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Election guns are out

Roger Marolt

(Note: names, dates, and identifiable references have been changed from the original of this letter to protect a great local organization. If applicable, villains’ names appear in context.)Dear _____, So, I got the e-mail from our election consultant this morning. I suppose somebody was going to tell me about it eventually. I have just one small question: Why?Why do we have an election consultant? All right, I’m not going to get very far with that approach. Like driving on a patch of ice, I’ll have to back up before I can get some traction. First of all, I’m proud to be treasurer in this political campaign. You have a tradition deeper than February powder in Highland Bowl. It’s an outstanding organization of great people who make a huge difference in our lives. In addition to all of the exceptional work that you do, your organization continues to be a symbol of our community. I firmly believe that this issue needs to pass so that you can continue the outstanding public service that you have performed for well over a hundred years (Although a few of you may qualify individually, I am speaking of the group in general here). There; now that I’m moving forward I’ll ask again: Why are we using election consultants? I don’t think there could be anything less copasetic with our small-town atmosphere. It’s city-slick wimpy. Besides, we don’t need them. In case you didn’t notice, Aspen loves you! Haven’t you seen all of the smiling faces at the parades, everyone waving at you? You’re a welcome presence at every event in town from toddlers’ birthday parties to Ruggerfest. You’re there in our times of desperation as well as our times of celebration. Winning this issue should be easier than bribing a Florida election official. You’ll probably tell me that you don’t want to leave anything to chance though, that you’re afraid of violating some obscure election laws, that you want to be ready in case any opposition organizes.Phooey! If, and it’s a big IF, there is any opposition in this election, as usual their “organization” will amount to a handful of letters in the papers and some pre-caffeine grandstanding at the Wienerstube Stamtisch or post-bill scan gripping at the post office. Don’t tell me you really believe thousands of dollars are going to be raised and a bitter battle waged by the “Citizens for Grumbling Just Because,” “The Coalition to Eliminate another Piece of Our Heritage,” or “Aspenites Against Good Guys.” People have been putting on elections in this town without the help of outside experts, well, forever! In all my years here, I’ve never seen a good ballot measure defeated. I’ve seen a lot of really crappy ones pass, but never a good one defeated. This town can’t say “NO” to you!Besides, between all of us in this group we know dang near everyone in town. Let’s just talk to people. Trust me, they’ll trust us. If we can’t convince them, maybe there is a good reason that the measure shouldn’t pass. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in these things that our eyes get covered and we don’t see the big picture. It’s not for us to decide the issue, only to ask for support. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that I have some personal vendetta against election consultants. Well of course I do! I was there when consultants, hired by Skico, showcased their talents for the Base Village election in Snowmass last year. Residents will never forget being outspent, outmaneuvered, outorganized, and outpropagandized by a group of professional election engineers whose only interest in the community was a big, fat paycheck. When they came on the scene, Skico appeared to make a concerted effort to cram their employee housing with eligible-to-vote U.S. citizens who happened to work for them, re-register second-homeowners after giving them first crack at the Base Village land grab, and tutor management in a short course on demagoguery. “Coincidentally” they won over every single elected official even though the town was evenly divided on the issue. Good people lost their jobs for daring to ask questions. Was any of this illegal? No. Was it unethical? That’s debatable. Was it a nice way to treat your neighbors? Heck no! But they won! And Snowmass Village will never be the same. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. Whether the hired-gun tactics changed the outcome will never be known (wink, wink). And that’s where the embers still smolder. The acrid smoke of suspicion permeates Town Hall. Trust is a thing of the past. Is this sour grapes? You’re darn right it is! I’d go so far as to call it vinegar that residents will be gagging on for years to come. Why risk this happening in Aspen? Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think local elections should be win-at-all-cost, crush-the-opposition-out-of-existence, may-the-most-highly-capitalized-PAC-win affairs. One of the great parts of living in a small town is that we know the people who oppose our ideas. We can argue face to face. Anyone who cares should be allowed a say, and we should possess the wisdom to listen. You are such an outstanding organization that it would be easy for me to look the other way on this. But, I’m not changing my principals because the election consultants happen to be on my side this time. I refuse to be led by these chad-chasing mercenaries who would just as soon be fighting against me if the money was better on the other side of the table. The only burning issue for them is: “When’s payday?” So, I’m happy to help. But, I’m on my own now. Please forgive me for not attending any of the meetings called by the consultants or supporting them in any way. No matter how good the cause, I won’t follow a leader who’s only chasing a buck. Roger Marolt is trying not to write with a fine-point pencil. He’s consistently found at roger@maroltllp.com


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