Guest Commentary: Basalt needs fresh faces, forward progress | AspenTimes.com

Guest Commentary: Basalt needs fresh faces, forward progress

Jeff Orsulak
Guest Commentary

We are Basalt. We want our vibrant town back. We want shops, vitality, cool, funky and fun. We want people, people who put the character in small-town character. We are tired of the Town Council not listening to our needs, our hopes and our desire to change. We are tired of it never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Of it holding on to outdated dogmas and its fear of saying “yes.”

We want to say “yes.” Yes to our future, yes to our town. A hotel here, an arts center there. An international think tank in this spot and housing in that spot. How will we do it? Together. Nonprofit partners, yes. Commercial partners, yes. All options are on the table, and we want to decide our town’s future. Do you hear us?

These aren’t my words. They are the words of my neighbors. Neighbors I’ve met at the bar and at town meetings, at bingo and baseball, on the streets and in the shops.

And on Friday, with a thud on page A12 of this paper, across from a full-page ad for sunglasses, this passion and excitement falls on deaf ears with endorsements as usual. Endorsements that prey on our fears and misunderstanding. Endorsements that suggest that the indecisions of the past have us on the right path and should continue for the future.

I’ve got news for the upvalley news: We aren’t on the right path, and we are ready for change. We are a town with serious problems, and we need serious people leading our community toward a new vitality. A council of bureaucrats can no longer cut the mustard. We need professionals. Professionals like myself, who not only work in the community but work creating our community. We need council members with the vision and critical thinking required to lead us to a brighter future.

My track record of planning, designing and building successful, livable, small-town communities speaks for itself. I not only understand the process, but I see the possibilities. I know the complexities of financing and construction. I know what retailers need not just to survive but to thrive. I understand the public process, having collaboratively shepherded countless projects through public approvals in our community and throughout the Rocky Mountain region. And yes, I have an unwavering faith of the power of consensus. It’s a faith built from the concrete experience of creating successful, desirable communities. Because a successful community is not one in discord but in harmony.

We need council members who not only have served their local community but have a track record of success. Working with my fellow board members over the past 10 years on the Mid Valley Metropolitan District board, there have been many successes, including the inclusion of the private sanitation districts of Sopris Village and Crawford properties. These inclusions have allowed for these districts to upgrade to state-of-the-art sanitation facilities that have led to cleaner water supplies and a cleaner Roaring Fork River. We’ve been able to manage the growth in the midvalley while reducing the district’s tax burden for residence. All the while with a balanced budget year in and year out.

This paper noted that I was attending numerous community events and activities and “working hard for the job” in this campaign. All those events, all that walking, all those beers were not to get your vote but to hear you. To hear your vision and your ideas so that they can become our vision and our ideas. As a councilman, I will continue to listen and respond because Basalt is not my town, Aspen’s town or this newspaper’s town. It’s our town.

I’ve had a great time these past few weeks listening and talking with my neighbors, and I’ve laid out above what I’ve heard. If you believe that Basalt is on the right track and our decisions over the past 10 years have led to the town you want, a town with empty storefronts and empty streets, then by all means vote for the rearguard that was endorsed.

But if you believe in a more vibrant town, a town of vitality with a strong future not just for the next five years but the next 50, and you want a partner in creating that community, then I would appreciate your vote Tuesday. Go Basalt!


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