Su Lum: Going overboard | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Going overboard

Some factions in Aspen are getting in such a panic about our economic “crisis” that we are beginning to look desperate. I’m sure the rest of the world would be weeping with pity for us if they understood our financial woes.

Let’s review the bidding. The United States was already in an economic downturn when Sept. 11 sent the country into a tailspin. Add to that the collapse of the fatuous dot.com market, the tinderbox of the Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan situations, the impending Iraq attack and the upending of the Catholic church, and stir in the revelation that our major corporations (even, good lord, Johnson and Johnson!), accounting firms, banks and financial advisors have been lying through their teeth and are up to their armpits in the till, including our topmost leaders.

Closer to home, we had a mediocre snow winter followed by a major drought and what seemed like the whole state being on fire. Gov. Owens was stomped on for mentioning the fires, but all you had to do was go out your door to realize that our much-touted clean Colorado mountain air smelled like the small smokers’ area at the Denver airport.

Times are tight, but the economic times, like the weather, will change.

A little irony for Aspen is that real estate sales are up, since real estate investments now seem more solid than the stock market.

One overreaction to our temporary setback is the dramatic push to get us to approve an increase in county taxes this November. Alors, the county is broke, the county must cut back on social services (always the first ploy – hit ’em where it hurts rather than lop from the top), and now the latest, no more free coffee for the staff. Color me dubious, but if I had an hour to take a whack at the county budget I don’t think we’d need to increase taxes, and Bob Braudis could drink free coffee, too.

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Kudos to our county clerk and recorder, Sylvia Davis, who rose up to challenge the premise of the budget cuts she was supposed to meet. She could meet them, but it didn’t have to be by tightening the noose on the taxpayers, but by cutting services to the county government.

Meanwhile, you don’t hear anything from the commissioners about rising real estate sales, or the fact that as soon as we vote in the tax increase we’ll be reassessed and, because real estate sales are up, will probably take another kick in the teeth as we did two years ago when our evaluations doubled. Heads up!

The newspaper rattled in my hands when I read that Aspen was one of several “contestants” to be the locale of a proposed new television sitcom. The head of our chamber of commerce was quoted as saying that this would be great publicity, worth millions of dollars in advertising. What good publicity can we possibly imagine would come out of a TV sitcom based in Aspen? As a community ripe for vicious satire and ridicule, we should be careful what we wish for!

The latest is the suggestion to market ourselves under the “brand name” “Aspen-Snowmass.” Defined in new-speak: “A brand is a promise defined by a consumer’s perception.”

Aspen Ski Company’s CEO, Pat O’Donnell, encouraged the community to participate in the “branding” of Aspen-Snowmass. If we all get together, we can reinvent ourselves.

Let Snowmass do their thing, let them build their great Base Village and see what happens. If empty Aspen Highlands is any example, we should heed the warning.

[Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks that when we start identifying with Snowmass Village we’ll really be in trouble. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]

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