Wednesday, December 31, 2014

More than brick and mortar, letter to the editor

This is in response to Executive Director Gram Slaton's farewell interview in the Aspen Times Michael Goldberg's response.

 Do we really need another theatre stage in Aspen?

The Performing Arts budget of Aspen is enviable. Why are we only a stop over for small tours which fit in one truck?

Why aren't we the stopover for major tours between Denver and Salt Lake? Why aren't we the birthplace of new productions? The Ballet is a notable exception

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC

but for the most part, like our Art Museum, we do not have a "permanent collection" of home produced Film, Theater or Opera, certainly nothing which is strong enough to travel. Our creative sons and daughters go elsewhere to perfect their craft.

With the Writers Conference, the Aspen Institute, the Music School,

Yelena Dyachek in the 2014 Aspen Music Festival 
production of Eugene Onegin Opera News Review

Aspen Film, Jazz Aspen and other numerous Arts institutions plus that big pot of money we should have the proud label of "made in Aspen" as part of our "brand".

When I asked Nancy Quinn of the Arena Stage why Aspen wasn't on the list for major productions her reply was "they're hobbyists". When Mayor Herman Edel asked me what we needed during the Wheeler Opera House renovation I said "a shop space". I had the same answer for the District Theatre and urged adding 2 more feet of fly loft so that we could host touring Broadway shows. I was drafting the tour of Phantom at the time- another 2 feet and we could have had that tour. Of course none of that happened.

A vibrant performing arts community takes building relationships as much as much as building with brick and mortar. We can be leaders in the Performing Arts if we choose to support innovation and nurture our local talent. We can be leaders in the Performing Arts if we tap into the wealth of knowledge of our Guest Artists.

We need to prove we're serious and not hobbyists. We need to support the people who make the production as well as those who sit in the seats.

Bring the backstage kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

hydraulic lifts on stage

Give our Performers a place to rehearse. 

Give our Scenic Artists a place to paint other than the cafetorium, 

preferably one with a source of water and a sink.

Have a place to learn Stagecraft from Projections to CAD,

from saber saws to CNC.

Have a costume shop instead of renting everything. Make some hats. Build some shoes.

Rig a Rope

Write a script and then watch it turn into flesh and blood. 

We are on the edge of a Makers Revolution let's ride that wave.

So, yes, another Performing Arts venue would be nice, but please don't keep repeating the same mistake over and over again. Plan for more than comfortable seats and a great place to unload the truck. Plan for a space where creative and curious minds can gather and play together and turn their ideas from dreams into something you can touch. We could be a powerhouse of innovative arts entrepreneurship if we tried.

… and some more information on the RETT as of January 7,2015

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I can't breathe

The greatest responsibility always rests with the most powerful.

My Facebook feed is still stuffed with pro and anti Ferguson posts.

I have friends who see this as entitlement from the African American Community and emblematic of the moral decay of society when someone who is breaking the law is a victim and someone enforcing the law is a criminal.

I have friends who see this as emblematic of a deep and abiding class divide between black and white in America. More to the point they see this as the front line of the race wars where being black and male is a puts a target between your eyes for every cop in the US.

Me? I remember my gig on Bed Stuy Avenue in the 80's. I was one of the Scenics who worked on Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing".

 Yep, that would be a sign I painted for the film...  because I can do "homemade lettering" really well.

Here's the mural that Larry Casey painted.

The Pizza place and the mural which Joyce Kubalak painted.
(I got to "touch up" the pizza parlor after it burned- should have brought waders.)

There were two incidents which I will always remember.

The Scenics were the only all white crew. We were mostly white females. The reason for this was that there were no Scenic Artists of color in USA 829 available. I think we may have had one African American with a Scenic Artist card at that time. You got into the Union by passing a painting test. The test was judged "blind" so no one knew the candidates. That's the only reason women got in- we could paint. There was no"outreach" to minorities in the 80's and on Bedford-Stuyvesant Avenue that summer it became glaringly obvious.

Our on set security was provided by the Nation of Islam. They picked us up in a van every morning drove us to the block and then drove us back at the end of work every day. They were the only people in suits on the set. They were always impeccably dressed with crisp white shirts, narrow black ties and grey suits with knife edge pants creases.

Incident #1

Two of us were walking back to our "paint shop" in a brownstone basement when a gray van pulled up beside us. There was a white man driving and we could see that the back was caged in. The driver leaned over and said "You're doing  some construction here? You need security? Who's the boss? I need to talk to your boss." We heard whining from the caged section of the van. We were puzzled, but the Brothers knew what this was about. Neither one of us had time to answer before one of the Brothers started walking down the sidewalk towards us. The driver spotted the Brother and his look changed from obsequiousness to dread. He slammed his foot on the gas and the van tires screeched as he pulled away. The last we saw of him was the back doors of the caged van with several german shepherds looking out the windows.

These were "white dogs"

Dogs who had been trained to attack anyone of color.

Incident #2

If you saw the movie you remember the Pizza Parlor and the Bodega. We built those. They looked like real shops but they were just plywood fronts with a lot of paint and set dressing. I was working on the bodega set one day, I think I was working on the signage which advertised fruits and vegetables. 

One of the residents of the block stopped in his tracks and asked "Are you really putting up a store here?" I replied that no, this was a movie set and we would be filming and then it would be demolished and it would be just like it was before.

His face fell. I could see tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. "…but … but… if it's so easy why don't you do it everywhere?" 

Why don't we? It's not a matter of wealth, it's a matter of will. We're afraid of each other, we don't trust each other, our lizard brains take over. "Can't we all just get along?"

The bottom line is that whenever you have separated people into powerful and powerless there will be violence. 

 or we could make it even simpler….

No, I don't support criminal activity but I do understand frustration and hopelessness. I don't support enforcing laws only on the powerless and not on the powerful.  We can do better. We can let each other breathe.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Electric Cars are too Expensive, letter to the editor

In response to the County Commissioners "Electric cars are too expensive"

What a dilemma, how to spend $234,220 of which $200,000 is grant money.

If the County vehicles are reaching the end of their useful life- then why not buy electric? We buy new gas guzzlers and pay full price or we buy new electric and get a $200K grant.  The math is pretty simple.

So, what else could you do with that money which would be eco friendly? We could buy a "poo-bus".

If you haven't heard the UK is running a bus between Bristol and Bath which runs on- you guessed it- s**t. We'll never run out of fuel for that….

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tiny homes for the homeless, letter to the editor 2014

Winter 2014

Tiny Homes for the Homeless.

We have a 1%  homeless population in Aspen. Shame on us. Shame on us for giving $20,000 to an Art Museum with a $20 million endowment and not fully funding our Homeless Shelter.

Wisconsin, Alabama, Oregon are spearheading a movement for Tiny Homes for the homeless. Costs per 99 sq. foot home vary from $100 to $10,000.

In this town- that's doable. Why don't we do it?

Lodging incentive public hearing, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Winter 2014

Comments on the December 1, 2014  Lodging Incentive public hearing.

The lodging incentive isn't black and white, it's 50 shades of permits.

1. I woke up the morning after remembering one comment above all others. It's easier to get a permit to bulldoze than to renovate. The example cited was 6 years of permit denials for the Holland House addition of 10 rooms  and less than 6 months to get a permit to bulldoze the Holland House. I'm sure Yasmine and Jack could give specifics. That's the formula- the harder it is to upgrade and renovate the more tear downs you get. We should call this the "Aspen Given Effect".

2. "Lodging Incentive" is a bit of spin. I prefer the phrase "removing disincentives" to "incentivising". This may sound like splitting hairs but honestly our road blocks to renovation are mostly self inflicted. For the public outreach "clicker session" I brought in a permit for a 1996 renovation to my Condo- it was under $600 in permitting fees - today I can't get a permit for under $6000 and that doesn't include water and sewer fees. I can buy bathroom fixtures for both condos and quite a bit of  tile for $6000.

3. Mick Ireland is worried that incentives will deplete the City coffers. I'm not. I'm worried about Aspen losing it's soul. The soul of Aspen isn't about old decrepit buildings and it's not about new shiny buildings. The soul of Aspen is in it's people and that's the part of the equation which Mick left out of his "Condo owners only renovate to sell (see footnote*)" You don't  buy into Aspen for the money. There are lots of other places with less risky investments for a higher return. The people who buy something in Aspen do it because they've fallen in love with Aspen. They don't fall in love with a building, they fall in love with a mountain and they find a community which feels "right".

The mountain is the mountain. 

The Community on the other hand is something which can be broken pretty easily. I've had several conversations with other condo owners over the Thanksgiving weekend and there is a theme. "What's happening to Aspen? Why does it want to be New York? Well, dammit, I don't want to be New York. I want to be Aspen." That doesn't mean Aspen in aspic and it certainly doesn't mean a public vote on every variance.

The Mountain Chalet of 50 years ago 

is not the Mountain Chalet of today. 

You have to let steam out of the kettle sometime and if you try and keep the lid on the pressure cooker without opening a safety valve you're going to get an explosion.

We need balance.

4.  I would argue that one of our strongest community assets is the long term local. We've been in the Guest Services biz awhile and have survived boom and bust. A Guest wants a  humidifier, an alarm clock, a coffee maker instead of a french press? No problem I'll buy it, cha-ching for Carl Bergman.  A Guest wants a 60' pine tree removed to get a better view? I refer them to a lodge without trees next to the balconies. We aim to please.

5. Another comment was that Intentionally avoiding maintenance keeps  prices low. Seriously? Well, leave your bike out in the rain for 40 years without oiling the chain and then ride it up Aspen Mountain. That's a strategy for Clear Cut loggers,  Robber Barons, Pyramids  and Ponzi.  It doesn't keep prices low it just destroys the asset.

Since Mick called me out  personally on my plea for "no deed restrictions" I feel obligated to point out that everyone who spoke directly to the proposed deed restriction "lock in 6 months of short term rentals in condos and vacation rentals" said it wouldn't work. Everyone cited a different reason that it wouldn't work but the majority centered on the 6 months of off season being crowded with condos outcompeting long established lodges or overpricing their rentals to the point of a virtual "lock out". 
Everyone can think how to scam the  deed restrictions but they're not thinking about the unique advantages of condos in the rental/residence pool. Condos are flexible. They're like the swiss army knife of property ownership. During the 2008 crash repurposing my long term rentals to short term let me pay the bills. When my mother was no longer able to live alone repurposing the residential condo into a long term rental let me use that income to find a "senior friendly" home for both of us down valley. When my mother purchased two condos in 1968 it gave a single woman with a child a place to live  in one and a  steady source of income in the other. Two condos were cheaper than a West End house, even in 1968. It was 1968's affordable Aspen. The restrictions imposed by Condo declarations and the current permitting labyrinths are high enough hurdles. If Condos lose flexibility the  rental base will be less able to respond to market forces and Community will lose diversity.

*Bill Sterling effectively refuted this viewpoint from Mick by citing the number of his managed properties which continue to rent after renovating. Lest we forget the City also makes money if a Condo sells and as "challenged" as the Aspen City budget is at only $100,000,000 for 6500 residents I don't worry about running out of money, I worry about how we spend that money. That's a related topic for a different letter.

More links of interest:
Marketplace is running a series on Gentrification this week- well worth a listen.

Colorado River diversion, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

This was in response to the Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting on the Governor's Water Plan. Fall 2014

The Front Range has the legal right to divert more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River; but does it have the moral right to deprive half a Continent of  another 160,000 - 600,000 cubic acre feet of water per year?

The Roaring Fork Water Shed already gives 77% of it's water to the Front Range. The Roaring Fork Water Shed is already drained to the "endangered" level.

The Colorado Water Plan proposes another 52 projects and another 8 diversions in the Colorado River Basin. The plan was approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and sent to the Governor's Desk on Wednesday. There is a verbal "promise" that the diversions would be "small" between 20,000- 75,000 acre feet per year per diversion.

Fish don't have legal rights in Colorado, neither do trees or birds or anything with four feet. The people of the Western Slope don't have the Senior Water Rights to stop this. The other States along the Colorado have no say in this. All any of us can do is raise our voices and cry "Shame! Shame on you for killing the West with thirst!"

Thompson Divide is nothing compared to this.

Additional information and links:

Delta Dawn a film by Peter McBride about the "pulse flow" to the Sea of Cortez

Aspen City Council presentation on the Roaring Fork Water Shed and the Colorado Water Plan-
long but worth it.

….and this more recent evaluation from the Colorado River Research Group

Watershed a film produced and narrated by Robert Redford

Pride of Place, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Fall 2014

We're tracking the shrinking bed base-and yet we're not  tracking the shrinking youth base. How many Aspen  kids are living where they grew up?

"Pride of place" that is at the core of any thriving community.  After all if you don't feel proud of your home and your community all you have to do is leave… right?  What if you feel connected but don't have the ability to stay? That's the dilemma of Aspen's next generation. We've perfected luring in "new blood" and completely locked out our heritage.  I can name a lot more generations who have left Aspen then have stayed. They're choking the "I remember when" groups on Facebook. They rail in letters to the editor with down valley addresses.  They drip nostalgia with every keystroke. They moan with that low pained whipped dog whine of paradise lost.

So, what happens when the tabula rasa is always being razed? You get people without roots. Oh, they have roots, but not here. They are not connected to the land, the sky, the deep deep snows of yesteryear or the millennial  ice in the Grottos. They bring their pride of place with them in a box, locked away for their inner circle and not to be shared with the other locked boxes built next door.

The altruism of the no growth policy was compromised the second the City got into the real estate business. We created an "affordable housing" program which only trickles down one generation- if the kids want to inherit their childhood home- sorry- tough luck. Own your home but  want to get your kids into "affordable housing" and off the couch? Nope, tough luck. Want to actually house your employees in the affordable housing your permitting fees paid for- well maybe- as long as you pay them at or below Aspen poverty level. We've created a draconian nest of land use rules which prevents ranchers from subdividing for their children. We have a pyramid of permitting paper which knocks the knees out from under anyone who wants to build an addition to house for their aging parents or their job seeking kids. We've banned renting a couch in employee housing while capping the income a wiffle above Aspen subsistence minimums. We have $100 million dollar budget for 6500 people and why , why, why do we have 1% homeless with that much money in the City coffers?  Oh yeah, and we've put the hospital, the homeless "shelter", the recreation center, the public schools and senior housing outside of the city limits. Let's separate things into nice neat little boxes by activity and age and , dare I say it ,  by class.

If anyone wants a blueprint for ripping the heart and soul out of a community, brother, this is it. Don't blame "the rich" or the "evil developer" for gutting Aspen's character dear Pogo, you can look a lot closer to home than that. All we've done is create an opportunity for those who can afford to leapfrog all the ordinances and we've  locked out everyone else.   That's what Aspen's no growth  policy has become, no generations, no roots, no character.

Let's turn this battleship of unintended consequences around. Now.

Lodging Incentive redo, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Fall 2014

The City Planners graciously invited me to participate in their "lodge feedback session". I was hoping this would be a fresh start for the lodging initiative. That's me, hopeful.

Sigh…. sadly this was a rehash of ordinance 19. The presentation had not changed one jot. The same studies were cited, the same conclusions pushed forward and we were told outright that this was not the place to "share opinions". We were given push buttons and slide show of questions. There was no "none of the above" option there was only the  "I don't understand the issue" option. (Like hell I don't understand the issue).

When several of us tried to clarify the questions- by pointing out clear bias- we were told that we could write down our concerns on the post it notes provided.

There was no attempt to incorporate the resounding slap back referendum petition from the electorate. After all when was the last time you heard of 797 City voter signatures collected in under a week during off season? I've haven't seen that degree of bi-partisan support here since Tommy Moe won the downhill.

My sad conclusion is that it doesn't matter how many petitions or post it notes we, the public, give our local government. They will continue to propose the same tired strategies over and over again hoping that eventually they will change our minds instead of listening to our concerns. (….and continue to call for public input during weekday working hours so that people who have 9-5 jobs cannot attend but that's a different letter)

The key issues remain the same:

1. Building Height.
2. Building new rentals.
3. Upgrading existing rentals.

Please stop lumping these into one question.  Issue 1 and 2 are linked but you can surely have one without the other, issue 3 is not linked to the other two. We do not need a power point presentation. An honest calm exchange of ideas on how to address these three issues  and how to implement those ideas is what we need. In a community this small, this tight knit and this wealthy that should not be an impossible task.

Parking gate, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

"Parking gate" Don't waste time and money hunting the culprits instead look for the root of the problem.

It seems "Scamming the City" has become a popular sport. After all, isn't it okay to steal from a City Government which  throws constant derision at the "fat cats" which it emulates so well by foisting absurd demands on people who are powerless to avoid the will of the politically correct and practicality challenged? Have we encouraged, fostered and tacitly approved (through turning a blind eye) a culture of deceit? Are we so preoccupied with making rules we can't seem to enforce them? Has our local Government sunken into the doldrums of "good enough" instead of "good for all"?

A tempting solution was proposed recently by Ricardo Semler (Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace). His policy is to have supervisors reviewed by their subordinates and if the supervisor gets less than  a 70% approval rating they're fired.

We need term limits for bureaucrats.

lodging ordinance rescinded, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

Don't gloat. No name calling. Take a time out please.

If we don't use this moment to work together what makes Aspen any less polarized than Washington?

Referendum Petition to repeal the lodging ordinance, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

1. Height is a big red herring. Renovation and modernization isn't about height, but that's all anybody is talking about.  Who benefits from that? The existing buildings don't .  My condo is already too high to rebuild , heck it was over Wheeler Opera house height when Fred Hibberd and George Shaw built it in the 60's. Freddy got a deal to take the "median" height of the roofs as our overall height. There's a lovely precedent for you. Seriously, older lodges and condos,  we're just trying to keep from falling down and patch roof leaks- and yet there isn't anything in this ordinance which promotes maintenance or repair the only "renovations" addressed are those which apply to new construction- larger room sizes and taller buildings. Hmmmm…. what "new construction" could be south of Durant I wonder?

2. Taking out 20 pages of code and replacing it with 91 pages of ordinance isn't "simplification".  In many cases the "new" rules increase the penalties, mitigations and fees for renovation-and reduce them for new construction. I don't want a "rebate", I just don't want to be penalized for renovating. Full disclosure - that's my interpretation applying this to my own upcoming condo renovation (I'm no lawyer but it's one way to interpret the ordinance). If you want the full spin on this go back and watch all the public comment sessions on Grassroots.

3. It's an omnibus. It's 91 pages and It's  still not specific enough. This tries to lump lodges, condos, and multiplexes under the same rules and regs. Condos are 41% of our bed base and if the ordinance doesn't take into account how condos work then it isn't well thought out. For condos, (my world) it takes no consideration for condo bi-laws or HOAs and asks that the HOA enforce deed restriction of individual owners which would be contrary to most (if not all) condominium bi-laws. Are you going to get HOA's to change their bi-laws to enroll in this plan? Not likely.

4.There are no specified "incentives" other than a rebate on fees which would require deed restrictions. The "low interest loans" are mentioned but not specified (loans on the entire renovation project? on the permitting fee portion? How much "refinancing" does City Hall want to do? Do we start hiring used car salesmen on staff?). Those rebates when applied to individual owners in condos are laughably small ($400 per year in my case- out of a $200,000 special assessment- on a $6 million renovation) This does not warrant the immense "give back" of a deed restriction which would greatly devalue the property (especially if I have to sell it to pay for the ****ing renovation). Of course, if the condo chooses not to participate, we fall to the bottom of the permitting pit. Oh Goody. Win win. I repeat- keep your rebate just let me renovate without kneecapping me.

5. We need more than 3 votes to change the town this much. There was one public work session (I think there were 4 other people in the room). There have been 3 public comment City Council sessions (all the last item on the agenda making the start time after 8 pm).  The vote was originally scheduled for August 25,  two weeks after the last public comment session,  and then got pushed up to August 11, right after the last public comment leaving no opportunity for revision. I believe that the points brought up by the public during those meetings were insufficiently addressed by the Council.

I applaud the idea of the initiative. We do need to modernize our older rental properties because if we don't modernize those older properties will fall down and we will get new construction and that's not the Aspen people come to visit, if that's what they want they go to Vail (and, maybe, by next year, Snowmass?)

Please- take this thing back to the drawing board- break it up into separate incentives for buildings of a certain age, condos, lodges and multiplexes.  Put the Focus on maintenance and renovation the way you said you would when you proposed the ordinance. Then, and only then, look at changing the rules for new construction.

I have a copy of the petition, contact me if you want to make the lodging incentive a public vote.

Lodging Incentive passes, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

The Lodging Incentive ordinance passed. 

What next?  We all have theories but none of us has a crystal ball and no-one, I mean no-one, has the magic Aspen crystal ball.

I humbly suggest that this 91 page ordinance be up for review after 91 days.  Let's see how many applicants try and take advantage of the incentives.  If there is a press of applications prior to the enactment of the ordinance (30 days from the vote) we know what we have is better than what we've going to get. If there are only applications for 4 story vacation residences in the first 91 days then we know that the intended beneficiaries (the older lodges and condos) have not been served.  If there are no applications  then we know the ordinance isn't serving anyone.

If there is a flood of applications then everyone who is worried about the evils flowing from this Pandora process had better show up to for every meeting and file their opinion with the planners office next to every application (if you're a neighbor you'll get a notice). If you wait until it's built your protest options are limited and very few of them are legal.

If it doesn't work ….well…  as one of favorite lines from one of my favorite movies says ….. "If the wine is sour, throw it out."  

Lodging Incentive, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

Lodging Incentive program round 3, all 91 pages of it, oh joy. It reminds me of one of my favorite sayings "I was on schedule until I got help."

I worry, I worry a lot. I worry that the City of Aspen Government trying to "bolster" our bed base will result in a crash we haven't seen the likes of since 1895.

Let's go back to the core issue. The bed base is shrinking. This can be argued but let's just accept that right now. The premise is that we are losing market share because the bed base is shrinking. If we were constantly overbooked and our yearly occupancy rates were above the 50 percentile range I might agree.  We're not; it's not.

The shrinking bed base argument continues. In the spirit of  "If you build it they will come" increasing the bed base will magically increase market share.  In an equally audacious leap of logic if there are more "pillows" the prices will come down making Aspen more "affordable" since supply will outstrip demand.  Back in the real world loss of market share can be due to too many Guests and too few beds or too many beds and too few Guests. Both can't be true.

There isn't an Alan Greenspan on the Council or on Staff. Using "pillow count" the same way the Fed manipulates the interest rate is not a game we can win because our economics, our marketshare, is largely outside of our control. Aspen's occupancy rate follows the economic health of the global marketplace and if you don't believe that take another hard look at our 13% drop in occupancy in the 2008-09 Crash.

What if the shrinking bed base isn't the cause of the shrinking market share? What if we are looking at a symptom and not a cause? What if we increase our pillow count and our Guest rate continues to decline?  Should we be green lighting more beds just to have more beds? What if we don't have the bodies to put in those beds?  It will certainly kill those left on the margins of profitability (those older properties this  initiative is meant to "bolster"). That is, in my opinion,  tipping our kayak into a vicious circle whirlpool of death. No. Please don't make that grievous error.

What is the real cause of the loss of market share? More to the point what are the causes which we can actually try and address?

Market share can also slip due to disrepair. Here I agree we can modernize and fluff. We can certainly make the refurbishment process less onerous. "No Growth" does not mean "No Maintenance" (you have to oil the bicycle chain every once in awhile and store it out of the rain, you might even want to upgrade from the  rusty 1964 Schwinn).

Another probable cause of lower occupancy is one that the Chamber pointed to prior to the Crash- our aging demographic.

There have been 2 points made during public hearings from our "Young Professionals". The first is that "Not everybody has a couch to surf on in Aspen." and the second "There is nothing for young people to do in Aspen."  The first is ridiculously easy because the only thing it costs is loss of political "face". Allow people in Employee Housing Units to advertise in the sharing marketplace (Airbnb and the like- be a mench- waive the business license fee). The second follows the first because anyone who speaks teenager knows that "there isn't anything to do" translates into "I don't have anyplace to hang out with my friends." or more to the point "my friends aren't here."

Finally,  Council must accept that the current state of dilapidated inventory and overpriced real estate is not in small part the unexpected outcome of it's own anti-growth policies.  The more difficult the City makes development the more rapacious development we will have. Only those clever developers with deep pockets will be able to stay the course. Please accept that no-one can outthink the "evil developer" we can only hope to reward the honest one.

We have a 91 page maze of regulations, caveats,  fees and mitigations labeled as "incentives".  Take a sword to this Gordian Knot "incentive" plan, please.

footnote: "shrinking market share" is also happening with record high sales tax revenues- go figure.

Airbnb and Aspen Ideas Festival, letter to the editor 2014

I'm posting some old letters to the editor. This is so I can remember what I wrote, and to keep myself honest.  I'm posting them in the order I wrote them so this goes back a couple of years.

The more things change….

Summer 2014

We are surrounded by genius. Genius to the right of us. Genius to the left of us. Genius in front of us.

Sooooo, no renting your "affordable" couch? Airbnb is baaaaaad, baaaad, baaaad. Someone might make a few extra bucks and someone else might visit Aspen for under $100 a night. Right, because we don't want to have people who live here earning too much money and we only want people to visit here with tons of money. Got it. Genius. Bloody perfect genius.

Meanwhile back  at City Hall… we have lip service being paid to "affordable lodging" through the same old permitting carrot and stick FAR TDR WTF are you thinking 20th century "go fish" for your permit trading cards. Seriously, if you don't know what FAR and TDR mean- be thankful, very thankful- these are anachronisms we use to regulate growth instead of, oh I don't know, keeping up with the rest of the world???.

If any member of City Government (or the Chamber for that matter) had listened to Brian Chesky's talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival they would have heard how airbnb is reaching out to local governments and partnering with them to insure regulations are being met,  insure lodging associations  and landlords are being supported, and working to give a "give back" button to donate directly into the City coffers. Fortunately for us, KJAX has the podcast
  "Airbnb: How the Sharing Economy is Redefining the Marketplace and Our Sense of Community"

Okay, end of airbnb rant, but not the rant about our local government. I saw no one from local government at the Aspen Ideas Festival listening to the "Metropolis" track or any of the "Civic Engagement" panels, listening to Jennifer Pahlka talk about "Code for America" or Larry Lessig pleading for the;SuperPac to end SuperPacs. Is no one in local City Government interested in learning how representative democracy is evolving in the rest of the globe? All you had to do was ride the bike a wee bit farther, to the Meadows. No "the dog ate my homework" excuses allowed this is one darn big event for our small town and it's part of the job- both as ambassadors and representatives.

The world came to us last week and we didn't ride out to greet them. Dope slap. Biiiiiiiig dope slap.