Letter: Stranger than fiction | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Stranger than fiction

Clark Bunt moved to the idyllic mountain town of Chicago, Colorado, and bought several properties downtown. Chicago’s City Council wanted a cheap hotel downtown, but land is so expensive that nobody would build it. Bunt couldn’t get approvals to develop his properties unless the council played along, so the city told Bunt to build his cheap hotel and it would give him anything else he wanted.

Bunt planned his cheap hotel, violating almost every zoning limit for the site. He’d call it “Off Base.” Outraged residents amended the city charter, taking away the council’s right to approve. The council didn’t care (it’s Chicago, after all) and approved the project.

Residents circulated a petition. They got a ton of signatures. The council would be forced to repeal the approval or put it to a public vote in November. Off Base might be doomed. A Chicago “plan” was urgently needed by the council and Bunt to save Off Base. They found one.

If Bunt would vacate his approval, the city attorney would say the council didn’t need to repeal the approval because it was dead. The council could say no election was necessary in November. That way, the approval ordinance would remain on the books. Later, when it suited Bunt, the city attorney would allow Bunt to resuscitate (“It’s alive!”) the approval. Then the council could set a special election at a time when approval might be easier to get from the voters. Say, after the opposition had gone away and wasn’t very organized.

But the conspiracy’s bluff was called when Chicago’s residents demanded that the council follow the law — vote to repeal the approval or put it on the November ballot. Seeing that the council might repeal because the approval was dead, Bunt realized he had to ask for a November vote or lose his investment in the approval (easily hundreds of thousands of dollars). The city attorney played his role (“I was fudging when I said it was legally dead, or I’m fudging now when I say it is just alive enough not to be dead — you figure it out”). Bunt played his role (“I just want to give the people what the council — er, the people — want”). The council played its role (“You little people knew we would screw you. It’s Chicago. We can get Off Base anytime we want.”)

So Chicago’s mayor, council and city attorney vacated all over the little people of Chicago, Colorado.

This has been, of course, a purely fictitious story. It never could happen in real life. Any resemblance to actual people and events is entirely coincidental.

Maurice Emmer