Editorial: Hush-hush Delta deal should have been public | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Hush-hush Delta deal should have been public

On July 31, community leaders hailed the return of Delta Air Lines to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport this winter. It was a coup for local tourism and could not have been done without the taxpayer dollars that enticed the Atlanta-based carrier to bring seasonal service back to Sardy Field.

Now, more than two months later, taxpayers finally have a sense of how much they will end up spending on Delta. On Wednesday, the Snowmass Village Town Council is expected to discuss the Snowmass marketing board's expenditure of $150,000, its share of the total incentives package.

Snowmass' contribution, along with $75,000 from both the city of Aspen and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, along with $50,000 from Pitkin County, puts the price tag at $350,000 for the Delta incentive. Aspen Skiing Co. also is putting up some cash, but it's a privately held firm and has no obligation to reveal its contribution.

But taxpayers had a right to know how much of their money was being spent by the three governmental entities, along with ACRA (which will use money from its tax-supported marketing fund), the moment the deal was announced on July 31.

So while this was cause for celebration — Aspen and Snowmass need as many airline seats as possible during the winter season — residents were left in the dark about the entire taxpayer cost, until this week.

This one was a head-scratcher: Just why did ACRA and the governments of Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass collectively keep the public at bay when the deal already had been sealed? Was it really necessary to treat this expenditure — hardly a controversial one — like a state secret? Though the individual entities had yet to finalize their appropriations, the ballpark figure already had been decided.

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Transparent government means keeping the public informed about the government's business.

And when the public's money is involved in such a sizeable investment like the Delta deal, it also deserves to know how much from the get-go. Not two weeks later, one month later or even two months later, as was the case with Snowmass.

The good news is that another commercial airline will be serving Aspen and Snowmass this winter. We hope it's worth the investment now that we finally know how much it is.