No to school, yes to Georgia
I’m not voting for the new middle school (Referendum 3B) because there is no thumping urgency to build it and because no one can predict with any certainty what impact Burlingame will have on the school district.You can put on all the enrollment caps you want to, but if more students move into the district they WILL be accommodated, and if this means kicking out the out-of-district students, that will be another can of worms.Of course the present middle school is not an ideal building but – duh – it never was. Nor can I get excited about the security angle because any stranger entering the place would never be able to find the way out. Despite the claim that many people have spent thousands of hours analyzing the needs of the middle school, it came as a total surprise to the community and sounds more like keeping up with the frills of the high school than an urgent necessity.The only urgency I can see is that school taxes will go down next year if the tax questions fail, and of course the district wisely doesn’t want that. The proposed tax increases are based on $1 million homes, which might get you a studio apartment in Aspen, but here are the school tax numbers for a $2 million home: tax now, $1,428; tax if both questions fail, $1,366; tax if both win, $1,662.If Referendum 3A passes, asking for $700,000 for salaries and other things, the tax will remain essentially the same. If it were all going to salaries I’d vote for 3A in a minute, and will probably still do so, but no on the $33 million new school until we see how Burlingame shakes out.On the other hand, I am in full support of all three of the unfortunately worded Aspen Historical Society questions on the ballot, referendums 5D, 5E and 5F.A few years ago a segment of the Aspen Elite tried to take the historical society uptown and only succeeded in ruining the Stallard House, alienating its grassroots local support and drowning in its excrement of infighting and overwhelming debt.The fate of what was pretentiously renamed Heritage Aspen hung perilously on the brink of dissolution until Georgia Hanson took on the Herculean task of shoveling the operation out of its merde-filled pit. She started by changing the name back to the Aspen Historical Society and started digging.I cannot think of anyone else in town with the history, capability and energy to take on this thankless task and turn it into possibility.As its erstwhile benefactors found out, the society is not and never will be a big-ticket nonprofit item. It needs our help, and without our help it will go bottoms up and the Stallard property will probably revert to the Paepcke family. Then how would we look at ourselves in the mirror?I urge you to vote YES for 5D, 5E and 5F. The tax increase is minimal, and this issue really IS an emergency and an urgent necessity. Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks it was shortsighted to turn down the request to sell TDRs on the property, another way to help while doing no harm. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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Some days, I miss being back in the saddle. I miss making memories.