Wednesday, October 4, 2017

just another day in America- letter to the editor

Can it surprise anyone that when the president says he could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot someone and still get elected that the mass shootings are considered “inevitable”? I certainly agree that both cases are mental health issues but I don’t see any forward motion on mental health care in either case.

Leaving government, politicians and the NRA out of it what can we as individuals do to make this type of mass murder less of the fabric of America?  Can we leave this part of our culture behind? Those of us who have spent time in more volatile environments might be able to flex our survival strategies. I don’t mean “duck and cover” I mean a very un-American thing. Pay attention. It really is that simple. Pay attention to the abandoned backpack. Pay attention to the long heavy coat on a summer’s day. Pay attention to the demeanor of the people around you. Don’t be afraid to talk to our local law enforcement officers- they are imminently approachable. We are a service industry town and basic training in recognizing and evaluating threats should be part of every service worker’s orientation.

Or- we could take the same attitude we do with deer and buffalo and celebrate each thinning of the herd as necessary culling to insure the health of our manifest destiny. We haven’t had a good old fashioned genocide since the Indian Wars.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

TACAW 5000 sq ft of plaster in 5 days

There are very few Scenic jobs in my little corner of Colorado but sometimes things come full circle.

Dick Carter is a fabulous artist, art director and (may I be so bold to say) friend. He's a long time denizen of the Roaring Fork Valley who does what a lot of us do- call this home and hop to LA or NYC to keep that career thing breathing.

I got a call from him in April about TACAW. "The Arts Campus at Willits" was opening a space called "The Temporary" as a transitional performance space while the Arts Campus is under... well... let's call it governmental "review".  The bottom line being- for pities sake lets just get something up, running and on the boards.

Dick wanted to take the retail rental space and turn it into a place with some history. You know- where you'd go to imbibe some Fringe theatre- listen to some jazz or a Mozart string quartet. Transform the hot tub showroom into a place with soul. He gave me photos of distressed plaster walls

and chandeliers hanging in empty rooms. 

I immediately got a stupid grin on my face and said "Ushuaia!" My trip to Argentina just found a place to land and there is nothing which says old plaster wall like the walls in Ushuaia.

Thank you Joyce Kubalak for developing the fantastic rust technique we used on Man of La Mancha  - use gray instead of orange and go for it.

.... a few samples later.....

5000 square feet of distressed plaster wall in 5 days with 3 Scenics and a short list of supplies
Day 1. Mix the paint and set up the work space.

Day 2 first full day on site. The base color a deep base gloss has already been rolled on by the Paint Contractor (thank you Monty) which leaves Allan Trumpler, Pat Dailey and me to start laying on the first "plaster" breakup.  This is all about avoiding repeat patterns and playing matte against gloss. The initial layin is fairly quick it's the fine tuning which takes time.

Skip to Day 5: Really everything else is more of the same- warm up the "wainscot" lay in some water staining- drips- darker at the top - age spray at the bottom- add some vintage rust to all the new electrical conduit and the fuse box.

Friday, July 21, 2017

In the court of physics... you lose, letter to the editor

Dear bicyclists, I don’t want to kill you.. but you’re making that really difficult.

Please look both ways before you cross a street. I do when I'm a pedestrian, when I'm riding my bike or when I'm driving. 

You may have to slow down... I know that's inefficient ... I know you lose energy and you need to pedal harder to get that speed back... I know you hate to do that... but really... slow down ... look both ways... it's a good habit to get into.

Pedestrian crosswalks are not bike lanes.  Please do not ride in a pedestrian crosswalk. Please do not use your cel phone while riding in the pedestrian crosswalk.


Please do not assume I can see you on your electric bike doing 20 mph in the pedestrian crosswalk when the sun is coming straight into my eyes (hint- if every car has the sun visor down there’s a reason).

Even the bears move slow walking across Main street… be as smart as a bear.

and bears haven’t read the right of way in crosswalk law

News flash- turn signals do matter. There are some nifty bike helmets with LED turn signals now- buy one- it costs way less than that bike you’re riding.

While we’re at it… not all cars are equipped with backup cameras. A vintage truck backing out of an angled parking spot cannot see your 6 year old on a bicycle.

Wouldn’t the Rio Grande bike path be a better choice than the streets of Aspen when riding with your kids?  We desperately need to follow the German example of a “bicycle only” autobahn but even our excellent bike/pedestrian paths don’t keep bicyclists out of the roundabout. That is a tragedy waiting to happen. Of course there was the Lance wannabe who almost got clotheslined by my dogs' leash when he raced through the red light at Main and Monarch… but I assume he has a Darwin award by now. Dear bicyclist, please do not compete for a Darwin award.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Floppsy, Moppsy and Facepalm Letter to the editor

Just in case you don’t remember one year ago the  “one roof proposal” for City Hall was $20 million dollars cheaper and an estimated 10 years less time to complete and the Armory become a community center instead of a  shoe horn City Hall.

After a lot of shouting ”Taj MaHALL!” and finger pointing the more expensive more disruptive less efficient less “green” solution was adopted. The same anti-Taj contingent  are now complaining that we shouldn’t borrow money to build the new City Hall. Wellllll, we had a cheaper solution and that was considered too hubristic for “small” government. We had a more efficient carbon footprint under one roof but that was less important than square footage footprint. We had a less disruptive solution but that was…. horrors…. less disruptive. We actually voted that we wanted a community center more than an aging Armory wearing a skin tight City Hall spandex refurbishment onesie and that people’s vote was tossed aside (insert the word deplorable as you will).

Flip. Flop. Want to know why it’s so difficult to get anything done in Aspen? Flip. Flop. Flippety floppity flipperooni floppsy woppsy doodle all day. You can’t make this stuff up.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

plus ça change.... letter to the editor

Traffic. Oh what do we do about traffic?

A modest proposal:  shut down 82, McLain Flats and Independence to all traffic for 24 hours. Shut. It. Down. No deliveries. No down valley workforce. No tourists.  No warning- just put up the barricades. Let’s just take a look at who is “local”. Then we can ask each other if the few who remain can sustain for more than 24 hours without deliveries, out of town workers, tourists- without the $ all of these bring. Pay the wages of everyone who missed work that day out of the City Coffers. Track the sales tax on that one day and extrapolate revenues for a decade of lean living. Put Dr. Baxter’s toll booth up on the Castle Creek bridge the day after. No charge to enter you just have to pay to leave.

Think I’m joking? Did I forget to add my $500K consultancy fee?

Traffic is a symptom. It’s a symptom of economic success. It’s also an indicator of our lack of sustainability, inability to scale, and lack of foresight.

1. Complete all roadwork during off season and off peak traffic hours. The prettiest curbs in the world don’t make up for potholes to China. A 4 hour trip from Monarch and Main to the Airport was due to the roundabout shut down to 1 lane during the XGames.

2. Stage equipment as close to the point of need as possible (Parks and Recreation I’m looking right at you when I say that)

3. A public transport shuttle direct from baggage claim into Ruby Park in Aspen.  Don’t mewl about not having a grant to cover this… we have the buses we just need the will to use our available resources to address an obvious need.

4. Restrict delivery hours... 3 am to 7 am. We do it with grooming the mountain we can do it with supplying the town. Offer white noise headphones to all downtown penthouse owners.

5. For pities sake- expand the bus service to serve the down valley worker.  This means buses after 2 am so restaurant staff can get home without driving. Better yet make these “quiet buses” and kick off anyone who is drunk, obnoxious,  and making any noise other than snoring.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Aspen Ideas 2017

 The Aspen Leaf Sculptures reappear in Anderson Park for The Aspen Ideas Festival In 2015 the sculptures were sharing the gentle hills with JR's fantastic photographs... this year they're back but in a more playful mood... with large balls in bright colors rolling through the gentle hills of Anderson Park

Want to know more? Here's the link to the first installation.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Deal with it.

Who cares if Climate Change is man made?  That Diesel already left the barn. Regardless if you think humans changed the weather to our disadvantage the question remains can we change the weather to our advantage? Weather patterns which threaten the basics of breathable air, potable water, and fertile soil mean we need to adapt or die.  Sure, we all die, but a planet wide event means more than my death or your death - it endangers us as a species. Extinction doesn’t target by political ideology, nationality, or religion. Evolution doesn’t care about the deck chairs on the Titanic. Iceberg ahead. Deal with it.

We’re good at adapting.  I remember the threat of worldwide famine in the 60’s and 70’s- miracle rice got us out of that one. You can go into the DNA record and trace our current population to about 1000 individuals. We might be able to blame that on a super volcano. Pretty good comeback to 7 billion in mere 70,000 years if I do say so myself. The drought of 4000 years ago burnt walled cities to the ground but produced a lighter fast sailing society based on pillaging and global trade. Global trade facilitated pandemics from plague to influenza and yet here we still are with antibiotics and immunization systems. There have been a lot of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” moments. 

Perhaps you think that weather is too large a challenge? After all adapting to weather is different than micro managing weather. We manage weather on small scale inside our greenhouses and homes but can we motivate the hive mind to tackle it on a large scale?

As a species we have a unique advantage.  We’ve sped up DNA the transfer of multigenerational memory with one spectacular invention : writing. Our knowledge, our observations, our successes and failures can be recorded and passed from generation to generation. Yes, we have destroyed libraries and wiped out databases but somehow we always search to rebuild that knowledge. It is a deep human need to learn from our past, imagine different futures, and pass that on to the next generation. Can we learn from our past to recognize a threat and use our imagination to craft a solution?

Cassandra or Chicken Little? I’d love to be wrong and the sky is not falling, the icecaps are not melting, desertification isn’t increasing, microbursts aren’t happening, February wasn’t a month of snowmelt, and the songbirds haven’t left my balcony.  Cassandra’s prophecies were spot on and her reward was to be mocked, ignored and murdered. Nope, rather not be Cassandra.  I’d much rather we thought of ourselves as  a team and worked together to sustain ourselves on our home planet.

(bonus podcast on evolution : David Sloan Wilson)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Car-mmonsense, letter to the editor

I attended Tony Dutzik’s presentation on transportation and mobility Wednesday. After a nod to Henry Ford and the first “transportation revolution”

This actually happened in a Hotel Pool on Main Street a few years back....

we heard about the usual suspects: self driving cars, bikeshare, car pooling, on demand apps…

RFTA's concrete eggs where the money went instead of developing a transit app 

or RFTA vending machines at bus stops.

and the final solution… ban the private car from the city limits.

The biggest bumps in the road to a car-less future were  “the service worker or other low income folks.” We were told that the social engineering was too broad a topic for the presentation.

Really??? Luckily there were no projectiles for me to throw and I haven’t body slammed anyone since a brief stint as a nose guard for a women’s football team in college.

Self driving cars are easy just try inventing a self repairing sewer line.  Ban everyone without a commercial license plate and you ban blue collar. You ban the construction worker’s truck. You ban the electrician’s van. You ban the maid’s car of cleaning supplies. You ban every independent contractor and freelancer who travels with their shop on their back.

Sure if service workers could afford to live in town it would be a different story but the average cost of a single family home in Aspen last year was $6.2 mill- not a lot of service industry workers can handle that mortgage. Sooo…. you ban the commuters who keep our “quaint little mountain town” running.

Terminal Täsch outside of Zermatt where you park your car

The intro to “transportation and mobility” was Henry Ford and the Model T;  but the Model T wasn’t just about car vs horse or an assembly line Ford also increased the wages of his employees so they could buy the car they were building.

Start there- improve quality of life and revitalize the community or all that vitality will find someplace easier and more welcoming to thrive.  Just talk to the Pitkin County workers in the temporary digs in Basalt- the new County offices which are being built in Aspen do not hold as much appeal as a short commute to Basalt. Our priorities should not be fewer cars. Our priorities should be more time with your family and more time enjoying this fantastic valley.

"Density makes all of these systems work better" but density doesn't make the quality of life in the Roaring Fork Valley better.  We need to find solutions which do not compromise the best of what we already have.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Groasis 2013-2017

Here we are again. The good news is that the chokecherries are still alive. The rate of growth isn't awe inspiring but in my experience once something survives here for a few years ... it's going to hang on...

This is one of the survivors from 2014

and the "star" a bare root planted in 2015

and a shy one of the native locals - still alive- a baby planted in 2015

I'm staying cautiously optimistic. There are some others which were planted last year which haven't budded yet- I'll post those when there's a little more to show.

2013-2017 past posts on Groasis 

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.”?