Letter: Local elections matter | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Local elections matter

Local elections matter

“A society becomes great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never rest.”

Today we rest in a great place beneath the trees planted by our predecessors. Aspen is renown for its small-town scale, affordable housing, resident locals, protected open space, and a character and feel that is distinct from rival resorts.

Rising income inequality and concentration of wealth means ever more pressure on us to conform with the new urbanist “vision” that leads inexorably to exclusivity. The desires of the market place for new, ever taller edifices manifest along I-70 at other resorts.

Elections matter. Those who understand what is at stake are best positioned to protect the legacy left by Joe Edwards, Dwight Shellman, Eve Homeyer and other visionaries who understood that more isn’t always better and the highest and best use of land is not always defined by the market place.

Two challenges confront Aspen, both imposed by the outside economy. First, as noted, is the pressure to allow and even subsidize development that is profitable in the short run but destructive in the end. Second is climate change, an issue we do not control any more than we control the maldistribution of wealth in this country but to which we must respond.

A majority of the present council voted to subsidize increased height and mass, abolish housing requirements and waive parking mitigation for luxury redevelopment, a radical shift away from the notion that new development should shoulder at least some of the burden for the impacts it imposes on the community.

Those who fail to grasp the historical outcomes of that policy shift are doomed to repeat the experiences of the empty towns along I-70 and the costs borne by base village type decisions.

I favor growth that pays its own way and does not detract from community character and our long term interests. I support Referendum 1 not as “the answer” but as a first step toward revising the land use code to make it simpler, fairer and consistent with the community plan.

The present council was subjected to much plaintive wailing by some that any affordable housing requirement, even a single unit or two for 40 or 50 rooms of lodging, is unfair. To the contrary, I believe it is unfair to ask the community to house all of the added workers serving development. When we yield to such unjust complaining, the community must either step up with taxpayer resources and/or build more transportation capacity to bring in the new workers.

While we cannot reverse climate change, we can keep in mind that teaching by example is not just the best way, it is the only way to teach. To that end, we need to go beyond 100 percent renewable energy for the small part of Aspen served by our own utility. We can actively promote off-grid energy production on our residences, local food production and reduced commuting by employees.

Please return your ballot by May 5.

Mick Ireland


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