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Kids First? What a joke!

Aspen Times writer

By Roger Marolt

Pssssst. Hey, you. Come on over here. Can you keep a secret? This is hilarious.

Remember the Childcare/Housing tax that the city of Aspen voters approved in 1990 and renewed in 1999? Come on, think hard. We approved the initiative to raise money to improve the quality of early-childhood education?

Yah, that’s right. Well, guess what? That tax has soaked the taxpayers of this town for more than 3 million bucks … No, no stop it. That’s not the funny part.

The funny part is this – guess what they’ve done with the money? Nothing! Hoo, haa, ha! Absolutely nothing!

I’ll let you in on another little secret. I was the official treasurer for the campaign that urged you voters to support our children, their education and the future. My name was proudly displayed in every single ad. I also served on the board of direc-

tors for Kids First and am currently (at least as of the time of this writing) on the financial advisory committee. That’s how I caught on.

When I joined the campaign I did it because I thought we were going to do something great for our kids. I was concerned about those all-important years of early-childhood development. I believed the people who led the effort to help us help our children. In short, I was a moron.

All of us who voted in favor of the Childcare/Housing tax were duped. We fell for it. Making people look foolish is funnier than a pie in the face any ‘ol day. These guys are great!

They left me completely in the dark. I can’t take any credit for this

joke. With all of the smoke the organizers produced, I should have suspected there wasn’t much flame behind their passion. But I didn’t. Right about now, I’m looking sorrier than the meager benefits this town has received from the tax. I’m being a good sport, though. This is funny! Heee, hooo, ha, haaa!

Now brace yourself, this prank gets even better. Look at all that has happened to early-childhood care since this tax was first imposed. Where do we start? We’ll have to look at the short list since that’s all there is. Ha, ha, haa!

Let’s see now: first, we all know that Little Feet daycare center failed a few weeks ago and shut their doors for good. What a hoot! Also, parents can’t even keep track of all the teachers’ names anymore. You’re thinking good teacher-to-student ratio, right? Wrongo! It’s more like horrendous teacher turnover. Hee, hoo! It’s so bad that we can no longer tell our kids not to talk to strangers. The teachers don’t stick around long enough to get to know them. Haaa!

Then, there is the never-ending list of needed repairs and shortage of supplies at every preschool in town. Get it? Ha, ha, ha! And finally, there are the constant worries about whether or not these kids’ programs are going to make it to the next payroll. Childcare here is a study in crisis management. It doesn’t get any better than that, ha, ha!

While all of the improvements haven’t been going on, that big wad of cash is still sitting in the same old bank account where it was put the day it was collected, earning about 1.2 percent annual interest. Whew, wee! The comedians on City Council have decided it is better to invest all that money in C.D.s (Certificates of Deposit) rather than in C.F.s (Children’s Futures). Ooooh, stop it, my stomach hurts!

How do they do it? Shoo, wee! It’s so simple that it’s brilliant! The children of the voters who approved this tax are all grown up and never received any benefit from it. Those parents have forgotten about it. Parents with toddlers now don’t know about it. People without kids don’t care. We’re all in the dark! Ah, ha, ha, ha!

My oldest daughter was my youngest daughter when the tax passed. Next year she’s in middle school. My son was just starting preschool. He’s in second grade now. My youngest daughter was a long, romantic weekend getaway tentatively penciled in on the calendar. She’s in her last year of preschool. None of my kids benefited from this tax.

What? Are they building an endowment for them? Haa! Toddlers have a shorter shelf life than organic bagels. Before you can unplug the Game Boy they’re moldy old teenagers. You can’t make this stuff up!

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there playing first trumpet on the entitlement bandwagon. They probably would like nothing more than to make sure this wad is spent for the kids and not adult wolves in Elmo’s clothing. They don’t care if the money is used to paint the Little Red School House blue or to tame Wildwood. They wouldn’t care if you gave it to the Aspen School District to cover their deficit, for crying out loud. They probably think that those elementary school kids should have benefited from this in the first place.

Don’t let those killjoys ruin a good joke! Keep the money stashed away!

The absolute genius in this prank is that the politicians who put this thing together used our kids. They’re still using our kids. They played on our fears. They played on our concerns. They tugged on our heartstrings. They manipulated our love for children. They promised us great things and have delivered nothing. Stop it, already – I’m dying here, whew!

The best part is that someone down at City Hall has designs on these funds that have nothing to do with helping our youth except in possibly the most ancillary way. Our leaders have not forgotten about this pile of loot. They are banking that you have. Then they’ll spend it to Astroturf the S-curves or put yet another pedestrian bridge across Maroon Creek and keep us all laughing around here for years to come. Hwoooeee!

So next time you see one of our comedian council members, give ’em a little wink and a knowing smile. But, don’t make ’em mad. They’ll probably spend that money on our kids.

Roger Marolt apologizes to you for being involved with this scam in the first place. Let him know you’re in on the joke @roger@maroltllp.com


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