Tales of trees and Tasers
Well, the city of Aspen certainly knows how to make its priorities clear.As always, it’s a case of “watch what we do, not what we say” – and what they’re doing sends an unmistakable message about the new official Aspen philosophy.It goes like this: Suck up to the rich. Piss on the poor.That philosophy was illustrated perfectly by two stories in the news this past week.The first was the continuing story of the East End Slasher, the Tree Terrorist … forget the cute nicknames – it’s the story of the despicable jerk who destroyed a row of trees because they blocked the view.What’s outrageous about this story, aside from the simple facts of what the swine did, is that the city is somehow helpless to “solve” this crime.One branch of city government is actually negotiating with representatives of the evil-doer to get repayment for the damage. Meanwhile, at the very same time, our crack police department is unable to figure out who did it.Bear in mind, this was not the act of some sneak with a pocketknife in the dark of night. Cutting the tops off those trees was carried out in the middle of the day in the middle of the street by someone using heavy-duty machinery. But, gee, we just can’t figure out who did it. The trees aren’t talking. What can you do when the victims won’t cooperate?If the cops can’t solve this one, there are two possible explanations:1. They’re wildly, ragingly incompetent.2. They’re not really trying.The mayor said it was an outrage and whoever did it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.And the city did … nothing.Bottom line: In Aspen, now more than ever, if you’re rich you can do whatever the hell you want and the city will roll over.Oh sure, the city may make impressive noises about “justice” – but those ringing declarations will be muffled by the fact that those same city lips are busy kissing those same rich folks’ butts.The second story of the week is the case of an officer on that crack police department of ours using a Taser – essentially, a 50,000-volt cattle prod – on a 63-year-old homeless woman suspected of “stealing” a used sweater from the rummage pile behind The Thrift Shop.Yes, stealing from The Thrift Shop is bad – very bad. But: 1. This sweater was reportedly in a pile of discards on the ground by the Dumpster; 2. If the sweater had been in the shop it probably would have sold for something like 50 cents; and 3. The money from that sale would have gone (bless the generosity of The Thrift Shop) to a program to help the poor and homeless.To put the cherry on top of this particular sundae, at the time the Taser was fired, the victim was reportedly lying on the ground, having collapsed from the sheer effort of fleeing, at a brisk walk, for an entire block.So we have an intrepid police officer, faced with a feeble homeless woman who doesn’t have enough strength to stand up. Yup, that’s the perfect time to pull out the Taser. What else can you do? Talk to her?Where do you even start on this one?Actually, you start right at the top, with a police chief whose officers are seriously in need of training, guidance and leadership. And then move up one step from there to the city administration, whose police chief is seriously in need of training, guidance and leadership.Unless, of course, we’ve got exactly what we want: a city policy that the rich and powerful can do no wrong, while the poor and powerless need to be taught a good (violent) lesson.Is this the city you want?Think hard. It’s the city you’ve got.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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