Rolling the dice on Aspen’s image |

Rolling the dice on Aspen’s image

We love Aspen, but that doesn’t mean it is without some legitimate image problems.

That said, it’s difficult to compute the argument that the roll of a teeny-tiny die to determine who would fill the City Council’s vacant seat would have sullied this mountain town’s reputation.

But apparently that was a concern among the four members of the City Council who were deadlocked, 2-2, on whether finalists Howie Mallory or Dwayne Romero should fill the remaining 23 months in the seat vacated by Steve Skadron after he was elected mayor in June.

On Wednesday, Skadron, in one of his first major decisions as mayor, shifted his support from Mallory to Romero to avoid the dice roll, which the city’s official election rules allow when two candidates are tied in a political race. Basically, the council considered borrowing a rule that is set up for election deadlocks.

Before Skadron broke the tie, one councilman privately confessed that he was concerned that Aspen would be hammered with international press had Romero and Mallory rolled the bones. Other observers made similar suggestions, namely that outsiders would get a good chuckle out of Aspen’s political charade.

It’s understandable how Aspen gets a little loopy with its own self-importance — it’s no different from a celebrity or athlete setting up a Google alert to be reminded what the world is thinking about them — but does anyone really think the residents of Egypt, Russia or Syria are concerned about Aspen politics?

Instead of worrying about the dice roll, how about addressing these double standards and problems that taint Aspen’s image?

• While we tout our green ways with environmental festivals and programs like the Canary Initiative, Gulfstream jets line the airport. Sure, shopping with reusable bags is a noble gesture, but it’s a mere gnat on the grizzly bear of fuel consumption accounted for by these aircraft.

• A recent survey ranked Pitkin County the healthiest in Colorado; however, another study ranks Pitkin third in the state for adults who drink at unhealthy levels.

• According to TripAdvisor, Aspen is the second-most expensive place to ski in North America, trailing behind Vail.

• Aspen touts itself as a family-friendly place to live, while the West End sits virtually empty for most of the year.

• Aspen’s suicide rate is said to be one of the highest in the nation, per-capita-wise.

So do these little dice belong in the company of McMansions, Gulfstreams, high alcoholism, suicide rates and expensive lift tickets?

Some have said the local media wanted to see a dice roll for sensational headlines. There’s no arguing the press would have seized the dice-rolling spectacle by producing meaty headlines accompanied by photos of Mallory and Romero praying to Lady Luck — gimme a six, baby!

For sure, dice-roll democracy is not the ideal way to elect a council member, but that was the only reasonable method that the council could come up with in the face of gridlock. In the meantime, the system needs to be changed, giving voters the opportunity to decide who fills council vacancies, so that the dice option doesn’t surface again.

It’s safe to say that six months or a year from now, had Mallory or Romero obtained the seat with a winning dice roll, the community no longer would care how he got there. Political observers, the media and voters would be more concerned about his politics, decision-making and leadership.

And, of course, how he molded Aspen’s image.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at

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