Letter: Keep government under one roof
Tuesday at City Hall was “Veep” worthy.
Councilman Bert Myrin suggested we turn the Wheeler Opera House into City Hall offices because — I kid you not — it’s also historic.
Lest you think this was some sort of Bertian humor, there is precedent. Bert’s suggestion was building a performing-arts center on Galena Plaza in exchange for abandoning the Wheeler to government offices. For those who have not suffered through the bazillion votes on the Galena property — which we bought through popular vote and threw Caps Auto out to occupy — the original intent was a performing-arts center. That was the real estate transfer tax vote — upkeep on the Wheeler and supporting the arts with a second ballot question authorizing a new performing-arts center in addition to and complementing the restored Wheeler. The performing-arts center did not pass; the real estate transfer tax did.
We’ve waffled on what to do with that parcel since we bought it. “No” to the performing arts center; “no” to the art museum; “no” to City Hall; “no” to everything. Performing arts moved to the District Theatre, the Black Box and the tents. The art museum supplanted the Weinerstube, and who knows where City Hall will split its seams if we don’t stuff it into the Galena parcel.
Oh, so many irons in the fire: the Armory community center, the real estate transfer tax, referendumitus — it’s a simple war of attrition. Create as many alternatives as possible, force studies on each alternative, delay any decision, and the “no” vote wins. (Mayor Steve Skadron raises the same objection as he did with the Power House proposals: The funds are not in place for the Armory community center. May I humbly remind the mayor that to date our nonprofits raise money and build more quickly than the city.)
But allow me to reel things back in to the core question. Should City Hall be a one-roof solution on Galena Plaza? Yes, because interaction between city departments is key. Easier one-stop shopping for public interaction with city government is also huge. If I fault this one-roof plan at any point, it’s that it isn’t comprehensive enough; all departments should have a presence where any Aspenite can walk in and talk to a person in that department. All departments are not under the current Galena one-roof proposal.
Does City Hall need to be built on Galena Plaza? No, but it needs to be within the city limits, and with only that one caveat, little orphan Galena Plaza is the most economical and least disruptive option.
The image that keeps floating up in my mind is the joiners table at the Weinerstube. A cup of coffee with whipped cream and a Belgian waffle make solving the world’s problems much more congenial. We lost the ‘Stube because of referendumitus and knee-jerk “no.” Fool me once.
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