Glenn K. Beaton: Does Aspen really need silver plated sidewalks?
The Aspen Beat
Here in Gucci Gulch, the enviros once tried to outlaw fur coats. And the lefty mayor once decried rooftop hot tubs atop private $20 million penthouses that are not even visible from the street on the grounds that they’re “excessive.” The hot tubs, that is.
But nothing is too excessive if the bill is paid by taxpayers. Here’s the story.
Local government bureaucrats with too much time on their hands and taxpayer money in their pockets want to use some of both to build an elevated sidewalk. It would be cantilevered over an embankment alongside Castle Creek Road, which threads through a beautiful canyon that has the misfortune of being within the jurisdictional kingdom of these rich and idle bureaucrats.
The sidewalk would run about a half mile and cost about $6 million.
Let’s do some math on this $6 million sidewalk. Aspen has about 6,500 residents, so each man, woman and child would pay nearly $1,000 toward it, or nearly $4,000 per family of four.
The cost for this half-mile length of sidewalk — about 2,600 feet — translates into more than $2,000 per linear foot.
At today’s price of silver (recall that Aspen was founded as a silver mining town) they literally could silver plate the whole length of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk for much less than $6 million.
Most of the residents around Castle Creek oppose this boondoggle. That’s not just because it would be wasteful but because it also would be an eyesore, even with silver plate. A group of them have pointed out that it would look like the cantilevered bike path on nearby Cemetery Lane, which is widely seen as a twisted wreckage blighting an otherwise lovely landscape. And it would destroy hundreds of trees.
Ah, but the road to hell is not paved with silver. It’s paved with good intentions, especially when the government is involved.
Here, too. Their stated intentions are to provide a walkway from a summer music school to a nearby bus stop.
Never mind that a free shuttle bus already runs that route every 15 minutes. And never mind that there’s no evidence music students armed with cellos are eager to walk this route, even on a silver sidewalk. And never mind that it’s a matter of public record that no one has ever been injured in walking or bicycling this stretch.
A few years ago, the bureaucrats tried to jam this project through but were sued by the residents. The residents won, the bureaucrats appealed (with taxpayer money) and the residents won the appeal.
So this time, the bureaucrats have spent taxpayer money to hire professionals to do the selling. They’ve hired a public relations firm.
The firm boasts on its website that it’s “certified by the State of Colorado as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) and Small Business Enterprise (SBE).”
You could say they’re a certified DBE-MWBE-SBE PR firm. Acronym-wise, they’re the best that taxpayer money can buy to convince taxpayers to pay more money in taxes.
The PR firm put on a show, ostensibly to receive input and to answer questions from the public. I attended. After their introductory spiel, I raised my hand and asked what data they had on the number of people who walk this route, or say they would if there were a sidewalk.
They replied that they had no such data. Not even rough data. Not even a clue.
Another resident raised his hand and explained that he cycles this road several times a week and has done so hundreds of times. He said he has never seen anyone walking that stretch. Not even once.
Other residents attending the meeting asked similarly awkward questions for which the hosts had similarly awkward answers. Then they announced abruptly that they wouldn’t take any more comments or questions because they didn’t have time.
At no point in the meeting did they reveal the $6 million price tag. Similarly, their website for the project and their bogus survey to drum up support fail to mention the $6 million (or any other price figure).
Let’s do some more math. We could buy each of, say, 50 students a scooter (with a custom cello rack!) for a total cost of about $200,000. That’s about 3 percent of the $6 million cost of the cantilevered sidewalk.
Geez, we could buy each of them a new cello, a cello rack to hold it and a Porsche to mount the rack on for less than $6 million.
We could have a line of prepaid limousines waiting for them 24/7 for less than this $6 million figure. (In deference to the mayor, the limos would be the rustic kind that don’t have rooftop hot tubs.)
I’d personally carry the students and their cellos around in a rickshaw for only $5 million.
But I suppose I’m misperceiving the goals here. The bureaucrats’ goal here is not to help music students or to help taxpayers. No, their goal is to leave no dollar of taxpayer money unspent. That way, they always need more to replenish it.
At achieving that goal, they’re very good.
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