Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I was having a couple of drinks on the porch under a sunset the other evening when, as usually happens under these circumstances, I came up with a pretty slick idea. I’ve learned that when thoughts come to me like this, it is usually unwise to spring them on anybody until I allow them to mellow overnight. Most times, by the next morning, I feel kind of embarrassed at myself for thinking that whatever the idea was could have worked, or I can’t even recall it because suppressed memory always covers up awful things.
But no such things happened the sunrise after my most recent brain wave, about how the city could work its way out of the Burlingame jam by raising a bunch of money for employee housing ” without issuing any more multimillion-dollar bonds or further pestering the taxpayers ” crashed upon the cerebrally sandy beach below the solid rock that is my brain. It still seemed like a good idea, even after a cup of coffee!
My plan is really just the old-fashioned type of basic finance that cash-strapped corporations have been employing for years, so it’s no wonder that nobody at City Council ever thought of it. But if they had, I’m sure they wouldn’t have squandered the moment by hiding in anonymity the way the arithmetically challenged nitwit who couldn’t correctly place a decimal point, costing city taxpayers $85 million, recently did. Rather, they’d hold a press conference to tell everyone how smart they are and brag it all up to make the voters feel that their money is being spent wisely, if not awfully damn quickly. I know they would want to do this, because that is what I wanted to do. Instead, I suppressed the impulse and went to work.
On my way, I ventured over to Zele and risked the idea on a few people whom I thought might like it, and they did. These weren’t just normal people, either. They were number-crunchers. There was a politician from a neighboring community there, an investment manager and a CPA. Most importantly, though, these are people who delight in pointing out my errors. They are ruthless nitpickers of each and every argument. They are cruel criticizers. In other words, they are friends. When I got nothing but raised eyebrows, pursed lips and nodding heads from them, I knew it was a good idea. Thus emboldened, I couldn’t wait to get to the office to shove progress into motion.
Once in the driver’s seat of my desk, I fired up the computer and checked to make sure the stock market was down, the price of oil up and that the Rockies lost again, and then shot off an e-mail to the mayor, telling him that I wanted to talk to him about a safe, painless way to raise a pile of cash for employee housing that could go a long way in wiping the shame from the face of the dirty-thumbed brochure printer in City Hall’s basement.
Now keep in mind that Burlingame is astronomically over budget, the Wheeler RETT fund ” which has always been a veritable ocean of money that subsidized housing floats on ” has been sucked dry, and the city desperately needs to raise millions of dollars in a bond initiative this fall just to get themselves back to even. It’s a big problem! Wouldn’t you think that the adoptive father of this bastard would be looking for any and all suggestions for keeping his baby out of reform school?
If you said “yes,” I am sorry to say that you are wrong. Instead, I got back a message correcting me on some trivial point I made in a column on employee housing the week before. And, by the way, if I wanted to speak with the mayor, I should call his secretary to set up an appointment.
I was flabbergasted. For those of you new to town, nobody here has ever been required to make an appointment with the mayor unless they wanted something. It’s not anything unique to Aspen. This is the universal code of communication with elected officials in every small town west of Stalingrad. For crying out loud, in most small towns citizens cross the street so they don’t have to meet the mayor and partake in puffy politicized palaver.
I get it that, if you are trying to get a variance to build something three times larger than the code allows, you have to jump through the hoops. The first hoop is getting past the mayor’s secretary. The next one is wining and dining the mayor without too many people noticing. But I came bearing a gift. I wanted nothing more than to help our beleaguered leader chlorinate the cesspool he belly-flopped into from the high dive. To hell with hoops!
You want to talk about how this place has changed? How about starting by making an appointment at the mayor’s office?!
OK, by now you are undoubtedly curious as to what my great idea is, and rightly so, because it really is a good idea. All taxpayers and supporters of employee housing could benefit from it. It’s simple and risk free. We could pay back funds that were “borrowed” from the imploded RETT fund. We could end a good deal of bickering about Burlingame by moving past the $85 million speed bump that was built in the road without being accounted for. But it’s not going to happen for now. The mayor reads this paper. It might be free, but I’m not going to make it easy.
If anybody is interested in hearing about it, call my office and make an appointment. I guess that’s the way we do it in the big city nowadays.
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