Letter: Arguments against Referendum 1 insufficient
The arguments against Referendum 1 are easily refuted. First, however, what are we talking about here? We are talking about community assets such as view planes, parking, affordable housing, community character and downtown variances, which seek to diminish or eliminate a community asset. As to the arguments:
1. “It will result in a vote on every variance.” In a blast email sent under the “Know the facts, Aspen” banner, Maria Morrow, a lawyer and Aspen Chamber Resort Association committee member, said that it “will require Aspen voters to vote every time an application has a variance” and that it “sends a request to a public vote. Every time, forever.” Wrong and totally misleading. The council must first approve the variance, which will seldom happen. Several towns and cities have passed similar rules, and few votes on variances have occurred. Telluride passed its rule more than a year ago, and not a single vote has been held!
2. “A small percentage will decide the vote.” Well, not every vote will occur at a special election; some may coincide with a regular election. However, developers may prefer special elections under the buy-votes argument (see No. 6 below) — cheaper to buy votes. Also, we have special elections to thank for the Aspen Recreation Center, Smuggler as s public space, Wheeler renovation, etc. We know what benefits us.
3. “Ordinance 9 fixes the problem.” Not so fast. Ordinance 9 is too new to fully evaluate and the council-decided variances are still possible with it.
4. “There is no runaway growth.” Misleading because residents have had to ride shotgun on virtually every application seeking a variance. Now, instead of watching all those applications, we only watch for code changes and variances that make it to voters, if any.
4. “The charter is the wrong place.” Wrong. It is exactly the right place so that future councils cannot change it without voter approval. Given that the current council passed Ordinance 19 (60-foot buildings) and we saw how much community support that had, they would probably vote to overturn it if in the code. Funny — the people who supported it are the same people who are against Referendum 1.
5. “It violates representative government.” Hogwash. It affects only one aspect out of all of the matters that the council handles on our behalf. Additionally, the council still must assess the application and variance request before sending it to the voters. Variances affect community assets. When the council wants to sell city-owned land, it must go to the voters. So, to “sell” one of our community assets, go to the voters.
6. “Developers will wine and dine voters.” Hmm — says little about the truthfulness and integrity of those developers. They know that the variance does not benefit the community, so they seek to buy our votes. It’s simple, voters, any developer who tries it gets a “no” vote. As to numerous, massive marketing campaigns, see No. 1 above.
So, Aspen, I agree. Know the facts. Protect your community assets, Vote “yes” on Referendum 1.
J. Cavanaugh O’Leary
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