Paul Andersen: Fair Game |

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

These are desperate times indeed when Aspen becomes a recipient of pork barrel spending. The recently announced $4 million in stimulus handouts to the Aspen airport comes with the odious stench of impropriety that reeks of bacon.

According to a recent news report, $4 million in taxpayer money is being funneled into Aspen to “provide a smoother place for private jets to park.” Can it really be that Aspen, an elite resort synonymous with wealth, needs a stimulus of this kind? Has Aspen become so needy that taxpayer money must be squandered on private jet parking?!

“Those grants will be used to immediately put Coloradoans to work addressing needs at Colorado airports that are long overdue,” gushed Colorado Sen. Mark Udall in announcing the Fed’s largesse. “In addition to creating jobs, the projects that these grants will fund will improve safety and efficiency, helping to attract new business and grow our tourism industry.”

It is reading statements like these that makes me feel uncomfortable for aligning myself with the Democrats, the party I consider the lesser of two evils. Trying to deflect the pork stigma that Republicans routinely attach to the Democrats becomes an exercise in futility when $4 million is handed out to Aspen’s airport for the benefit of private jets.

You have to wonder how many Coloradoans will be employed in this work, how vital is the apron repair to airport safety and efficiency, how much new business and tourism will come from this taxpayer handout. But the bigger question is whether Aspen is an appropriate recipient of emergency stimulus funds in the first place.

It is a test of gullibility to suggest that improved parking for private jets is fiscally responsible or environmentally prudent. It is neither. Making Aspen more convenient for private jets should not even fall with the range of possibilities for putting $4 million to work in Colorado.

Instead, why not tackle energy efficiency and local energy generation? With a $4 million solar installation any community in our valley could take a big step toward energy self-sufficiency. Spread out among a thousand homes, that $4 million could provide solar heating, curtailing carbon emissions on an appreciable scale.

Think of what $4 million could do for the local farming movement in our region. If those funds were plowed into the earth for food crops, our local communities could strive for independence from long distance agribusiness supply chains and the rising costs of food.

If energy and food are not vital enough, then think what $4 million could do for education if applied to teacher salaries, classroom facilities, scholarships, and dietary improvements in the lunchrooms. Talk of a stimulus! Target those funds to kids by improving their learning potential and you’ve got a gift that keeps on giving.

There are plenty of other worthy candidates for a federal hand-out: social services, drug treatment centers, senior citizen care, public health, music, art, culture, etc. Instead, $4 million in taxpayer stimulus funds will cater to one of the wealthiest resort communities in the world and the wealthiest of its guests.

Perhaps those who fly in and out of Aspen on private jets could contribute to apron repairs that directly benefit their aircraft. This would ease the wear and tear on their G-3s while making stimulus funds more socially responsible. Couldn’t they just take a collection at the airport?

If Aspen’s stimulus windfall is any indication of the priorities being ranked in Washington, D.C., today, then my hopes for meaningful change just went out the window ” along with whatever percentage of my taxes will be paved into the new asphalt apron.

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