Taking pointers from high school elections
Now that the election-season dust has settled, and we have returned to some sense of normalcy (like the maniacal crowds of tourists and summer), the letters to editor once again belong to the regulars (like Sue Gray’s inane diatribes on Israel), we can place the recent Aspen election in perspective.While I don’t enjoy them, I can certainly understand how the process leading up to presidential elections can take years.But, we’re talking about the most important job in the world, right? Although the president makes a lot less than Alex Rodriguez – and when did the president ever hit over .300?Now, in Aspen, a small town of approximately 5,804 residents (according to the 2006 census), the recent election process and runoffs lasted about eight months. Extrapolating the comparison between the size of the community and the United States, that equates to nearly … 4,321 years to hold an election for a town two miles long and a quarter of a mile wide. What’s wrong with that picture?And that’s a campaign focused on major issues like one candidate’s living habits and residency; debate over the Entrance to Aspen (oh, that has been going on for 36 years); affordable housing at $1 million per unit for low-income people, who the primary residents don’t want here; growth management (if you could hear the political discussion over the din of the cranes, jackhammers, and construction trucks); and maintaining the “Aspen quality of life,” which is now controlled by Vail Resorts.Allow me to digress if you will, to my high school days … 11th grade at Miami Beach Senior High School, to be exact.I decided that I wanted to make a difference and chose to run for senior class vice president (of course I figured I had no real chance at president), so if the president of the class were killed or unable to perform the duties of the office, I could step up. We all know the important responsibilities of vice presidents. They occasionally make stupid remarks (look at Dick Cheney, Spiro Agnew, and Dan Quayle). I’m certainly qualified for that job.The entire process involved filing (as a student I didn’t have to prove my residency) and one week of campaigning prior to the election. That provided time for some nifty homemade posters, lots of hand-shaking with all the people we already knew, and promises we knew we could never keep (like senior parking, longer lunch hours, no detentions, blah, blah, blah). We even had the perfunctory assembly to be introduced to the class and each of the presidential candidates gave a 10 minute speech.Two people filed to run for president (a perennial loser who had run from sixth grade through 11th grade and had lost to the same opponent every year).For vice president, eight (yes, eight) people registered to run for the post, including the head cheerleader (and future homecoming queen), a future Hollywood producer (the son of the English department chairwoman), one football star, one genius, one hippie, two jokers and yours truly.After the initial election and TWO runoffs, I actually won the longest election in Miami Beach High School history by only 12 votes. My political career had begun in earnest, and I had the entire weekend to prepare my acceptance speech (which I was never invited to give) and plot strategy for my meaningless one-year term. Oh, by the way, the perennial loser had a blockbuster speech … and was elected president.So, back to Aspen (if we can make it through the traffic in the S-curves). We need to make our Aspen elections more like high school. Short, sweet, to the point – and get on with business.The election process focusing on issues where each councilor has one vote could be reduced to say … one week. One week of some good debates and discussions on the salient topics. At that point, the populace will be oversaturated with the verbal manure, ceaseless television, radio, and print ads, and ready for decision time. No more eight months of campaigning, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a one month delay for a runoff. Send the electorate back to the polls that night. If they are really interested enough, they’ll vote again.That would also effectively limit the amount of time we are barraged with “battling” letters to the editor for months, trying to persuade us, the unwashed masses, which career politician, developer, perennial talk-show candidate, or destitute and homeless wanna-bes we should vote for.Of course, having the election in the offseason when the fewest residents are in town is another Aspen stroke of political genius. And, with the outstanding turnout we already have, I recommend moving the elections opposite Saturday or Sunday religious services for those who insist on injecting religious fervor into the process (it’ll give everyone equal time to complain).Now, we can broadcast proudly to the world that the mayor and council members of the city of Aspen won their respective races by votes of 12-8 and a landslide of 15-5. Heck, the new mayor, Mick Ireland, hasn’t even been in office a month yet, and his own supporters are complaining about his demeanor and rudeness.Utilizing my method, we can effectively and efficiently manage our elections, get on with the realities of life, and the fact that no matter who is elected, in two years the same constituents and populace will be yelling, “throw the bums out!”Now, that’s my kind of election.Bennett Bramson is a resident of Snowmass, so he can’t vote in Aspen elections anyway.
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