Thanks for calling out Aspen’s Next Generation Advisory Committee
Editor’s note: The following letter was originally written to Aspen Times columnist Meredith C. Carroll.
My wife, Carolyn Fields (a 31-year-Aspen Elementary School teacher). and I want to thank you for your column in today’s paper (Oct. 18, “Beware Aspen’s NextGen in sheep’s clothing”).
We have both been struggling with the vibe and the threatening energy that comes from every article, letter, or mention of the efforts of the Next Generation Advisory Committee (NGAC). Two years ago I retired from a 45 year teaching career — 32 years of which I was privileged to spend at Aspen High School as an English teacher. In that time I was fortunate enough to move from employee housing in the east end trailer court — a place that I loved — and made the cut of qualifying for school district housing in the Five Trees subdivision above the high school.
My wife and I both followed all the guidelines of the lottery and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority and now live in a remarkable home just off Moore Drive. After 32 years of devoted, engaging, at times hard, and always wonderful teaching, plus 20 years of mortgage payments, we are now so close to paying off the last $51,00 of our mortgage by December of 2020 — the whole idea of owning (for real) the house we are in gives such definition to our appreciation for the lives we’ve worked hard to sustain here.
When the NGAC first began to appear in the pages of The Aspen Times, I too felt unease at the clear flattery of older folks that they sent out there, but in that flattery I also sensed the undertones of easy dismissal, even scorn for those older people taking up housing space that they could (and in their minds, should) be inhabiting instead. Their by-words were “appreciation” and “respect” for the “contributions of our (note the use of the proprietary pronoun) seniors,” but all we could hear and sense in the words and “ideas” of the group was a not-so-subtle, to use your words, “time for you folks to go” message.
Your words today came as a heartening and uplifting hint that we are not alone in mistrusting, even fearing the kind of thinking at work in the NGAC circle. I am a student of history and the progeny of Slavic grandparents whose lives were shattered or snuffed by Germans seeking “lebensraum” at the start of World War II, and though I am not making the leap of comparing NGAC to the Nazis, I do, however, believe that when the worth of one group or social strata or element of a society is diminished for its age or because that group has what another wants, that kind of thinking deserves some searing scrutiny and certainly some challenging. I do not resent or deny the voices of NGAC in expressing the desire for a chance to build a good and full life here; however, I appeal to them not to resent me or those of my age group for wanting to hold on to and enjoy fully what our 32 years of effort and living by the rules have given us. Meredith, you have shone a light on a kind of thinking that needlessly and unfairly creates a tension in the lives of seniors who live in employee housing.
You challenge that thinking brilliantly and unapologetically in your column. We thank you for that strength of words and for your willingness to call out NGAC on their disingenuous flattery and offers of incentives and “attractive alternatives.” Please let me know if there is a way to amplify the other voice to which you have given life on this subject today. Again, we are sincerely grateful for your thoughtful advocacy of older people in the Aspen community.
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