Milias: United We Stand |

Milias: United We Stand

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

In a small town known for its political squabbles and petty arguments, today we are more united than ever — united in discontent.

There perhaps has never been a time when the community has shared such a palpable sentiment stemming from numerous ignorant and ill-conceived decisions by our local government. The discontent manifests itself in different ways to different constituencies, but the City Council has been nothing if not consistent in its ability to negatively impact just about everyone.

Downtown businesses were hit with the “Living Lab” experiment on Galena and Cooper that removed 44 parking spaces and made the already precarious driving-riding-walking corridor even more treacherous. Council’s car-free downtown dream is fatally flawed until there is a place to park the cars in the first place. Instead, motorists circled the blocks looking for parking until many decided not to come to town anymore. The experiment was tweaked to accommodate more cars, but the damage was done.

Restaurants were the first to be on the receiving end of the city’s post-pandemic return to normalcy. Despite being highlighted in the AACP, the community’s guiding document, “messy vitality” is apparently no longer a community value. Innovative build-outs and street activations were shut down despite the proprietors paying for the spaces and mitigating for subsidized housing. Unless formal plans were under way with the city to make the temporary structures permanent, all the quirky additions were removed and, with them, seats for hundreds of diners.

Families with children found themselves scrambling for child-care options in an already dire child-care market. In its most tone-deaf decision of all, City Council attempted to increase child-care availability by requiring not one, but two long-time local providers who rent city space in the Yellow Brick to operate five days a week as terms of their leases. For years, the cherished four-day-a-week providers had served hundreds of local families, but the new regulations forced both businesses to shut down. Today, the city touts its under-construction, $8-million child-care facility at Burlingame as the answer. Imagine how two round trips each day will impact traffic, not to mention the working families who have to make them.

Homeowners have become the latest boogeymen. If you need a building permit, be prepared to wait, sometimes as long as 12-18 months. And, don’t even think about a demo. There can only be six each year. In Vail, by contrast, it’s closer to two months, with apologies after three-to-four weeks. And, in Minnesota, state statute requires decisions on complete applications within 60 days. What takes Aspen so long? It’s all about control and palpable disdain for private-property owners. Our city hall has no discipline, no reliability and a culture that disrespects its citizens.

The arts, including the Red Brick, were set to receive significantly more funding from the Wheeler coffers when 71% of the electorate approved a November 2021 amendment to the RETT. But, when council refused to seat a dedicated arts council and allocated the arts funding itself, “arts fellowships” received only a dime for every dollar council kept to “improve city facilities.” Hardly the intent of the ballot measure.

West End residents — long besieged by west-bound rush-hour commuters who attempt to bypass the traffic jam on Main Street and who ignore stop signs and speed limits — have implored the city to put an end to this dangerous and disruptive practice but remain in limbo as bureaucratic stalling and traffic studies are carried out.

Second-home owners, our taxpaying but non-voting neighbors, have been blamed for displacing locals from in-town housing, crowding our restaurants and gentrifying our town. (No mention of their contributions to job creation, the RETT coffers, the tax base and our non-profits.) Short-term rentals have already been punitively regulated because apparently no one but locals should be able to make money renting their homes. And, council none-too-subtly threatens a future “vacancy tax” to further punish those not occupying their homes full time.

Subsidized-housing residents stand to suffer greatly as a result of this council’s decisions and priorities. For years, our deteriorating housing inventory has been further neglected for want of policy changes to bolster HOA reserves and undertake preventative maintenance. Decaying buildings will not fix themselves. Plus, the current focus on building hundreds of new units will add to our year-round population in significant numbers. “More” may initially sound appealing, but it also means more competition for increasingly scarce resources. After all, with just 12 bar stools at Mi Chola, where will hundreds of new folks watch the Broncos?

This is just a partial list, but you get the idea. Every sector of this community has been negatively impacted by the naïve and irresponsible decisions of this council. Blinded by their idealism and lack of real-world experience or business acumen, this group is solely responsible for making all of our lives more complicated, more costly and more inconvenient.

But, we are the voters. There is a municipal election in March. It’s a sad state of affairs to be united in our discontent, but united we must remain. Together we can force the important changes we all can agree on.

Aspen deserves better. Contact