Meredith Carroll: Candidates need to aim higher than building heights
In 2011, Colorado’s Department of Human Services proposed a new set of regulations for child care providers, including one requiring daycare centers to stock dolls of at least three different races. Since finding figurines that resemble them is a problem my fair-skinned, blond-haired daughters don’t regularly encounter, I didn’t think much about it.
Lately, though, it’s a concept at the forefront of my mind. With Aspen’s election just two weeks away, I’ve been preoccupied with the lack of candidates who mirror or at least accurately represent the concerns of my family as well as others without a vested interest in or general fixation on development.
I’ve been coming home to election postcards taped to my front door or stuck in the mailbox about “Making Aspen Better, Not Bigger,” “Keeping Aspen, Aspen” and preserving our town’s character and messy vitality — all of which speaks to buildings, not people. It appears as if most council members and candidates in this race, who more or less profess to have public service running through their veins, are largely mute, tone deaf or colorblind to the issues of constituents whose lives and priorities don’t reflect their own.
While I wish there were someone more like me on or running for council, I empathize with the conflicts faced by members of full-time working families with young children who might consider a bid if the meetings weren’t generally held when school gets out, sports practices are underway, homework struggles commence, dinner needs to be prepared and bedtime routines unravel. The voices of these families, as well as those of immigrant and single parents working odd jobs or hours while tussling to find a healthy balance at home, seem largely marginalized by the issues making headlines.
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When Mayor Steve Skadron voted against the Aspen Science Center taking over the Old Power House building, he asked, “If this concept isn’t duplicating efforts in Aspen, and if the answer is ‘no,’ why isn’t this a discussion for the Aspen School District board?”
Never mind that a tax passed by Aspen voters in 2012 awarding up to $1.6 million annually to the school district to fill a gap from state education cuts expires next year. Presumably, Skadron’s logic in opposition to the science center also can be used against the art museum and children’s library, not to mention the Aspen Recreation Center, and pretty much everywhere else kids in this town can seek an opportunity to build and expand on what they learn in school to try and grow and shape themselves into clever, strong and prolific adults who will eventually be members of our community.
The only current council member and candidate with small children is Adam Frisch, who, probably not coincidentally, also is the only councilman who voted in favor of the science center. And if council candidates other than Frisch and Tom McCabe have discussed the feasibility of families living in Aspen affordably during this election, the conversation has not been louder than a murmur.
At the same time, letters to the editor in both papers have loudly praised many of the candidates for their ability to “remain calm and composed” and seek “input from both sides.” They’ve been described as smart and having leadership qualities. In other words, the letter writers and candidates being endorsed are all in possession of the same vanilla, political rhetoric that’s hardly unique to Aspen.
What sets Aspen apart from other places, however, is that our biggest problems are quality-of-life ones. Or, at least that’s what you might think if you read most of the election literature or tune into any of the debates. We’re fortunate to have a murder rate that is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent, and our crime statistics are heavily weighted with drunk tourists peeing on police cars and partiers pilfering sunglasses and ski boots from the Highlands lost-and-found pile rather than anything more egregiously violent or otherwise felonious.
You might imagine the candidates would use this election as an opportunity to dig deeper than political hyperbole and aim higher than building heights. Except discussion of our elevated rates of suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence and lack of affordable child care, which are probably topics of concern to more people than those alarmed at the prospect of 60-foot hotels, is nowhere to be found.
At Pathfinder’s inaugural Foreverlove event Saturday, Councilman Art Daily spoke poignantly of the soul of Aspen’s community, which he described in way that was infinitely more profound than the lodging ordinance and land-use code. Aspen’s core has less to do with buildings and more to do with the people actually constructing, occupying and living and working in them.
I hardly need to see an identical twin on City Council to feel represented, although having more than just one or two people at the table with broader insight and less peripheral vision would be welcome.
More at MeredithCarroll.com.
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