Lum: The Reese’s Pieces school district
The Aspen School District is contemplating selling naming rights for buildings and school programs. After all, the Trump Seminar Room for Democratic Principles and the Pepsi Cafeteria have a nice ring to them, don’t they?
There was a time in Aspen when big money didn’t carry a big stick. If a benefit were held, such as the annual hospital dinner, a large ad or two would run to announce the event, followed by a small one saying, “Thanks to everyone who helped.”
Now the thank-you ads dwarf the invitations, and Lord help the hapless volunteer who leaves off or misspells a donor’s name or puts someone on the silver list instead of the gold list.
I don’t know when we became the groveling capital of the West, but I think it started around 1982. Reaping what we had sown, groveling snowballed, picking up more and more people who liked to be groveled to and dropping them on Aspen.
In the old days, you’d never see a waiter (and I think still won’t see a waitress) with his hand obsequiously behind his back in that servile half-bowing position.
We have gone down the forbidden path, including cars on display at the music tent, flashy real estate billboards at the airport (inside, of course) and ads on buses.
Jon Busch once told me that he didn’t care if they painted the old trolley cars to look like Hershey bars if that would get them running in town. Surely he spoke before he stopped, thought and got a full-frontal mental image of what that would look like.
The pistachio/pomegranate people withdrew when the public didn’t agree that Paepcke Auditorium should be renamed for the Resnicks. The Aspen Institute tried and failed to scurry around the issue by saying it was never really called Paepcke Auditorium in the first place. You could feel the reverberations from Aspen Grove Cemetery — where Paepcke lies — halfway to Glenwood Springs.
An article in the Aspen Daily News on March 24 quoted Brooke Bedingfield, executive director of the Aspen Education Foundation, as saying, “A recent feasibility study showed there’s capacity within the community to raise $15 million” by selling naming rights.
In other words, we don’t have to renew the sales tax we’re already used to because the big money is out there just dangling like low-hanging fruit. Taxes, schmaxes — they’re going for blood diamonds.
“We’re interested in very large, seven-figure gifts in order to have the opportunity to do some kind of naming,” Bedingfield said.
Hey, they’ve done it in New Jersey; what’s Aspen’s excuse for lagging behind?
My favorite Bedingfield quote was this expectation of the perfect donor: “The individuals we have in mind are community members who are here part time and don’t have children or grandchildren in the system, … someone who has five homes, including one in Aspen, and they’re looking for a project.”
All I can say is, well la-di-da — Aspen has so many balls it even wants to handpick the billionaires that it expects will feed it.
I can’t imagine why any rich person with no family in the school system, who at best lives here two months a year, would want to plop down seven figures for a clearly opulent public school just to get their name on the door of the gym or a chemistry lab, even if it is in la-di-da Aspen.
What do I know?
One thing I do know is that the taxpayers own it and you’d better get a clear mandate before you go knocking on any doors.
Su Lum is a longtime local who decided not to change her column (which appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times) just because Mick Ireland wrote on the same subject Monday. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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