Community? Fabric? Huh?
I’m sorry. I didn’t want to write about this again, but I can’t believe what I’ve read in the paper this week.Helen Klanderud, the mayor of Aspen, is apparently eager to protect the delicate feelings of a condominium owner who slashed the tops off a row of cottonwood trees to improve the view.Klanderud was quoted as saying that an all-out effort to identify the Tree Murderer would damage the “fabric” of the community.I cannot imagine what “fabric” or what “community” the mayor is talking about.The “community” I’m familiar with is outraged by the fact that some jerk destroyed those trees.The “community” I know is determined to find out who the hell did it and to see that person properly punished.And the “fabric” of that community is already pretty well shredded by the fact that public officials are unable or unwilling to get the job done. (Not long ago, Aspen police cheerfully raced into local bars in the middle of the afternoon, with guns drawn, in order to arrest a couple of dishwashers. Now, somehow, they can’t manage to get tough on a crime committed in broad daylight, in the middle of a public right of way using heavy construction equipment.)When the mayor of Aspen wants to bow down and play nice with people who think they can take an ax to anything that gets in their way … well, the tattered “fabric” of this “community” is blowing in the breeze.The other four council members voted to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits. (I’m only sorry that three of the four didn’t have the courage to approve Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss’ original proposal: a $100,000 reward. Now that might have gotten some real action.)Mayor Klanderud cast the lone dissenting vote. She said, this approach “sets a tone in this community that I’m uncomfortable with. … I do not see this as furthering a sense of community.”I have to admit that it’s not clear from the newspaper story whether Klanderud was objecting specifically to the reward or the fact that once the Tree Slasher’s identity was known, he (or, yes, she) would be subject to a kind of public “shaming.”Personally, I think a good public shaming is exactly what’s called for.Now, I know there are those who will call this “class warfare” and say we’re picking on the rich folks.Well, first of all, we’re not talking about people who are really rich – not, you know, “Aspen rich.” Sure, they have a lot more money than I do (a lot!), but, in Aspen, “rich” is reserved for people with mega-mansions on Red Mountain, Starwood, Owl Creek, the West End or the base of Little Nell. Sorry folks, but an East Hopkins condo just doesn’t cut it.And as for “class warfare” – well, the issue here is the total lack of class these people have shown.see stone on following page”Class” would be for the guilty parties to have stood up, right at the start, and said, “We did it and we are deeply sorry. We thought we had the right to trim those trees. We made a terrible mistake. We will replace them immediately.”If they had done that, I think almost everyone would have said, “OK. You may be dumb, but you’re honest.” And that would have been the end of it.Instead, these people have acted badly and, quite frankly, I think they deserve to be treated the same way.How about this for a fair rule: Act like a jerk; get treated like a jerk.I think we might do well to write it into the city charter. And finally, quite simply, public officials are supposed to represent the public, not those who trample on the public’s interests and wishes and spirit.And that – the public’s interests and wishes and spirit -make up the true “fabric of the community.”Is this, all in all, a small thing? Well, maybe it is – it’s a small thing, but it’s a big issue.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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