I am an idiot

Andy StoneAspen, CO Colorado

Pretty much every week, as soon as my column is published, well-meaning people get in touch to point out that I am completely wrong.In person, by telephone or by e-mail, these well-informed citizens carefully explain to me that I am a lame-brained, pig-headed fool who couldn’t out-think an egg salad sandwich.I, of course, respond politely and maturely.”Shut up!” I explain. Or, sometimes, entering into deeper dialogue, I suggest, “I know you are, but what am I?”Still, there are times when I am seriously impressed by the points that readers raise. I thought, just for fun, I’d mention two recent ones this week.The first came after a column a few weeks back, in which I said that having a citywide vote on the Lodge at Aspen Mountain might not be a bad idea.If the town’s going to hell, I suggested, it might be appropriate to have the entire citizenry get together to sign, seal and put the necessary postage on that little package.I cited the election on the Ritz (now the St. Regis) as an example.The next day, a woman far wiser than I (and with a better memory to boot) cheerfully pointed out what an idiot I am. She explained why the Ritz affair was a perfect example of why such issues should not go to a public vote.The city was pretty evenly divided on the Ritz – perhaps 40 percent firmly in favor and 40 percent firmly opposed. That left the remaining undecided 20 percent with the swing votes.And so the developers devoted all their time and energy and considerable resources to running a slick (and, said this woman, thoroughly dishonest) campaign directed at that small slice of voters.I won’t go into any of the specifics that she recounted. I think the essential point was this: When you inject big-city money and big-city campaign tactics into a small-town election, anything can happen.And, more to the point, that “anything” usually turns out to be exactly what the people with all the money wanted. I suspect she’s right.And now I have to note that City Council has rejected the lodge proposal. The council also declined to put the decision to a public vote, noting that this kind of application is monstrously complicated and would undoubtedly get over-simplified in an election campaign.The other column that exposed me to public (and private) ridicule was one in which I admitted that I couldn’t make up my mind how I felt about the proposed expansion of paid parking to virtually the entire downtown residential district.A lot of people were eager to explain why I was an idiot on that one.Let me rush to note that I was not impressed by the “pity the poor construction workers” argument, raised by a wonderful woman with an admitted fetish for men in toolbelts.I certainly understand the point that expanded paid parking will be a real burden on local workers (yes, including construction workers). But I think that may just mean that employers will have to step up to help their employees solve the problem. (Bus passes? Parking passes?)I was somewhat swayed by the argument that if RFTA can’t provide a sharp increase in bus service (including very frequent free shuttles into town from an intercept lot at the airport) there’s no way expanded paid parking can reduce traffic into town. And if that’s the case, then there’s no excuse for more paid parking – except as an exercise in raising revenue and expanding government power. (Both bad things, I hasten to note.)I was, as always, ready to listen to the argument that the only real solution to the traffic problem is a train. I agree … but what are the chances?But the point that really caught my attention was that imposing paid parking throughout the residential areas will destroy some of the last vestiges of real community life in those neighborhoods.If you live in a true residential neighborhood, you have to be able to have friends come and stay – or just drop by for lunch or a quick visit – without having to pay for parking.We already mourn the transition of the West End to a near-ghost neighborhood of mostly empty second homes. Why push it over the edge?OK everyone … now it’s your turn to explain, yet again, why I’m still an idiot.Andy Stone is a former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is