November 8, 2006
The most interesting- and also the most trivial – result in this week’s local election was the rejection of the Aspen Recycling Center.It wasn’t much of a project – a shed roof over a couple of Dumpsters … OK, maybe it was a little more than that. And, OK, it would have cost a million dollars. But, hey, this is Aspen.Anyway, it really didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. In fact, I wrote a column a couple of months ago saying I didn’t see anything wrong with the proposal. It seemed like no big deal to me.Obviously the voters didn’t see it that way.That doesn’t upset me. I’m used to having people disagree with me. And anyway, I’m sure we’ll wind up with something nice over there (although probably not quite as nice as the now-rejected proposal would have been).So that’s the “trivial” part. What’s interesting is the message.This was an election season for messages. As I can’t resist mentioning, the big Democratic wins in the national election sent a message to George W. Bush: “We don’t like you or your stinking war.”Locally, I think there was a message too. Something like, “Stop! For crying out loud! Stop!”It’s hard to avoid a strong feeling that Aspen has gotten out of control … again. Everywhere you look, something new is being built, something old is being torn down.What have we lost in recent months? What are we about to lose in the months to come? La Cocina. The MotherLode. The Limelite. What else? Aspen Velo? Ajax Bike? The Hearthstone House? Make your own list.We may have saved the Isis – sort of – but Stage 3 is gone, and a new monstrosity will soon take its place.And meanwhile throughout the city older homes are being torn down – or, in some ways even worse, “renovated” – and replaced with mansions.Cruise through town, everywhere you look, you can see the fresh raw wood of new buildings going up.The wrecking ball is swinging and the parade of cement mixers is ready to roll.Hell, I don’t have to tell you. You see it yourselves every day.I remember when I was young and stupid and I joined a high school fraternity. The pledge process involved regular beatings with a paddle. And every time we got smacked we were required to shout, “Thank you, sir! May I have another?” And the brothers were always glad to oblige and smack us again.Well, that’s Aspen these days. Every time they destroy something precious and replace it with something hideous, we all get together and shout, “Please, sir, may I have another?”Except, of course, it’s not “us” shouting. We the people are the ones getting smacked, but its the government that seems unable to stop begging for more.And now the Straight Shot Fanatics are revving up their million-horsepower bulldozer and campaigning to ram a four-lane right down Aspen’s throat.With all of that, is it any wonder that people want to stop something? Anything.When I first moved to Aspen, the Concept 600 building – that depressing, hulking condominium project across Main Street from the now-lamented Stage 3 – was under construction. It was widely loathed as a blot on the fair face of Aspen and late one night someone set fire to the half-finished building. It burned to the ground.That was very satisfying, but ultimately very futile. Concept 600 was rebuilt and still stands.Even before that, the Holland Hills subdivision outside Basalt boasted a completely out of place windmill. (“Holland” Hills. Get it?) One night, legend has it, someone took a stick of dynamite and blew a good-sized hole in the windmill.Again, satisfying. Again, futile.Yes, over the long run, more than a few bad projects have been stopped – by injunctions more often than dynamite, to be sure.But now it all seems to be out of control.And so, on Tuesday, Aspen voters did what they could. They rejected the recycling center.It may not have been much, but at least they stopped something. And maybe, in the spirit of Election Day 2006, they were sending a message.Let’s hope someone over at City Hall was listening.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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