Tim Semrau: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com

Tim Semrau: Guest opinion

Tim Semrau
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

At an AACP (Aspen Area Community Plan) meeting earlier this month, I heard the word “aspirational” thrown around repeatedly as the goal of any community plan.

Excellent idea, a 10-year plan mandating a mountain of future city laws should aspire to a better Aspen for all of us. So what is the city’s vision?

Quite simply, an obsessive look in the rearview mirror. The dominant theme of the AACP is to bury what’s left of the already dead development/ construction/ real-estate industry. Dancing on the grave of the development industry is only natural for our government veterans still fighting the 2005-07 development wars – perhaps appropriate in 2008 when the AACP began, but not in 2011.

That war is over; the recession ended it more than two years ago for most of us. It’s time for the government to turn its attention to Aspen’s future, not mandate countless regulations pertaining to the past, guaranteed to kill much needed jobs.

Don’t believe me? Never mentioned in the AACP is the 2,400 (that’s two-thousand, four-hundred) Pitkin County jobs lost in the last two years. This Bureau of Labor number excludes self-employed or underemployed/underpaid workers. We all have friends and family hurting and fearful of their future here, yet evidently job loss isn’t a future concern warranting inclusion in our community plan.

See for yourself; be one of the few non-government types to actually read the document at aspencommunityvision.com.

Members of the normally reticent ACRA board (Aspen Chamber Resort Association) felt compelled to speak about the plan’s lack of vision, reactionary basis, and non-existent economic plan. One elected official’s response? “You’re going to have to slap on your clothes, find your shoes and start running,” implying the plan was a done deal. Other officials have stated “re-opening” the plan is no longer possible and that only minor changes in language will be discussed.

The plan was only released last fall, five years overdue after two years of government meetings. Only 3 percent of Aspen citizens (150 people) had provided direct responses late last year, the majority of answers surprisingly negative. The city commissioned a new survey, due this month, in reaction to that negativity. Government staff is currently revising the draft AACP with “kinder and gentler” language. Meetings are scheduled every two weeks with approval set for April.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and applaud the two years of effort by city staff and our government board volunteers. I also completely understand their reticence to “reopen” their plan after so much work.

My advice: Step back and take a break. Without a majority of the community behind a new 10-year plan, it is doomed to years of contentious paralysis.

Why not wait for your own survey results? Why not welcome participation from ACRA, Aspen Skiing Co., other concerned citizens, even at this “late date?” Why not publish relevant portions of the AACP in the newspaper, discuss it during this spring’s election, invite government skeptics in openly? They need to be heard too!

Maybe the current draft AACP reflects a majority of the Aspen community. It undoubtedly represents our current political leadership and volunteer boards. I wonder what the 2,400 jobless citizens would say if they read the plan. The government should want to find out.

Our mayor states he has learned from the prior AACP a lack of inclusion leads to problems. Amen to that!

How about doing something about it? A community plan should include all of us in this community.

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