Roses and Thorns | AspenTimes.com

Roses and Thorns

Thorns to Aspen City Council members for agreeing in October to provide a grant of $20,000 to the Aspen Art Museum for the museum's 2015 budget year. The disbursement was rooted in a recommendation from the six-member Citizen Grant Review Committee, which analyzes funding requests from nonprofits. The museum clearly does not depend on the grant given that its CEO, executive director and chief curator, Heidi Zuckerman, received compensation and nontaxable benefits worth $894,984 for the tax year ending on Sept. 30, 2013. It's also worth nothing that council members gave a grant of $85,000 to Music Associates of Aspen, which does business as the Aspen Music Festival and School. The festival's CEO, Alan Fletcher, had a total compensation package worth $443,362 during the aforementioned tax year. It's hard to accept the explanation that well-heeled nonprofits need the city's financial support because it gives them added credibility on the fundraising trail. There are several struggling nonprofits across the Roaring Fork Valley that assist people in need, and that's where the city's grant-making power should be focused. It would behoove city leaders — as well as the review committee — to take more of a common-sense approach to these matters in the future. After all, they are playing with taxpayer money.

A thorn to 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia, because she showed poor judgment during a meeting with deputy district attorneys in September with a remark about defense attorneys that could be taken as a religious slur against people of the Jewish faith. We won't repeat the remark — and we didn't in a recent newspaper article about the incident — because it would only serve to reinforce stereotypes about Jewish people and their negotiating tactics. Since taking office in January 2013, Caloia has done a lot of good things as district attorney for Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, but her comment was extremely insensitive and out of place, especially for someone in her position. We appreciate Caloia's occasional public candor with regard to important cases that have sparked high public interest, and we doubt that she intentionally meant to offend anyone. But the fact remains that she did. On the positive side, there's a lesson everyone can learn from this.

A rose to the Buddy Program's local organizers for making a difference in the lives of Roaring Fork Valley youths by matching them with adult mentors. Last year, the program served 973 youths from Carbondale to Aspen, all of whom were between 6 and 18 years old. That represented a 10 percent increase in participation compared with 2012, which tells us the program is getting stronger. A lot of effort goes into making the program beneficial for mentors and kids alike, and those who are the driving force behind that effort deserve the community's sincerest praise.

Roses to the Hickory House restaurant and its staff for working hard to provide a free (donations accepted) Thanksgiving Day dinner each year. Not only does the event bring joy and sustenance to many in the community who otherwise would not have an opportunity for traditional holiday camaraderie, but it also helps to raise money for an important cause, the Buddy Program (see above). On Thursday, the line of people anticipating the dinner — stretching from the restaurant's front door all the way down to a nearby parking lot — was a heartwarming sight indeed.

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