Meredith Carroll: It’s happening. I’m melting.
Despite having never previously self-identified as a snowflake, I now find myself in the precarious position of melting. That is my way of saying my feelings have been hurt. (Here is where I would cue a tiny violin but, you know, staffing and supply chain issues.)
My Aspen Times opinion page colleague and infrequent drinking buddy Elizabeth Milias is not a fan of either Aspen City Council’s residential development and short-term rental permit emergency moratoriums, which are new, or the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA), which is not new. In her most recent column, “The housing fix is in” (Jan. 2), she pumps her ire at the “retribution” raining down on the free market and dumps it on the real culprit, which she has “revealed through facts, not feelings” as employee housing. Not just the program and the entities and governing bodies overseeing it, but also the people in it, (full disclosure) like me.
When my husband and I entered Aspen’s employee housing lottery 16 years ago, we did so with eyes wide open to the program’s advantages and drawbacks. A strong factor in our decision to knowingly forgo any kind of substantive home equity was the opportunity to plant roots and raise a family in an idyllic setting surrounded by a community that endeavored to measure the value of people in it beyond the number of zeros in their net worth.
To be sure, the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority, the nation’s oldest and largest mountain resort workforce housing program, has tipped the messy scales over the years. Ask anyone who really lives here — or even ask part-time Nantucket local Milias — and they’ll tick off on each finger a list of bad actors, nebulous loopholes, and exploitable rules everywhere APCHA’s light touches (plus the Crystal River Valley). However, ask the same folks to name ways Aspen and their lives have changed for the better due to someone, or many people, who live in employee housing, and they’ll need to grow more digits to count that high.
In a Letter to the Editor last week, Aspenite Millard Zimet proposed “peace” in Aspen is achievable by ending “the forever real estate class war.” Cancel APCHA, Zimet wrote, and then give “second-class citizens,” like me, a “nest egg” in the form of the unrestricted deeds to the homes we are already in. I suppose that would be a win-win if what you dream of in a hometown starts and ends with a spectrum of Teslas — even the Deep Metallic Blue one — in the City Market parking lot.
(Alternatively, I wonder how Milias and Zimet would feel about Disneyfying Aspen through the creation of an underground tunnel system wherein resort employees are seen when they’re of use and then neatly hidden below grade when idle. Actually, I don’t have to wonder how they’d feel.)
As APCHA continues refining the trail it blazed 50 years ago, conversations about how to fix, maintain, enforce and improve it should likewise keep moving forward. Having said that, the time is now to stop mischaracterizing APCHA’s imperfections as the enemy of all its good. It’s unproductive, it’s exhausting, and it’s mean.
Until then, please, put away your Kleenex and cancel the pity party in my honor. Delete the Go Fund Me campaign for the damage my fragile, left-leaning, middle-class white Aspen existence has sustained. But when I’m in here working as you’re out there skiing, don’t also ridicule me for happily choosing to stay long-term in a community that offered me a real home. (Unfortunately that ship has already sailed if you’re Milias, who is poised to die on the sword that ensures larger living spaces, covered parking, pets, children, dishwashers, and retirement are rights, or even just conversations, reserved only for those who overpay for their homes times 10.)
On the other hand, do let me know if it turns out I’ve overstayed my welcome or if the community I invested my life and family in was secretly replaced with a shinier, shallower one. If that does turn out to be the case, please break it to me gently because when someone in employee housing leaves Aspen, they’re not sent to the back of the line, rather they lose their turn entirely.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.
High Points: Summer hoops
For the first time in 47 years our home state NBA team has games to play in the month of June. The Denver Nuggets have gone where they never have been before, to the Finals of the National Basketball Association to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy which is awarded to the league champion. It has been a long time coming, but go Nuggets!