Marolt: Make a developer cry, support five-dollar gas | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Make a developer cry, support five-dollar gas

Roger Marolt
Roger This

We need to have gasoline in Aspen that’s twice as expensive as anywhere else in the country because we want it. That sounds a bit awkward, so I’ll explain. People have suggested I write a column on the outrageous price of gas in Aspen. They’re going to be disappointed I finally did.

I agree that paying more than $4 a gallon for gas while everyone else everywhere else is hot-rodding around, burning it up for less than $2 is excruciatingly painful, but I, for one, first of all, don’t think anything can be done about the price of gas here and, two, I’m not for forcing the issue even if there is.

Can you imagine if there was some kind of employee gas station in town? You’d have to show a tax return to the attendant and prove you worked more than 30 hours a week in town in order to be allowed to fill your car with regular at $2 a gallon; otherwise, they’d charge you $7 to offset the subsidy for everyone else and tax you a little bit more to pay for the administration of the program.

OK, settle down. That’s not intended to be a slam on the affordable-housing program. That’s a good deal, and the entire town benefits from it, including developers and tea partiers. But, I’m not sure a public benefit is derived from giving folks more incentive to drive in the form of cheaper gas. Save the red tape of another government program while you save the environment at the same time. Now there’s a one-of-a-kind idea for you!

When it comes to Aspen gas, here’s what stops the pistons from pinging: We either smile as we hand over the ransom when we fill ‘er up or we get ready to start fighting about how high they can go with the penthouse on top of the new building where the gas station used to be. It really is that simple.

You don’t have to look past Locals’ Corner to find proof. A guy comes into town with a big bag of money and offers to let the owner of the Locals’ Corner gas station reach both hands in and pull out as much as he can carry in exchange for signing over the deed. Now, the owner’s fingers are already sticky from sitting at his desk and counting the daily cash take from running the gas station, so you know he can reach in and grab a lot. Are you with me so far?

OK, now I want you to picture yourself as the owner pulling out that big fat wad of hundies. Wow! Just look at it all stuck to your fingers and crammed into your shirt and pants. That’s a lot of loot! Tell the truth: What are you thinking?

I’ll tell you what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “I can’t make this kind of cash nearly this easily selling gas and M&Ms, even if it is at prices that make drug dealers blush. And, who needs all the grumbling that comes with it?” Then you ask, “Does anybody have a pen?”

In the interest of seeing both sides, I want you to picture yourself as the guy who just gave up the big wad for the deed to Locals’ Corner. What’s he saying to himself while watching all that green disappear?

I’ll tell you what he’s saying, “I can read that guy’s mind. Selling gas is for chumps. I’m going to tear this place down and build some timeshares or an ‘affordable’ hotel or any old dadgum building; whatever I can convince the City Council to give me the most square footage and least amount of parking requirement for. I want my green back and then some!”

I may have overstated the complexity of this transaction.

If we were willing to pay twice as much for a Gap shirt as the going rate in the rest of the country, we’d still have a Gap store in town. Instead, we balked and got a boutique that sells shirts that cost about five times as much as twice the amount the Gap charged and a second floor on the new building that holds it, to boot. That’s one small example of how things work around here.

Contrary to popular belief, Aspen gas stations are not colluding with each other. They’re colluding with Timeshares “R” Us. As much as it hurts, we must pay what our gas stations charge or they are going to be replaced with gigantic lock-off condo complexes. Look at the bright side, though — even at five bucks a gallon, the gas stations are still places we can all shop.

Roger Marolt thinks we should all drive bigger cars with bigger gas tanks that we can top off every time we pass through Glenwood. Contact at roger@maroltllp.com.


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