Roger Marolt: Roger This
October 1, 2010
Should second-home owners get to vote in local elections? No. It’s really that simple. Now the real problem: What do I fill the rest of this column with?Nice weather we’ve been having lately. The Rockies sure blew it. The Broncos need help with the running game. Did we talk about the weather?Oh, all right then, I’ll get into it, even though I firmly believe common sense is sufficient to explain why non-residents, no matter how much money they have invested in local land, should not be allowed to vote in local elections. Don’t you dare say that it’s because we don’t like second-home owners. We love them! We thank them. We kiss their butts. In exchange they keep the town’s palms greased. We can’t make our livings without them, whether they are buying things from our shops, eating at our restaurants, taking in a movie, or suing somebody over any silly thing like being run over by snow-grooming equipment on the ski trails or getting screwed in a timeshare deal.Second-home owners also pay for our schools, which they never use, bike paths, which they seldom use, and the hospital, which they keep pretty full with blown knees, cases (literally) of Food & Wine flu, and cosmetic surgical procedures. We can thank second-home owners, too, for supporting the local nonprofits, even the ones created and maintained by locals just so that they have something to do. Hey, it’s money into the local economy and I’m all up with that. More power to you.Mostly, though, we love second-home owners for becoming second-home owners. They can’t do that without buying real estate. And that is what makes this town hum. From brokers, bankers, insurers and Aspen Skiing Co. environmentalists to builders, architects, accountants and newspaper advertising reps, we all benefit directly or only slightly indirectly from people investing in vacation properties.It’s obvious that we love second-home owners! They’ve given us billions of reasons to over the years. The fact is that this town would not exist, or it would look like Leadville, if it were not for the second-home owners.The problem is that the feeling isn’t mutual. Oh, sure, second-home owners like us well enough. They might be impressed enough to buy a local a beer or, at the very least, patiently suffer one on a lift ride blabbing about how “incredible” it is to live here through mud season, but, when push comes to shove, if you’ve seen one local you’ve seen them all, Mick Ireland notwithstanding.Do you see how this plays out in a local election? Yep. We love (i.e., depend on) our second-home owners so much that keeping them happy by making this town a place they want to be in is high on our list of things to vote in favor of. We have them covered. Need proof? It’s why this place is so damn popular and expensive.On the other hand, the most important issue on a second-home owner’s voting booth cheat sheet might be to get a Starbuck’s on every other corner, closing down Highway 82 on powder mornings, and keeping rowdy local kids in school over the Christmas holidays. I guarantee you that most people who invest millions of dollars in Aspen vacation homes aren’t overly concerned about where I might park my car when I come to work (and, come to think of it, they at least have that in common with our City Council). But, you get the point: We care about our well being, which depends on theirs. They care about their well being, which has little to do with ours. And this brings me to another excellent point: Second-home owners already have a huge vote. If they like what we are doing here, they come to town and invest their money. If they don’t like the way we roll, they can pull stakes and get the hell out of here anytime they want (except, for now as they have to wait awhile for the real estate market to rebound a little). Buying and selling real estate is their vote!”So what,” you say. “Ordinary citizens have that very same right.” Well, not quite. A second-home owner can get out of here with a pen and a good real estate broker. A resident, on the other hand, has to reinvent herself. She’s got to sell the sweat and equity in her business for a price that never matches the value of what went into it. She’s got to wait until her spouse can find a job where they’re going. The kids have to get adjusted to new schools. And, they’ll all have to get used to the U.S. Postal Service fouling up the mail forwarding, and possibly a new cell phone plan. It isn’t easy!Now, this all came about because a part-time resident, full-time blowhard in Snowmass Village has raised such a ruckus about second-home owners’ property rights that the Town Council with the osteoporotic spine finally allowed him to form a second-home owners’ advisory group. That has led to murmurs of a second-home owner vote. The thing is that it just might happen out there. You laugh, but remember that this is the same town that fell for the whole “Renaissance of Snowmass” bull, approved Base Village, and then sold most of the town to a man named Pat Smith so that he could turn it into the false-fronted, shrink-wrapped mud hole that it is today. So, you can see that the possibilities are pretty much endless there.The bottom line is that a town is about a lot more than the dirt it is built on. It is what its citizens create with their lives there. Anyone who thinks they should get a say in how a town evolves must become a part of it … full time! It’s a huge price that not everyone is willing to pay. Oh, well. Some people think it’s worth it. They’re the ones that get to vote.
Roger Marolt thinks the locals have done a pretty good job creating value for second-home owners, so far. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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