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More on Burlingame

Mick Ireland

Dear Su Lum: I always read your column and take seriously your comments given your long tenure in the community.

You are predicting a nasty campaign. If it’s going to be nasty, that will be in large part because the opposition (unnamed and supposedly unfunded) has chosen to disregard not just an election but also a written contract and two city council elections where the candidates (except Terry) pledged to support the project.

You also suggest that you are “pissed off” because the city was going to put the annexation question on the ballot if the other two petitions were withdrawn. You applaud them for refusing to do so.

The fact is, Bert Myrin suggested that deal to us. I have the e-mail to prove it. Bert Myrin asked whether we would agree to put their question on the ballot in return for withdrawing the other two. So, it’s unfair to be angry at us just because we agreed to what they originally proposed.

Every day, I run into or hear about people who were told that the two petitions would not affect Burlingame, they were just good government. There is a Grassroots (TV) tape with Toni Kronberg making that statement to the commissioners at public comment. “These petitions are not anti-Burlingame.”

Now that the cat is out of the “good government” bag, my position is and was that the petitioners need to go back to their signatories and explain that they were lying the first time when they said their two petitions weren’t anti-Burlingame.

Rachel Richards and Helen Klanderud have the better argument, however, and they will probably put the annexation question on the ballot in order to save the community the expense of another delayed building season.

One of the petitioners, Junee Kirk, goes around claiming that six out of 10 units are occupied by people who don’t own them. She says it on TV, she repeats it while gathering petitions and it’s not true or close to true. A thousand dollars for you or her or anyone who can back up one-tenth of the claim. It’s just McCarthyesque innuendo: “Everyone knows those people are guilty but I can’t show the evidence.”

Most divisive of all are the statements by Joe Edwards and Connie Harvey calling affordable housing a “ghetto,” invoking images of crime, violence, poverty, rampant drug use and other bad things that have no relevance to the need for Burlingame.

Remember Willie Horton? Reagan’s welfare queen strategy, the Swift Boat Veterans? All that Karl Rovian rhetoric trying to associate housing with crime and violence is aimed at smearing a very good program that serves my wonderful neighbors who have done nothing to deserve the comparison. OK, none of us are millionaires but is that wrong, a crime, the first step to Mr. Edward’s “ghettoization?”

People will sneer at Burlingame, he claims, as though A) anyone should care, and B) someone is or should be sneering. This just sets my neighbors on Red Mountain against my neighbors at its base, suggesting that one group sneers at the other so maybe we should sneer back. Wedge issue politics at its worst. Next thing we’ll be hearing about is gay marriage or immigrants living in affordable housing. Maybe the weapons of mass destruction are buried under Centennial.

Mr. Edwards says housing residents should be “scattered” among free market units instead of “packed” in a “ghetto.”

Why? I live in a beautiful, affordable housing neighborhood where people know each other, keep beautiful gardens and don’t have to lock their doors. No boom boxes, no crime, no material for Fifty Cent to rap about. Is everything under 3,000 square feet some form of blight?

Would I be better off in Junee Kirk’s neighborhood where the houses are much bigger and hardly anyone lives? In the last two years, about 1,000 different people lost housing lotteries. Would we better off if the future residents of Burlingame lived in Carbondale near Mr. Edwards, commuting 60 miles a day?

The repeated use of the word ghetto by Ms. Harvey and Mr. Edwards is inflammatory and appears intentional. It is especially hurtful to those of us who have first-hand working knowledge of ghettoes.

There is a difference between real ghettos and neighborhoods where the typical owner works 1.3 jobs, volunteers in her spare time, plants a vegetable garden, mows her own lawn and feels safe enough to let her children out without protection. Is that a ghetto?

Are the parents who bring their children to Common Ground and North 40 for Halloween, for parties, to play with friends, crazy and irresponsible or do they know what every 10-year-old child knows: affordable housing is a safe place to go, full of life and real people.

Su Lum, would you like your neighborhood described as a ghetto? Or would such a description make you angry? I’m sure you would be bothered by that slur and wouldn’t appreciate the suggestion that you were a negative person for reacting to that slur.

Joe Edwards and Dwight Shellman did a lot for this community 30 years ago, but I believe they have little feeling for the people and life of a community where they no longer live. It is no more appropriate to make Woody Creek urban than it is to make Aspen into Woody Creek or Carbondale.

It might be just fine if Woody Creek is quiet and rural, a great place to retire or seek solitude. If Woody Creek is home to fewer and fewer 20- and 30-year-olds, that’s OK. But Aspen needs to create a foothold for a vanishing middle class and people young enough to support night life, local services and volunteer organizations. Can’t have a dance party if everyone is Dick Clark.

Perhaps when Aspen is playing eight-man football and Halloween is something we all watch on TV, it will be obvious that we lost a chance to hang on to some families. The Zoline ranch will be gone by then, developed for unaffordable housing along with everything else.

I hope the voters will look past the angry and demeaning attacks on the character of their neighbors in affordable housing and honor the needs of their neighbors, the written contracts, the prior votes and elections and allow the Burlingame neighborhood to serve the next generation.

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