The greater good |

The greater good

Addison Gardner
Aspen, CO Colorado

Mick Ireland closes his recent letter to The Aspen Times (Sept. 15) with this statement:

“I agree that housing is a problem that must be addressed but I do not agree that we should continue to use tax dollars to reward single-occupancy parking in residential neighborhoods until the housing problem is resolved …”

Mick makes several unsupported assumptions during his flagellation of “construction workers,” and the one that’s repeated most often in his letter is characterized by the phrase, “single-occupancy vehicles.”

I can tell you, as a guy who’s a daily commuter (one of Mick’s soon-to-be victims), that most construction vehicles are not “single occupancy,” but are, in fact, occupied by teams of skilled sub-contractors: Subs almost always work in teams and travel in pairs; they don’t work (or drive) solo.

I leave it to you, Aspenites, to be the judge of whether Mick is really being “straight” with you, or if his railing against construction veils another agenda, driven by a broader ideology ” maybe something less benign and more far-reaching than mere concerns about “global climate change.”

There’s a campy expression, “Who you gonna believe ” me or your lyin’ eyes?” I submit that you should look, for yourself, at the construction trucks and vans that you pass each day: Are they “single occupancy,” or are they, most often, filled with at least two riders: the driver (typically the journeyman electrician, plumber, carpenter) and his helper, the apprentice.

The next dubious assertion made by Mr. Ireland is that anybody parking on a residential street in Aspen is doing so “for free,” and “at taxpayer’s expense.” This is utter nonsense: We all pay taxes to maintain Pitkin County roads. Nobody gets a free ride, least of all those of us to work in Aspen.

Far from parking “for free,” anyone transiting and/or parking on Aspen (Pitkin County) streets is already paying a substantial premium for the privilege in the form of higher fuel prices, higher tag fees, higher permit fees, higher “impact fees,” and other inflated costs of doing business that are too numerous to mention in this limited space. The “taxpayers of Aspen” aren’t subsidizing the workers who park on Aspen streets any more than the citizens of Basalt are subsidizing Aspenites who shop downvalley at “City Market.”

The cost of maintaining valley (and Aspen) roads is already being borne, in large part, by the people who travel to Aspen ” at your behest ” to maintain, repair and improve the homes you live in.

Mick would have you believe that the people who serve Aspen represent a net “negative,” but we are your valley neighbors and we breath the same air, drink the same water, fish the same streams, ski the same slopes and send our kids to the same valley schools. We’re not out to destroy Aspen, we commute to Aspen to patch your roofs, replace your boilers, repave streets, replace bridges, groom slopes, operate lifts and keep the lights on in your stores, markets and churches.

Here’s the bottom line: You have to ask yourselves whether you really want to use the power of repressive town government in a punitive way that discourages workers and makes it more attractive for them to ply their trades elsewhere. Downvalley towns like Basalt are growing and competing for a dwindling valley workforce. Aspen is “not the only game in town,” nor is it enjoyable to spend several hours a day commuting in traffic.

Do you want to protect your access to the downvalley workforce, or do you want to drive it away? Do you want to see the already ridiculously high price of services in Aspen driven higher by Mick’s “kill business” strategy, or do you want to explore other, less punitive options?

I think it’s time to remind this autocratic genie that the cork of common sense can still be reinserted in his bottle.