Betting on development. Gambling Aspen Style.
Hey, we’ve been gambling on development for a long time now. We’ve been betting the farm … actually, the farm, the ranch, the town, the mountains, the rivers. We’ve been betting it all.
So I say it’s time for us to take control of the action. And, oh yeah, there’s plenty of action.
Will the Lift One project get approved by the city?
What are the odds? Place your bets.
Side bets galore. Will it get built? Will it make money? Will the developers want more concessions? Will anyone ride the “platter-pull” tow?
What are the odds?
How about Whole Foods? Will they finish the building? Will they open a store? Will there be a lawsuit?
What are the odds? Place your bets.
How many units will be built at Burlingame?
Take the over/under on that bet. Take the over/under on the Burlingame budget, too.
Hot tip: Take the over and give the points.
Snowmass Base Village? Entrance to Aspen? Jewish Community Center? Step right up. Place your bets.
As David Letterman likes to say, “Will it sink? Or will it float?”
And while we’re at it, no point in limiting things just to the big action.
At Vegas sports books, you can bet on the NFL, you can bet on Arena League Football. You can bet on bowling. Hell, you can bet on Major League Lacrosse.
So here at “Aspen: The Book” (that’s what we’re calling it ” anyone want movie rights?), you can bet on anything that goes down in the development world of the Roaring Fork Valley.
Well permits. Leach field approvals. Homeowners’ Association Approved Siding Materials and Trim Color waivers.
And, heck, let’s throw in Developer’s Divorce Court, too.
What are the odds? We’re talking big money. Place your bets.
And we’ll be following it all right here in our comfortable Aspen Exclusive Platinum Lounge with the big screens overhead flashing the action from a dozen government meetings at a time.
Gavels are pounded. Motions are raised. Votes are cast and the results go up on the electronic board, flashing by like ticker tape: Motion approved … Variance denied … Extension of vested rights denied … Housing requirement waived … Approval denied … Denial approved …
With every vote, big money is changing hands. And we get a cut. Don’t forget. We, the people, get our cut.
“Ladies and gents, place your bets.”
On the video screens the gavel slams down and the meeting of the Planning and Zoning Subcommittee on Fill Dirt is called to order.
Talk about high stakes. Talk about nerves of steel. The action in this place makes the casino at Monaco look like a back-alley craps game.
And here’s the best part: The government can’t have anything to do with it. They can’t touch the money. You can’t be betting on government approvals when the government gets part of the take.
That way lies nothing but a dark sea of corruption. So no government involvement. By law. Cool.
Of course, with the government out of the picture, the whole operation would be taken over by organized crime. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They have the expertise to run this kind of a show.
And having the Mob involved adds a little spice to the game. Mob pressure is the stamp of authenticity.
So, yeah, maybe a few people get their legs broken when they don’t pay their debts. Hey folks, development isn’t for sissies.
Besides, broken legs have been part of an Aspen vacation for decades. So we’re just showing proper respect for that glorious tradition.
The Aspen vacationer returns home and goes back to the office. The sweet young thing from accounting signs the plaster cast on his broken leg. He raises a eyebrow ” so cool ” smiles ruefully and says, “Aspen. What a town!”
She asks for details. He shrugs.
“I was having a great run. We’re talking experts only on this one, babe. Zoning variances.” He glances at her. She’s impressed; he can tell.
“I’m cruising, really going for it. Then I hit some bumps. I won big on a lot-line adjustment, turned right around and bet it all on the Daily Double: variances for a pair of building envelopes in avalanche paths. They denied them both. Voted to follow the ordinance. Can you believe that? Never happened before. I got killed.”
She looks up at him with big eyes. He gives her his tough-guy smile and manages another very cool shrug.
“I wasn’t going to back down, so I went for broke on a lot split ” but I crashed and burned and it was pretty much a yard sale after that. Lost it all and then some. And then Louie in the Elite Platinum Customer Services Collection Department decided to play rough.” He raps his knuckles on the plaster cast for emphasis. “Just another tough day in Aspen, babe.”
The pretty young thing thinks for a moment and says, “You went to Aspen and gambled on real estate? Instead of skiing? You must be some kind of major jerk.”
Oops. OK. Sorry. So maybe that little sequence doesn’t go into the ad campaign.
But you get the idea. We can’t lose.
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