Roger Marolt: Don’t change our laws, just change your voter registration
Contrary to local popular wishful thinking, there is no such thing as a “part-time resident” in a ski town. Let’s not play silly games with semantics trying to create some local credibility out of nothing. Go ahead and try to pull it off. Residents can spot a poser before they carry their skis tail-first. In a resort town, you are either a resident or you are not. Unfortunately for the drug store local, home actually isn’t where the heart is, it is where you are registered to vote.
Let’s talk “tourist.” I know the word is a Siamese twin to unflattering imagery and negative connotations, but those are usually conjured by the insecure tourist who would let their nose be frostbitten to become a local. Ask visitors to raise their hands at a Thursday night concert on Fanny Hill and you will find Snowmass Village suddenly has 5,000 locals you’ve never seen at the post office. Nobody wants to be described as a tourist, but we are all tourists sometime.
A “tourist” is anyone visiting a place for pleasure. Uneasy with it or not, can we put our prejudices aside and agree on this clear definition? Seriously — “yes” or “no.” Nobody will hear you say it to yourself. It is an extremely simple incrimination; not a soul-searching philosophical exercise requiring interpretation, further study, a town hall meeting, a protest march or a published thesis.
OK, good. If you are still reading to this point, we are indisputably on the same page. I will now make a point extremely painful to some, even though my intention is not to cause misery or heartache. I am only pointing out a reality that seems to have grown blurry. If you are easily horrified, sit down. If you have a bullet, bite it. My fingers have peeled up the edge of the Band-Aid and I am going to rip it off right now: SECOND-HOME OWNERS ARE TOURISTS! Scritch! Ooooweeeouch! @$&%! Phew.
Why did I have to put you through this? I’m sorry, but Aspen Daily News columnist Mel Blumenthal made it necessary. This is not an insult. This is not name-calling. This is a simple fact. He does not live here. He visits here for pleasure. He is a tourist promoting the notion that he and other second-homeowners should have a codified say in local politics and the right to vote in local elections.
His sole argument in this is that he owns property here. It sounds as arrogant as it is just plain wrong.
Towns need to be governed by people who live in them all the time, not just when the powder is fresh and the Columbines are blooming. The right to vote is earned by knocking May mud from the tread of your running shoes and sharpening your edges for an early opening of the ski season. You earn it by giving back to the community through your labor. You become a local by taking this location through the continual flow of its highs and lows. You learn little about the true nature of this town if you only show up on your own terms when the weather is nice and all the restaurants are open.
If local wisdom could be attained as easily as making an economic investment, all decisions should be made by people owning 15,000-square-foot mansions. Votes can be weighted based on assessor office valuations. Never mind that you may turn your investment over to Airbnb and only visit it yourself once every few years.
Decisions residents have made over the years have been very good for the health of our resort community. Second-home owners who fell in love with the place that the locals created have been handsomely rewarded physically, mentally, spiritually and economically.
Blumenthal’s decades-old attempt to grab political power for second-home owners is void of wisdom while overflowing with ego. We need his guidance about as much as another dry winter. The continual effort to maintain a second-home owners’ advisory board and advocate for tourist voting rights has become as tiresome as it is misguided and convoluted. There remains a simple way to earn the right to vote locally — all he has to do is change his voter registration and start paying Colorado income tax. He already has a place to live, which is a lot more than many others who have made the commitment to make this their home.
Part-time residents do not get to tell us how to run our town. The full-time residents who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to it get to decide how we live. If the part-timer doesn’t like the way things are, he or she may sell their property for a nice profit to a new owner who appreciates the gem of a town the residents here have created over the decades. It is a win-win situation if there ever was one.
Roger Marolt doesn’t think second-home owners should get to vote both where they live and here, too. Email at email@example.com.
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Rob Ittner is back on the local culinary scene as the new food and beverage director at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.