Lum: A town divided — not
November 11, 2015
Even Paul E. Anna, the optimistic columnist who writes for our weekly magazine, wasn't sure which way the Base2 vote would go. I wouldn't have bet a dime either way. Nobody had tried to buy a local election like that since Aspen voters approved the larger version of the Ritz (now St. Regis) a few decades ago.
We should have had more faith in ourselves, because we were just saying, once again, what we had been saying since the petitions started for Referendum 1: No more variances. We had been asking and asking and finally — sadly — had to demand it.
We may not have been confident in our unity, but we should rejoice that we are not a town that was split asunder but a town strongly united.
Steve Skadron got it, saying, "It sends a message to the development community on what is and is not acceptable." Adam Frisch got it: "Variances for 1 inch of a square foot … are somewhere between nil and zero." (Both from the Oct. 4 Aspen Daily News.)
Let's hope Community Development gets it, also.
I predicted that Referendum 1 wouldn't end up with the town having to vote on every little thing but rather that, by virtue of having the option to do so, the developers would toe the line and not ask for anything more than what was allowed.
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In retrospect, I'm glad we had a public vote right away, because it certainly cleared the air as to how the community felt about it.
I think it puts staff (did Community Development get it?) and elected officials in an even stronger position because they can say, "Hey, the voters have spoken, and our hands are tied." And it was no squeaker vote but a thumping big mandate.
Since I won't be writing another political column for a good long time (I hope!), I just wanted to add a couple of observations. One is the complaint that the public was picking on Mark Hunt, who was just doing his job and became the innocent recipient of vilification.
Normally we don't clap eyes upon developers of local property — all we see are representatives such as Stan Clausen, Mitch Haas or Alan Richman. Hunt is a different ball of wax entirely.
First of all, he bought up a dozen or so downtown properties, and he consciously and intentionally inserted himself into the proceedings by speaking up at City Council meetings, writing letters to the editor and making public announcements — concerning his withdrawal of plans for Base2 and again when he withdrew the withdrawal.
He appealed directly to the public by promising underground parking at Base2, which he previously had said was impossible, and threw free beer-and-pizza parties for everyone who voted.
When you jump into Aspen's political kitchen, the presupposition should be that there will be some heat.
Another thing I want to mention is this youth contingent that flew out of nowhere and apparently went as nowhere as it came from. I don't have anything against youngish people (the "millennials" range in age from 21 to 36, as far as I can tell) — I was one, and it doesn't seem all that long ago.
But I do think that rounding them up and trying to entice them to get on the bandwagon for something that isn't going to help them one damned jot to get long-range housing is tantamount to dirty tricks, and our young people should be smart enough not to fall for it. I also am not convinced that there are as many young, nonvoting voters as is claimed. Kids come and go from Aspen like spawning salmon, and it is almost impossible to keep the voting records current.
Nonetheless, however many there are, if the youngish people want to be major players, they need to buckle down, attend or watch council meetings, read the papers, ask questions and run for office.
Meanwhile, welcome back to the real world of Aspen, City Council. We're expecting good things from you now.
Su Lum is a longtime local who is smiling. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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