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Considering Aspen’s future

The mayoral election is here in just a few days, and I personally believe it’s time to cut to the chase. There has been seemingly thousands of clichés, labels, opinions, letters, statements of every sorts, facts, nonfacts and plain old bull — thrown around … and now I want to give my bottom-line opinion.This election is simply a choice between the past and the future. It’s a decision about leadership. Now please, read on, and give me a chance to explain myself. I love Aspen’s past; in fact I still think of the first day I arrived in Aspen such a long, long time ago … though it seems like yesterday. New Year’s Eve 1971, about 6 p.m. I arrived from the Midwest hoping to see the promised land. My buddy and I managed to get into every Aspen bar and nurse one very expensive drink as we watched the amazing Aspen people. I’ll never forget the image – exceptional people everywhere with seemingly nothing but a very wonderful world ahead of them. At the time I couldn’t imagine anywhere better, and swore I would make it back.It took 15 years and many, many detours for me to make it back to Aspen and a tough road to raise my kids here. Of course I long for that night 36 years ago; of course I complain about the changes to Aspen, but when I’m totally honest with myself most of all I miss the me of long ago. And that me simply isn’t coming back.So what does that have to do our mayoral election? Actually, most everything. You see, the anger and resentment of an Aspen of the past transforms issues like traffic from problem to symbol. And symbols can be paralyzing. Why do we talk about traffic for 27 years? Because we’re not really talking about the traffic.You see, I have this optimistic vision that Aspen really has a bright future. That perhaps one day traffic will be just traffic – a problem with a solution if we apply some of our remarkable talents and resources toward fixing it. That the constant debate over growth and development will become less about symbols and more about how we manage our international desirability day by day, year to year, with a consistent growth-control system, including all development. That affordable housing is the only housing option for many of us, and should be looked at with new eyes as permanent community housing. In fact, we should change the name of the whole program to community housing, which is what it actually is now.Now maybe fighting backwards will work, maybe freezing downtown while building a huge new government building is the way to go, maybe fewer jobs and a downturn in the local economy will be helpful in the short run. Maybe … but then again I just can’t see a boarded-up Aspen Manor for years doing much for our town. Nobody loves Aspen for boarded-up buildings.Maybe we can’t have it all … but then again, maybe we can. Aspen has perhaps the most capable, educated, dynamic citizens in the world, plus resources and beauty other communities can’t even imagine. Why can’t we fix the traffic, make life better for our citizens in affordable housing and control growth with a consistency we can all live with? Are we so polarized we can’t work together? Why? We all fundamentally want the same things for our precious town.We all want to preserve Aspen’s past magic and have confidence in Aspen’s future.Is the soul of Aspen gone? Well, some days it feels that way, but most days the soul’s still here if you keep your eyes open and look for it in unexpected places.I believe it’s possible to actually get somewhere on our problems. I believe the anger and resentment bubbling up around town can be healed. I believe extremism won’t fix anything, and that the heart of our town still exists and can make a better Aspen if we really listen to it. I believe that we can actually get somewhere fixing the traffic, devise a stronger growth-control system that includes everything so we know what to expect year to year, and a better community housing program that is fair and achieves our goals. With real progress on our problems perhaps we can begin to let go of the past and have a little more confidence in Aspen’s future.I would like the chance to get us there.My thanks to everyone who participated in this election.Please vote June 5. The French national election had 80 percent voter participation; we had 43 percent on May 8. Every vote matters! Tim Semrau is a candidate for mayor of Aspen in the June 5 runoff election.


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