Lum: Sign and be counted on Aspen petition
OK. We have bitched about not having had a vote on the Aspen Art Museum, and we’ve bitched that we couldn’t vote on the Cooper Street Pier or the Tom Benton Building or all the other horrors we’ve seen go up in the core. Now we’re bitching that Mark Hunt is going to sweep the monopoly board with more than a dozen new purchases and we’re not going to be able to have a say on those, either.
Well, now is our chance. Put up or shut up. We have until Feb. 4 to sign a petition that will change the city charter to say that if an application request for development in the city exceeds the allowed height and floor area, or if an application asks to reduce the required amount of affordable housing or parking, it has to go to a public vote.
Three hundred four signatures are required by Feb. 4. You can sign the petition between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at City Market in Aspen, or you can call or text Bert Myrin at 970-925-8645 and he’ll bring it right to your door. For God’s sake, print your name so a normal human being can read it, and don’t forget to put on the date (ahem, Mick Ireland).
At Monday’s City Council meeting, it was clear that this petition drive had gotten the council’s attention. Some wanted to craft their own changes to the code and put it on the May ballot as a second choice, and some thought it was too late for that — all seem to be resigned to the fact that the petition is going to sail through and become a fait accompli.
Mayor Steve Skadron spoke passionately (and Ziska Childs rationally) against the concept of government by referendum. I completely agree with them that this is no way to run a railroad, but on the other hand, I don’t know what else we can do to put a stop to the runaway train. The train does not appear to be stoppable.
Skadron defended the present council by saying that the previous council was responsible for the desecration we’re seeing in the core. He seemed worried that if we seized control of an inch, we might go for a mile.
But it was not the past council that approved the Hotel Aspen. It was not the past council that drafted the dreadful lodging ordinance that triggered the same public response we’re seeing now with residents clamoring to sign this petition.
There is a general feeling that the wheels are coming off the whole town, and I submit that the parking-meter-scam fiasco played a part in the perception that no one is in charge or that those who are in charge are asleep at the wheel.
Is it just my opinion that the council is out of touch with staff and that staff is out of touch with Aspen? Is it true that our advisory boards attract self-interested volunteers? It all goes too deep to depend on one election to solve anything.
I hope that I can still trust the Aspen voters. This is a desperation petition to give us some modicum of power to stop the destruction. It might be too little, it might be too late, but it isn’t all that radical. If developers just get a grip on themselves and start asking for less — meaning what is allowed by law — the issues will never reach the polls.
Undercurrent: Aspen is greatly diminished by the passing of Mary Eshbaugh Hayes.
Su Lum is a longtime local whose column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.