Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rights or Right? Letter to the editor

Who knew water could be so complicated? (said with tongue firmly embedded in cheek)

Are the dam rights on Maroon and Castle for dams or for storage? Storage is the answer I’ve been given.

 If we give up rights to store available water- do we lose the right to water?  I’m no lawyer and I’m really not a water lawyer but let’s play the "what if" game….

Imagine a year with no water and a dam- we have a right to so many acre feet and we release it from the damn dam in order to have water which we can legally consume. We are left with a dry riverbed.
Imagine a year with no water and no dam- we have a right to so many acre feet but they don’t exist. We are left with a dry riverbed.

What remains the same in both scenarios? Everything dies. We’re part of an ecosystem which is interdependent no matter what the idiotic egocentric Colorado use it or lose it alternative universe water law decrees. That is what Colorado law says- drain it dry- or somebody else will drain it instead.

The threats of front range diversion are not paper tigers- they are real- read the 2014-2015 Colorado Water Plan. To quote Club 20 "In this February 3 letter to Governor Hickenlooper, seven West Slope Republican legislators wrote, “To protect the West Slope and the State’s economy, it is imperative that each basin exhaust its available water supply before planning diversions from another area of the State.” The letter goes on to say that, “An abundance of additional West Slope water available to the Front Range is an illusion.”’

Please note the word “exhaust” - that means bare bones dry. We should be working together to keep the water in the river and in the soil. Instead we’ve created a world where we urge others to exhaust their water before we exhaust our water. That's mutually assured desertification.

Don’t you dare think that a City Council vote will make one iota of difference in a fight about water. The City Council has told the State they want to keep the water storage  right and at the same time said “trust us we won’t build a dam”.  Irregardless of the City Council vote  this mixed message is  a hole wide enough to drill a diversion through. If you think no one will challenge this then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

The tough political reality is that the people living in the Colorado River ecosystem have no political power. The Colorado River ecosystem is divided by State borders, Federal lands, Tribal lands and by a border with Mexico. We have no clout. We need clout. The sane solution is to create a coalition of the Colorado River ecosystem entities which transcends State and National borders and recognizes natural water flow. In this fight for water Native Americans, Mexicans,Republicans, Democrats and independents must stay united. Take this as an opportunity to create a coalition of the willing and fight it right up to the hilt against the Front Range and every blue grass water sucking municipality which wants to drain the rivers dry.  Take that pledge- make your candidate take that pledge- a pledge to restore our water sheds our riparian zones and fight to keep every drop of Colorado River water in the river.

Start by doing as India and New Zealand have done and declare Castle, Maroon and the Roaring Fork “persons” with all the legal rights a person has. The law needs to change.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Affordable Schmordable.... letter to the editor

If you have rules which are unenforceable maybe you need to take a close look at the rules.

I won’t argue about how much city sponsored (affordable, employee) housing is being sublet and rented. I have a pretty good idea since I’m ubering quite a few visitors to those units in high season- but that’s only anecdotal data.

Here's the "housing hustle" link.

How enforceable is the “no rentals rule”? Unless you want to go “full United Airlines” not a lot. Dumping residents out of affordable housing on the street is a photo op no local wants to see and the tabloids/social media would lap up like whipped cream on strudel.

Here’s the modest proposal- allow rentals with a cap- $100 per person per night. Rent through Airbnb. Airbnb already collects lodging tax off the top and it goes direct to the City/County/State. This increases our “low cost rental” base and gives our affordably housed a way to raise money to pay for maintenance and repair in the City built housing.

Don’t want to rent at “affordable" rates through Airbnb? You want to act like free market - fine- buy out the your “affordable” house at full market value.  We could call that the Appraisers Christmas bonus special.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Corvid City, letter to the editor

In response to Stephen Capra’s letter.

It started in the 80’s with pigeons. I don’t remember a single pigeon until Reagan was elected. Pigeons on the Mall. Pigeons above the Elks club.

I live in a place which faces Aspen mountain and used to be the “top of the hill” right at the 8000’ line where nothing was ever going to be built. It’s where the meadow and forest reclaimed it’s rightful place back from slides of slag miners left behind.  “Freddy” the first owner of #106 planted a pine tree at her back door. In 48 years I watched that tree grow- kissing my balcony and climbing past the roof. Hadid’s development came with the Pigeons and smashed the old boat tow shack leaving the 8000’  rule in the dust. Up went 15,000 sq foot homes between me and the mountain- unoccupied homes with pigeon spike rows  on perfectly oiled log pediments. I still had the tree between me and “dream homes”.   I watched generations of Steller’s Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos and Hummingbirds build their nests and raise families in that tree. Once there were 7 baby Steller’s in a row on my balcony rail. Over time the songbirds left.   By the time Obama was in office there was only a magpie nest in the  tree. By the time Trump was in office the tree had been cut down and my view of Aspens, Lodgepole pine, Blue Spruce and Queen Anne’s lace was replaced with an homage to Joni Mitchell….. a parking lot.

Now ravens sit in the trees  on either side of main street waiting for roadkill. Magpies chatter at West End diving after what your dog leaves behind.  Sparrows flock to Peaches and Paradise feasting on flakes of pastry. Gone are the pine siskins, the finches, the towhees… even the Camp Robbers stay far above us at the Sundeck or Maroon Bells. The last time I saw a Stellers Jay it was half way up Buckskin Pass.

People ask me what’s changed in 49 years. We used to be a town of humans living in a forest full of birdsong where bears stayed in the berry patches and watched us from a distance. Foxes were rarely seen and coyotes never. Now we are a town were the scavengers come to dine.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Charging ahead

We already have a formula for development funding affordable housing. Why not make car chargers a mandatory addition to all building permits?

When I’m driving my “uber tesla” I get a lot of riders from California. These are mostly people who already own a Tesla. Eventually the conversation turns to charging and the availability of charging stations. Simply put- the lines are long in the Eureka State.

Battery technology is undergoing a rapid and long overdue boost. Electric car prices are lower and will continue to be lower as the battery price goes down and efficiency goes up. The cost of electricity is not the issue- the issue is how many charging stations are there? Right now my plug share app shows 26 in the Roaring Fork Valley. “Good" you say? Take a look at our traffic and imagine 1/3 electric - then you’re getting a better idea of how many chargers we are going to need- the question isn’t “if” but  “when”?

Chain letter

Chain stores? In Aspen we ain’t talkin’ Target. Prada, and Louis Vuitton those are our chain stores.

Prada......which used to be Andres- with backgammon and dancing on the top floor- I saw plenty of $100 bills being exchanged on that top floor- arguably as much money transferred hands then as now...

Ever wonder why we don’t have a Duane Reede on every corner? Could it possibly be because you have to make enough money to pay your rent?

The only exceptions I can think of are the ones where the retailer owns the real estate.

The vicious circle comes back to the price of real estate and the price of real estate is largely due to our government restricted building codes.  Scarcity increases price it’s a simple economic principle.

Our choice is not “chain stores” our choice is do you want government regulated building inhabited by government subsidized retail?  Remember how well that’s worked in the past? I whisper “Cooper Street Pier” from the wings.

What would happen, I wonder, if restrictions on retail beyond the commercial core were a little more loose? Could we infuse our “dark” neighborhoods with a little more life? Would it encourage less driving to the core if you could pick up a carton of milk on the nearest corner? What if our free electric car service brought the groceries to you instead of you to the groceries?

What if our attempts at manipulating the Aspen economy were not quite so hamfisted as they have been?

What if we took a good long calm look and made one overarching rule in our government ordinances “First, do no harm.”?