Tim Semrau: Guest opinion
Is Aspen dying? Well, it’s certainly not dying, but some of the ailments associated with old age are becoming apparent. Did you know that the real value of personal income in Pitkin County has declined significantly from 2000 to 2012?
And the number of jobs over the same time period is also the same. That means the number of people working in Pitkin County over the past decade is the same, but people are getting paid less to do those jobs. Additionally, the 2013 Aspen Economic Sustainability report predicts that wages will continue to decline in the next 10 years unless some changes are made in the local economy.
Those of us whose livelihoods are generated locally know how difficult it has always been to afford a life in Aspen, much less raise a family here. In the past few years, we all have friends who have simply given up and left the valley for purely economic reasons.
When I arrived in Aspen 25 years ago, things were tough. But I, and many like me, dug in and figured out how to stay and make it work. We also had total confidence that Aspen’s future was brilliant and if we worked hard, somehow life would work out and get better. For most of us who stayed, it has.
It’s daunting to read that it probably will get harder and harder to make a living here as time goes on, especially given the past decade’s concerns with Aspen’s decreasing vitality. Would I stay if I were 25 years younger today and took a cold, hard look at my opportunities in Aspen? Even though I still love the place, I’m not so sure; today it looks like a very, very tough mountain to climb.
In the past couple of weeks, two columns have run in The Aspen Times concerning this report, one from Andy Stone and one from Roger Marolt.
If an issue ever produced an emotional response, this has got to be it; both of them went ballistic purporting this report was an Aspen growth manifesto. Marolt ended his
column by stating his preference for “Now I’m here, let’s close the gate.” And Mr. Stone began his column by discrediting the professions of those on the Sustainability Committee.
Both of them confuse what the report actually said with a Pavlovian response to anything hinting Aspen isn’t perfect exactly as it is, and don’t even whisper about possible needed change.
One thing is for sure: If Aspen’s economic climate prohibits more and more dynamic, ambitious younger people from living here, there will be no one to replace us old Aspenites, and us old folk certainly aren’t getting more vital. Another 10 years of declining wages certainly can’t help Aspen’s vitality in 2113.
Check out the 2013 Aspen Economic Sustainability Report on the web and draw your own conclusions, and keep it in mind during our election season.
Tim Semrau is a developer who formerly sat on Aspen City Council. He lives in Aspen.
For the last 35 years I’ve been covering what we call the “salmon wars” in the Pacific Northwest, writing so many stories about salmon heading toward extinction that I’ve lost count.
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