Meredith C. Carroll: Beware Aspen’s NextGen in sheep’s clothing
In case you missed the letter to the editor from Aspen’s Next Generation Advisory Commission in Friday’s Aspen Times — or if your reading glasses were AWOL or you skipped the letter because you figured NextGen was some sort of new supergroup with Peter Gabriel on the flute and Phil Collins on drums — here’s the abstract:
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, once listened to some NPR podcast, or maybe we watched an episode of “Rick and Morty,” that said letters should offer two compliments before delivering the coup de grace. Because we, the 18-to 40-year-olds of Aspen, are much shadier than our brightly colored North Face down vests make us appear.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, will attempt to cleverly disguise our disdain for this community’s retirees by saying we’re proud of them. It’s our experience that old people never wag their tails more vigorously than when patted on the head by younger people. At least one of our grandmas likes it, anyway. Although that might have been just the one time when the shampoo girl at her beauty salon was patting her head dry with a towel before her weekly blowout, so who really knows.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, thank everyone older than us for working for decades to establish a revolutionary housing program that allows many of the people who make Aspen tick to actually live and retire here. Now that you’re no longer working, though, we’re going to need you to go ahead and leave. Oh, and could you please smudge your place with sage on the way out and also put in a steam shower and radiant floor heating? Thanks.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, think it damages Aspen’s street cred when people over 40 are actually seen on the street. Old folks, even when they’re in the background, are known Instagram-follower repellants (except for Helen Mirren, of course). We’d explain it, but you wouldn’t understand.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, should not be seen as ageists or any other kind of –ists (other than anti-Weinstein-ists), specifically because we support diversity — if by diversity you mean alternating between Iyengar and Bikram yoga. Because we’re disruptors like that.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, are young, spry, adventurous, innovative and mobile, although not quite young, spry, adventurous, innovative or mobile enough to devise a new housing plan that doesn’t involve displacing people who’ve contributed to the community for longer than we’ve been alive.
• We, the 18- to 40-year-olds of Aspen, are uniquely qualified to have the last word on what Aspen’s “housing stock” (read: residents) should “look like” (read: people under 40 only).
NextGen maintains it has “viable solutions” for local retirees, including financial incentives and “attractive alternatives” (which were unspecified, but are rumored to be either high-class tree houses behind the Intercept Lot or a first-of-its-kind active senior colony on Mars, the details of which were unavailable at press time).
Tree houses and Mars aside, neither solution is original — the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority and Aspen City Council have discussed buyouts, downsizing and other options countless times over the years. However, since no one can order a redo on the housing deeds signed by people who long ago qualified to keep their homes after retirement, the real question is why NextGen and their ilk aren’t brainstorming attractive alternatives for their own housing.
No one’s blaming younger folks for wanting to live east of the roundabout, but is pushing out the old to make way for the new really the kind of precedent this community wants to set? Will the NextGen folks commit now to stepping aside when they start collecting their Social Security checks to make way for another, younger supergroup? Has the Aspen Idea been secretly rewritten to say the mind and spirit should be nurtured, but only bodies if they were born after a certain year?
NextGen deserves its own pat on the head for taking the initiative to help troubleshoot a nagging issue in Aspen. However, the difference between that and a pat on the back would be their revolutionizing housing in and outside of Aspen, along with feasible, responsible and affordable transportation to and from.
In the meantime, they might consider assisting APCHA in going after the units where owners mischaracterized their child custody situations in order to qualify for more bedrooms than were, are or will ever be used. Go after the units where owners conceal other properties they own in the watershed via LLCs or a relative’s name. Go after the units where owners hardly work. Go after the units rented out illegally.
Don’t, though, go after the units where the owners followed the rules, including retiring after enough years of service to the community. Because while throwing the old ski bums out with the bath water might seem like the easiest solution, it’s not now nor should ever be the Aspen way.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.
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