Councilman: Aspen’s free market comes at a cost |

Councilman: Aspen’s free market comes at a cost

In response to my friend and thought provocateur Neil Siegel’s letter claiming that the Aspen City Council is dividing the community, I offer this counterpoint (“Aspen leadership divides community,” Feb. 14, The Aspen Times).

In short, don’t shoot the messenger. If something needs to blamed, it is the free market. Escalation of real estate values, wealth inequality, and low wages created the divisions we see here in Aspen and around the world.

The views I here express are mine. I do not represent the City Council’s thoughts.

Unfettered capitalism divides. Real estate speculation is a product of the free market. It is not evil nor illegal. It has changed the makeup and mix of our community. Neil paints a rosy picture of Aspen’s past and suggests that there has never been conflict in Aspen. Bunk. Aspen’s history has ample evidence of disdain for the other. “Downvalley riffraff and dirt pimps” are not new nor invented by City Council. Aspen’s 3,000-plus workforce housing units are evidence of the trends that existed over 40 years ago when the program was initiated.

“The overt attempts to social engineer, disdain for second-home owners, reactive stupidity on land use, and aggressive tax policy have driven constituent groups into their corners,” wrote Siegel.

I have witnessed much change in the 45 years I have lived here. It has accelerated in the past couple of years. I believe that the Aspen Area Community Plan expresses what the spirit of our community is, or should be aspired to. The unfettered free market has, I believe, driven us away from the spirit of Aspen. To sit by and do nothing to save our spirit, soul, and fabric is not acceptable.

Attempting to save the spirit of Aspen should not be conflated as disdain for second-home owners.

Ward Hauenstein (signed “Publius”)