Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Voter card count, letter to the editor

If we are putting the future of development in the hands of the Aspen voters it doesn't hurt to do a little research on how those hands have directed government power and government money in the past. 

I spent a little time going through the voting records of the City of Aspen. I highly recommend thumbing through these ledgers. It's instructive. These are all referendum votes not charter amendments except for the last example. 

Public referendum on the Ritz Carlton (aka St. Regis) in 1990, 1561 for development 1059 against-  arguably it was Mr. Hadid's marketing campaign which helped this pass by a healthy  502 votes.

Purchasing the Mother Lode (click for "before" image), 762 against 596 for - it lost by 166 votes.


In 1979 street repair, 646 for and 604 against - passing by only 42 votes which must rank as the highest percentage of pro-pothole votes in history.

I thought the closest vote in living memory was the Red Brick School Arts Center 526 yes and 523 no- passing by 3 votes.

That may have been the closest referendum vote but the narrowest margin was a charter amendment to increase the Mayor's salary in 1980 from $600 to $800 a month that was 884 to 883 - passing by one vote.

Think Referendum 1 will stop development? Would a $100,000 marketing campaign be worth a couple of $5million dollar free market add ons?  When the odds are this close and the stakes this high a public vote is an acceptable risk. 

No on Referendum 1, please.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kool-Aid, letter to the editor

How can I be anti-Condo in Basalt and anti-Ref1 in Aspen

Isn't Referendum 1 all about hamstringing the evil developers and isn't that what condos in Basalt would be- evil development?

If that's how you read it- you've drunk the Referendum 1  kool aid. 

drinking the kool aid link for those who don't remember the original reference

Ref 1 does nothing to curtail development. Nothing.  

A b s o l u t e l y NOooooooothing. 

All Ref1 does is guillotine City Council and cost us $20K for each special election.  

Vote NO on Ref1. 

Do no harm, letter to the editor

First, do no harm.

Referendum 1, what harm does it do?

First and foremost it increases the friction between City Hall and the Citizens. Some may think that's progress. I do not. That's Aspen politics as usual and I'm thoroughly sick of it. I think that polarization is the problem and every effort should be made to create an atmosphere where we can listen to each other and live together. 

Second- It *favors* large developers. Yes, that's what I said- it gives large new development an advantage over any maintenance or restoration project. Full disclosure- that's me- trying to maintain at 47 year old property which is both my residence and my rental.  One interpretation of code would force me to replace plate glass windows with drywall since more than 25% of my wall is window. Until you bump your nose against it you have no idea how crazy the code is. The more difficult you make it for long time locals to maintain their properties the more you invite bulldozers scraping the ground bare and building new.  The examples of bulldozing old properties due to renovation road blocks are too numerous to mention- unlike the Ref1 proponents whose crystal balls predict that the voters will  "scare" developers into submission- for which - may I remind you- there is not one single precedent. 

Third- legislatively it's a mess. For those governance junkies who occupy their time with Roberts Rules of Order,  the Federalist Papers and Plato it exemplifies the very reason for a Democratic Republic instead of a Democracy.  

Ref1 supporters use the classic FOX news tactic to mobilize a mob with smoke, mirrors and emotional diatribes. This gives away the Representative system without a whimper- much less a fight. 

Engage your inner Spock.

Vote NO on Referendum 1

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The imitation of failure, letter to the editor, updated

This is in response to the plans for development of the former Pan and Fork trailer park site.

Dear Basalt, when one culture imitates another it imitates the worst parts of that culture.

Condos???? You want Condos instead of a clear shot at the river and grass under your feet? Don't you already have a crystal clear example of what 50 year old Condo development looks like? Is that the future you want? Have. You.  Lost. Your. Mind??????

If I voted in Basalt I'd push for a Performing Arts Center. 

(take a look at a plan of Stratford- it's analogous to Basalt in many ways)

If I voted in Basalt I'd be canvasing local architects (Harry Teague comes glaringly to mind) who understand both the topography and the community (I mean did anybody even ask???).

If I voted in Basalt I wouldn't rest until the wetlands which were torn out with the trailers were replaced.

If I voted in Basalt I'd be thinking of all sorts of ways that those folks in their oh so urbane loft apartments at Willits could spend a quaint evening sipping chilled cucumber water on the green by the river- because there sure ain't nothin' happening at Willits when the stores shut their doors.

Come on Basalt don't do an Aspen- do better than Aspen- make a destination community not a second home community.

Updated: here is a perfect example of how a museum can revitalize a community and become a destination point: Crystal Bridges which now hosts 600,000+ visitors a year

Monday, April 13, 2015

Test till failure, letter to the editor

Does Aspen need more brute force in local government? 

Ref1 gives you a club, not a voice.

"Test till failure" is an engineering term. You run the system past all safe stress levels in order to see where it breaks first. That seems to be the impetus behind Referendum 1. You throw as many monkey wrenches into the system as possible and in theory this will force City Council to fix the code. It's a brute force strategy. I can tell you from experience you never know which bolt will break first and you never know how far that bolt will fly. Just watch a few "big boom" episodes on Mythbusters.

"Trust me I'm an engineer." It's a classic.

I've asked before and I'll ask again- what are we doing to increase communication between City Hall and the citizens? 

Here are some suggestions for improvement which are not in Referendum 1:

At 5pm when the City Council meeting starts ask who in the gallery is there for which issue. Then listen to the issues which have the most public comment first.  Public first, Council and City Hall business last. Anyone who wants to wait to the wee hours to hear if the schedule will still be posted by the front door on the cork board may do so. Yes, some Staffers may have to hang around longer and be paid overtime- I get that- but it should be the public first. Our time is valuable also. 

I would like to consign clicker sessions to the 9th circle of hell. 

Prepackaged questions and prepackaged answers don't tell you the truth, sitting down with a cuppa and listening, that gets you to the truth. I wish our City Staffers would read "Powerpoint is evil"  by Edward Tufte - or just go straight to the Powerpoint Gettysburg address on Youtube. More paper isn't job security. Knowing your neighbors is job security.

Take all the time used on crafting those clever clicker sessions to contact people who are interested in particular issues instead-  the people who show up, or who live next door to the project, or who use the proposed service. If you reach out to people before the meeting you can actually solve a lot of problems prior the meeting. Radical, I know. Reach out via phone, email or even (gasp) in person and tell people about an upcoming work session, or a public hearing, or a presentation which interests them. It's devilishly difficult to know what is happening and  when it's happening for both the City and the County. We should fix that.

Some people work 9-5 for a living, yes even in Aspen. Schedule  some public outreach during non-working hours. You might even schedule presentations outside of City Hall- like Justice Snows, or Wagner Park, or the ARC. A pool party would cost a heck of a lot less than a special election on variances.

Once, just once I'd like to see all the City employees in one place.  There's a fabulous photo in the Library of all the people who helped make the first FIS course grouped in Wagner. I'd like to see that picture for all the people who work for the City.  If we meet the people in government face to face instead of just wading through their stacks of paper maybe we can start to treat each other like fellow human beings.

Intimidation isn't a long term strategy. Mutual respect and cooperation work better.  

Ref1 doesn't solve the problem; it exacerbates the problem.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fish out of Water, letter to the editor

I had that total deer in the headlights look during ACRA's Ref1 debate. I'm not a politician or a lawyer and yet there I was talking about about Ref1. 

Thanks to ACRA

Maybe that's the point. I'm Joan Q. Public- the person Ref1 is supposed to rely on the scare Council into doing the right thing. Scary scary me, the Aspen Voter. Oh goodie.

So after 40 minutes of quoting legalese and rehashing past Council meetings which left me completely in the dust there was finally a question which I could understand.  What if Mountain Rescue was built inside the City limits? How would Ref1 effect the code variances necessary to have a functioning Mountain Rescue Station?  Finally, down to something I can evaluate. It was that simple "up or down" vote question to which I'm supposed be able to deliver a definitive answer without knowing all 524 pages of code. Mountain Rescue=good. Mountain Rescue close by= better. Mountain Rescue built with no delay due to public vote= yep, that would be my choice. (Lest we forget it costs the City $20K every time we have a "special election")

Not the first time we've had a 60' fire tower in town either…. (and above Durant Street)

How would Ref1 effect the code variances necessary to have a functioning Mountain Rescue Station inside the City limits? It might have been a caffeine deficit but I swear I heard two lawyers- two pro Ref1 lawyers- say "I can't answer that question".


If no-one can answer how Ref1 would effect a hypothetical permit under current code how do you expect me to vote on the Referendum?  That's the question isn't it- how does this Referendum work in real life? I wish both sides would concentrate on that instead of rehashing ordinances, code, zoning,  past council meetings and trying to predict how the threat of voter participation will alter human behavior. But hey, I'm not a politician or a lawyer,  I'm just Joan Q. Public.