McDonald: Aspen’s like living in a ‘Pullman town’ |

McDonald: Aspen’s like living in a ‘Pullman town’

Scott and Caroline McDonald
The Aspen Times

It seems the city of Aspen continues to endorse large public housing developments for more employees to service more commercial developments to maximize revenue stream mutually beneficial for city largess and the developer’s bottom line.

Potentially, there can be serious systemic corruption associated with any symbiotic relationship between municipal governments and big developers. American corporate capitalism, with all its attributes, still requires government legislation to collar the “greed is good” corporate mantra.

Without rules to protect the public from the inherent predatory practices of free-market capitalism, in a blink, you could have just a few mega, all-powerful monopolistic corporations owning just about everything there is to own that can make rent (Blackrock). A nation could quickly be transformed into cities of “Pullman towns” where the majority of the population are indentured proletarians of the corporation.

This would be a dystopian world brought forth by lobbying influences employing high-tech advanced manipulation of human behavior, similar to Cambridge Analytica. Considering our republic has the best government money can buy, thanks to Citizens United together with AI’s off-the-shelf, mind-boggling capabilities and limitless heuristic potential for almost any application – such as tracking/managing large populations in real time – this scenario could be plausible.

City government has made Aspen what you see today, which is a version of the above scenario. This transformation has been playing out in Aspen for the past three decades. Aspen was once a diverse, affordable, and vibrant, functioning city. It is now a homogenized, high-end theme park /strip mall for the rich bourgeoisie, and APCHA is the proletariat “Pullman town.”

The city’s endorsement of speculative hegemonic ownership of numerous keystone commercial core properties by a few big developers is acceptable because it’s profitable to the city.

The APCHA constituency has endorsed the city’s predatory and punitive legislation for revenue, but ironically, their councils have not visibly improved their quality of life.

One reason is the city’s punitive taxation and corporate development giveaways are a wealth filter, accelerating societal bifurcation, gentrification, and big-money speculation. Who in town would endorse this outcome? Just about anyone expecting to make a buck. Who’s left?

The free-market homeowner is the city’s default cash cow and whipping boy. The majority of free-market homeowners don’t want traffic gridlock or any other city degradation just to meet some corporate bottom line and to feed more largess to city staff.  

Aspen’s over-the-top legislation for profit and big development incentives do fund the upper tranches of city employees with select housing special privileges that others don’t have. Additionally, by and large, most city employees do receive perks far above the national municipal average.

Aspen’s typical corporate proletariat does not have parity to city benefits. Key city personnel are supplemented generously with cheap – sometimes free – housing with maintenance, above-average wages, long vacations, health care/retirement packages, incentive bonuses, club membership discounts, and education allowances.

It all sums up to “having your cake and eat it, too,” with great disposable income. That is why you Ott to see so many high riding city managers dining out, maybe with discounts?

Scott and Caroline McDonald are Aspen residents.