Letter: Farewell to free spirit
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Mayor Steve Skadron, the Aspen City Council and The Aspen Times.
Ed Foran’s guest editorial of April 6 (“Still time for the city to do the right thing,” Commentary, The Aspen Times) says all the right things in all the best ways — if only it weren’t in favor of the wrong proposal.
If we truly want to keep this publicly owned facility in the hands of the public and serve the broadest possible cross-section of our residents, I say zone it “public” and include everyone and anyone at all for free. The most underserved subclass in this town is the folks with more problems than money, some ideas and skills they’re aching to share along with a desire to learn from others who also have no forum, and a true need for a welcoming, non-exclusionary home in which to do this with no cover charge (very important). The reason the Gathering Place has the lowest startup cost by far is that folks are willing to do for themselves if given the chance. If the city needs to be involved somewhere in this, well, at least they will have plenty of office space from which to handle it.
The arts are represented quite well; you can’t turn a corner without bumping into yet another art gallery. And, of course, there is also the Aspen Art Museum. Like it or hate it, it is certainly large.
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The 1 percent is doing just fine, thank you very much. Ask everyone if they wish to subsidize a for-profit brewery or a sketchy provision for a restaurant — and The Generator, what is that? I would be interested in the results; I really don’t know. What would it cost to rent a portion of a desk just large enough to park your rear end on while discussing obsessive-compulsive disorder or the best way to make pie crust? Or anything you want to talk about? The most amazing ideas I hear often come from the most unexpected mouths. Would The Gathering Place have worked out? Changed and grown right along with change and growth? We’ll never know. Really, you all ought to have given it a chance, in all fairness. The commercially graspy Aspen Power Plant Group could probably have held out a bit longer before taking over what is not meant to be its.
What I do know is that one way or another, if I ever again go there, I will probably have to buy some social food or a pilot beer to stay. After all, they are there to make money, so that must mean I need to give them some of mine..
The Gathering Place would have at least provided a true restaurant with a proven track record, a free commercial kitchen open to the use of others and meeting rooms for voluntarily free programs with little money but the best shot at success, helping solve one of our greatest problems: Where do you go in Party Town, USA, when the party’s over? What do you do when you run out of ideas and money, it is cold out and, anyway, our main park is always closed in preparation for, and recovery from, the Food and Wine Classic? It also is no longer free or even open to the public, which owns it in name only.
What is going on here? Elected officials are our representatives, or so I always thought. Us, the public. Messy vitality? We, the people? If the people lead, the leaders will follow? All that? Remember us?
Guess not. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, waking up yawning, looking around, and holy moly! What in heck happened? Where has our free spirit gone? We didn’t used to be so afraid of trying something new, seeing which way the people themselves led it. I didn’t consciously note when that crazy, priceless, free joy we had in life took leave. But it did — and left the door wide open for anyone with enough money for the price of admission.
Bye-bye. Gonna miss ya.
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