Thursday, August 20, 2015

IRL, letter to the editor

What's the value of IRL? For those of you who are not internet addicted that stands for "in real life".

At the heart of it that is the question before two of our local Roaring Fork Valley Governments. Both Aspen and Basalt have citizens who are asking for a Community Center. There is a coalition in Aspen proposing an Armory Building renaissance back to it's Community Hall roots and there is a groundswell bubbling up in Basalt calling for a Community Center Clearshot to the river.

The economics for the Aspen proposal are irrefutable. The Armory Community Center is the clear winner but Aspen being Aspen there will surely be roadblocks to common sense. The economics for Basalt are less clear. The tantalizing prospect of a cash in hand condo sales tax can easily blind even the most far sighted civil servant.  I never thought I'd hear the words "dog park" used in a derogatory manner in the progressive halls of the Basalt City Hall but hey, as mom used to say, "All you have to do is live long enough…."

But let's think about this a bit longer and look at what these two proposals have in common and what each of these groups is trying to tell their representatives.

"Socialization" is such a soulless word for such a soulful activity; but that's what is at the heart of both these proposals. The community is asking for a place to commune. The neighborhood wants a place to be neighborly. We want to heal our hearts with shared laughter. That in itself is priceless but this it not  all "touchy feely" there is also a huge potential for  economic benefit (the boring explanation).

One of my favorite TV shows was "Connections" which showed that serendipity has driven more innovation and success than just about anything else.


 A similar  theme can be found in Walter Isaacson's "Innovators" which diagrams connections between teams of scientists. Yo Yo Ma gave the clarion cry for "STEAM" not  "STEM" at Aspen Ideas.

Collaboration, interconnectedness, diversity these are the touchstones of a healthy community and a vibrant economy. You want to revitalize a community? Let the artists frolic and see who comes to watch….Feynman played the bongos after all...

Sometimes we think that Aspen is only a ski town or Basalt is only for fly fishermen but look at our locals and you will find artists, scientists, engineers, farmers, cowgirl poets and philosopher kings. Six degrees of separation? Ha! Not here.  Not in the Roaring Fork Valley.  We just don't connect with each other much.

We just don't get the opportunity to flow gently into conversation and let the extraordinary juxtaposition of thought and possibility  merge into something concrete, into something you can touch, into  reality.

In both cases- the Armory and the River Park- these citizen driven initiatives are asking for a place where we- the people who live here- can meet and socialize in real life. The time for compartmentalization and cubicles is over.

People don't move here for the condos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tarantella d'Aspen

"Opportunity" normally when I hear that word and it's connected to anything in Aspen I start looking for snake oil and a word which is normally paired with "shinola". 

This time it's real. This time it is actually an opportunity to do something for the community instead of something to the community. 

This bas-relief of "Kairos" god of opportunity was once at the Palazzo Medici in Florence, but now has been lost. 

I've groused for years about how we've stripped the heart out of town by moving our essential services outside the City Limits. We moved the public schools out of town, we moved the hospital out of town, we put our Rec center a bus ride away,  we've  isolated our human services from the humans they serve.  At what point do we decide to stay inside the City limits? Why when government would have to relocate of course….. and there's the opportunity… not to compound the problem but to sneak some of the humanity back inside the S curves. 

The Armory has always been a lousy City Hall building. It's a warren of depressing isolated little offices filled with fluorescent lit hell. The City Council meeting room is configured for confrontation either coming through the doors into the lions pit or sitting behind the desk waiting for the predators to  arrive. The City Hall option offered for the Armory places a lot of bandaids over open wounds but it certainly does nothing to heal them. There is no flow. There is no grace. There is no joy.

Say  *yes* to the Galena Plaza option. First, it costs us less money. $9 million dollars less money. Second it means no down time during renovation. Third we use the real estate we already own instead of feeding free market landlords. The potential sales tax increases from converting our current government rentals to retail/lodging hasn't been figured into this but I'm betting it could make that $9 million in savings jump a bit higher.  Finally and this is the really important lightens my heart gets my toes tapping perks up my pointy ears and raises both eyebrows reason … it sets the Armory free. 

A Community Hall located in the community? A place where we might be able to sneak some of those essential services which have been exiled to the bus routes back into the walkable zone?  Science Center,  Performing Arts hub, TV studio, medical clinic, ACRA out of the garage, soda fountain, Folklorico, Tarantella,  basketball,  banquets, roller derby, bingo, bowling, what's your wish list?

Here's the kicker, it costs us nothing. What's the hitch you say? Well, it's a big one. We have to stop fighting each other, we have to poke a hole in the smothering shrink wrap of divisiveness long enough stick our noses out into fresh air and smell the potential.  

Let me tell you, we used to dance in this town. We used to dance a lot. We could dance again.  Bring back HIldur and her accordion and let's all dance a polka till we drop or they kick us out the door , set the Armory free.

Let my people dance.

Saturday, August 1, 2015