Letter: Final thoughts on Referendum 1
Aspen is located at the very backwater of our republic. Local government is the most fundamental building block of our representative and participatory democracy. At this local level, all discussions turn on the issues, and there are no political party labels for the candidates. You must ask, have our recent City Councils been corrupt or dishonest? If the answer is no, then why would anyone want to amend the city charter to address a handful of City Council variances only on downtown commercial projects? As far as I can discern from 43 years of living in this backwater community, there has been no dirty dealing, payoffs, backroom deals or malfeasance.
There is a reason we have a representative form of democracy through our City Council, and that is because these elected officials can and do take the time to thoroughly evaluate and vet the complex issues that come before them at every meeting. Through the city charter, the council is required to invite public comment on every issue that requires a second hearing before a vote is taken. The elected council members then merge their own in-depth knowledge and study of the pending application with the voices of the people. It is a successful, intensely interactive and dynamic process. I believe that government is more easily defined and restricted by elected representatives. We are not a referendum government. We are a representative democracy.
The drafters of this amendment are probably right in believing that Referendum 1 will very possibly put a chill on downtown development. So in effect, this amendment is a “veiled moratorium” on downtown projects. There will be multiple unintended consequences if this amendment is adopted. They see this amendment as a safeguard. There are times when a moratorium makes sense. For example, when I was serving in the early ’80s, we were losing a Victorian monthly, as they were not protected. I proposed a moratorium on the building department’s issuance of any more demolition permits until the council could put protections in place. It was controversial, it was needed, it had a set time frame and was not ongoing forever, and it worked. This static, narrow amendment to the charter limits the flexibility of the council to address the changing times and needs, protection of character, the delicate balancing act between the resort and the town and economic constraints, which are always looming and often beyond our control.
Handcuffing the council with this amendment is misguided. All modifications, as always, can be made by reshaping and modifying the code, which is an ongoing, dynamic process. Virtually every candidate is already calling for a good, hard look at the code. Let that process work.
Please reflect and vote no on Referendum 1, which I believe will be in the best long-term interest for Aspen’s future.
Aspen (former mayor)