Elizabeth Milias: If you ignore it, will it go away? | AspenTimes.com

Elizabeth Milias: If you ignore it, will it go away?

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

There are simply too many cars in Aspen. I’ve written before about the horrendous traffic coming into Aspen, yet city council’s most recent response is to remove over 40 downtown parking spaces. In the name of improving the pedestrian experience along Galena Street, perhaps this can be justified due to the recent alarming spate of car-pedestrian incidents, but there’s also the inconvenient by-product of 40 more cars circling the city blocks looking for a place to park.

It’s part of an interesting proposition of making the downtown car-free. I’d really like to see us map out something like this, but let’s face it, the words “large parking garage” are inextricably linked to the concept. Enchanted with Zermatt, Switzerland, and its car-free town, it could be great, but Zermatt has train access, something we gave up years ago. I’ve also been told by several members of council that a “large parking garage” is a non-starter. That attitude is a shame because you simply cannot have one without the other. The cars have to go somewhere.

Like everything else the city experiments with, this Galena Street solution merely addresses the symptom of a larger problem, not the problem itself. It’s clearly far easier to throw money at dedicated bike lanes and corner sidewalk bump-outs than call out and tackle the root cause of why, in recent years, this corridor has become so dangerous. The mind-numbing traffic starts out on Highway 82 in what has become an endless wait to enter town, and continues throughout the tiny, crowded downtown grid where, once over the bridge and inside the pearly gates, there’s frustratingly nowhere to park. Coupled with a town full of tourists, it’s a recipe for disaster, and we’ve had several of those. We don’t need another.

Perhaps the Galena-Hyman-Cooper corridor will soon be better for pedestrians and bicyclists, but by adding 40 cars to the block-circling-in-search-of-parking, won’t this just push the unfortunate car-pedestrian interactions to another intersection? I certainly hope not, but I can’t envision it any other way. We’re just moving the problem, not solving it.

This community looks at subsidized housing the same way. All the people who want to live here can’t. In the free market, the market itself sets the barriers to entry. Those who won’t or can’t pay the going rates simply don’t. In the subsidized housing game, we just build more, with public money. Then, we sell these units for pennies on the dollar to those we deem “qualified,” where they live for the rest of their Aspen days, even long after they retire. Yes, retire. The existing guidelines allow subsidized housing owners to retire in their units after just four years of qualified work in the community.

Widely touted as a reform worth celebrating, the housing board is upping the retirement work requirement to 10 years, but still. If we really have such a housing shortage, is allowing people to retire in their units the very best way to manage this scarce community resource into the future? The same goes for building larger, multi-bedroom units for families. It sure is nice to raise a family in Aspen, with the excellent schools, culture, sports and lifestyle, but is housing a family of four where there is just one and maybe two workers in a three-bedroom unit the very best use of our housing inventory?

Nobody wants to talk about it. Those words, “retirees” and “families” are fighting words. When we hear them, we see our friends and neighbors. As a result, the issue, and it is one, is simply swept under the rug as we shell out more contracts for housing developments at Burlingame and the Lumberyard, and continue to lament the lack of worker housing.

Nobody is suggesting tossing retirees and families from subsidized housing, but that’s not the point. We could easily grandfather them in and make changes for the future. But we don’t and we won’t. It’s easier and more politically expedient to build more and retain the status quo, never mind more housing with the same policies merely throws money at the dubious “need” and not the glaring root problem that our housing program is outdated, inefficient and poorly managed.

Speaking of subsidized housing, after spending millions on what’s known as the HomeTrek database that digitizes APCHA’s housing and management portfolio, how is that census coming? Originally promised as a transparency tool for a program shrouded in perceived corruption, the database promised the ability to access information on every unit in our inventory, including access to the nagging questions of who lives there and whether or not they qualify to do so. It was designed to operate not unlike the Assessor’s database, open and accessible to all. Once again, we’ve spent taxpayer money on a system that is an organizational upgrade for the APCHA office and completely ignored the larger and more inconvenient problem that the rogue program is rife with corruption.

The list is endless. Our community’s embarrassment of riches has enabled our elected officials to throw money at questionable solutions to problems of their own making while completely ignoring the problems themselves.

How much longer are we going to put up with this? Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net

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