Righteous indignation | AspenTimes.com

Righteous indignation

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

All it takes to illustrate the division of Aspen is for a newspaper to publish a story or two about the Hotel Jerome being rented out by an obscenely wealthy family.

By the time this paper had printed that Goldman Sachs executive Jeffrey Verschleiser had staked claim to the historic property for five days – closing its popular J. Bar and Library to the public as well – a cloud of righteous indignation hung over Aspen.

There was the bellyaching about the J. Bar being closed – even this newspaper cried in its beer (and coffee) about it as part of an editorial last week. And there was the growing outrage – outrage! – that Verschleiser had used ill-gotten gains at his time at Bear Stearns to take the Jerome hostage for his daughter’s bat mitzvah.

We can whine all we want about this Main Street treasure being rented out to Verschleiser, but no one knows exactly how he paid for it. So we’re left to guesswork, counting his money and making accusations and devising theories based on reports that just are a Google search away.

But it’s times like these that Aspen needs to do a reality check. For the past few decades, Aspen – which prides itself on its small-town mountain charm – has been visited and bought out by some people who have used dubious means to earn vast sums of cash that we have readily accepted.

Homeowners with such nicknames as “The Pirate of Prague” have pumped thousands of dollars into our property tax coffers. Prince Bandar – once dubbed “Bandar Bush” for his close ties to the presidential family – have lined the bank accounts of local nonprofits with cash, and employed and paid the bills for many local workers. We often turn our noses up at Texans, unless their names end with Armstrong, then our noses suddenly turn brown. People conveniently forget that Lance’s rise to fame in the cycling world is haunted by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Some readers claim that the Verschleiser family didn’t deserve to get this kind of attention during a week devoted to their daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony. We disagree: When Aspen’s best-known hotel is closed to the public for five days because it’s been rented out, it’s news.

But we also believe the sanctimonious fussing over what the Jerome was rented out for is misguided. Had it been booked for a corporate junket is one thing; this was for a bat mitzvah. Don’t let us be the judge of whether that was money well spent.

Because if we start playing that game, there are many more rocks to turn over in Aspen, and we might not like what we see underneath. But none of us should be surprised.

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