Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I had been planning to write about the superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District banning the president’s speech from her district’s classrooms.

After all, who could resist slamming such an egregiously stupid decision by an “educator”? Really, you’d have to come up with a new definition of “education” to have it apply to a process that includes the actions of Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.

Hmmm. Let’s give it a try: education (n.): the celebration of ignorance.

OK. That wasn’t so hard.

Anyway, as I said, I was going to write about that, but a veritable flood of columnists has already slammed poor Ms. Haptonstall pretty thoroughly. And there’s not much to be gained from running over roadkill a second time – unless you think it just needs a little more tenderizing so you can take it home and toss it on the grill for lunch.

Still, before I move on, I have to mention the photo I saw of a young protester – maybe 16 – at last weekend’s anti-Obama demonstration in Washington, D.C. This young patriot was wearing a T-shirt that said, “The cure for Obama Communism is a new era of McCarthyism.” Cute. And he was carrying a huge sign that started, “Do I look like I want to serve in Obama’s Nazi youth militia?” and concluded, “Arrest our Communist, Racist, Fascist Lying President Now for Treason!”

Ah yes, that good old Nazi, Communist, Racist, Fascist alliance. Bring back McCarthy indeed!

That young man is a poster child for my new definition of education as the celebration of ignorance. Nobody’s going to brainwash that kid.

And sadly – very sadly – he represents an educational continuum that stretches from aggressively ignorant demonstrators in our nation’s capital all the way to the office of the Superintendent of Education in the Roaring Fork School District.

(There you go. Run over that dead chipmunk one more time. It’ll make a great sandwich for lunch on a nice fresh baguette.)

So, moving on, how do we feel about the squabble over a project that will dump about 300 new homes and 100,000 square feet of commercial space in El Jebel?

The battle – at the moment – is between Pitkin County, which doesn’t really have a dog in this fight, and Eagle County, whose dog is on a mighty long, trans-mountain leash. The commissioners of the two counties got together this week to call each other names. Always fun.

Pitkin County, which opposes the project, cares because, well, it cares about everything that happens in this sacred little valley of ours. I do support most of the efforts the county has made to control growth, putting its heavy thumb on the scales of real estate justice. But I can’t help wondering if this is a leap too far.

After all, Pitkin County stops a couple of miles from El Jebel. The county is leap-frogging (leaping a mighty big frog) into this one down an ugly chain of annexations. The upvalley end of Basalt is in Pitkin County because some Pitkin County landowners, who wanted to develop, petitioned to be annexed into Basalt. They knew Pitco wouldn’t approve their project, while Basalt would OK almost anything.

And Basalt extends all the way downvalley to El Jebel because the town annexed a couple of miles of territory in order to grab the new City Market and its sales tax revenue.

In short, the anti-growth county is connected to this fight by a chain of annexations motivated entirely by greed and development. So that’s kind of fun.

On the other hand, Eagle County – which has given first-round approval to the project – is the county that brought you the Vail metroplex. Besides, almost all of Eagle County is on the other side of Cottonwood Pass (or Glenwood Canyon, depending on your choice of route). What the heck do they care about our valley? Except as a source of revenue.

So I’m not sure they’re the ones we should be looking to for thoughtful, sensitive planning decisions.

As one mournful Basalt planning guy said, “Let Eagle have its way and we’ll have Edwards on the Roaring Fork.” He was referring to that nifty unincorporated town of 10,000 by the side of I-70, between Vail and Eagle.

Of course, Basalt, in its own greedy wisdom, has already given us Willits, which in its current state of decay might well be described as … hell, I don’t know. Hiroshima on the Roaring Fork? Detroit on the Roaring Fork?

How about “Oh my God, what a mess” on the Roaring Fork?

Or “Hole in the Ground” on the Roaring Fork?

I have to admit I’m still holding a grudge against Basalt for the land grab that sent its tentacles down the highway to El Jebel. That was pretty shameful, and the current Willits mess doesn’t make me feel any better about things.

So I’m inclined to side against Basalt, which opposes the project.

And I almost feel a little sorry for Ace Lane, the would-be developer.

But then, Lane is the guy who’s calling his development the Tree Farm. But the “tree farm” on the property has always looked like an afterthought, a small patch of Christmas trees, planted to get an agricultural tax break.

The thing his property is really known for is the artificial water-skiing lake he dug there for his own enjoyment. But who’d go to bat for the Artificial Water-Skiing Lake Ranch and Townhomes? So Tree Farm it is.

So who do you like: The big No-Growth Bully from the top of the valley? The Build, Baby, Build guys from over the hills and through the canyon? Or the poor, humble landowner with his private water-skiing lake?

I’m voting for that kid with the “Bring back McCarthyism” T-shirt.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is

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