Living here in the bubble, it’s comforting to know that not all the news is bad.
Sure, Aspen, Snowmass Village and the upper valley have problems: parking, weird crime episodes, housing and various substance abuse addictions.
As a quasi-journalist trying to mix a few facts into an opinion column while still keeping my readers’ interest, the human tendency is to notice when the cup is half empty or, in this part of the world, a few sips short of full to the brim.
Now and then, it’s good to pause and recognize that, for all of our problems, at least the problems are the same problems we’ve had for a long time.
Local elected officials are well known for kicking the can down the road, not confronting problems until they are forced to. Taking on issues makes one “controversial” as if the problems themselves don’t exist until someone proposes to solve them.
Start with parking and traffic. Underlying all the froth at the top of the parking space cup lies a simple, comforting fact: people want to be here. The economy is booming, business is up and prosperity has definitely returned.
While many communities still struggle to provide employment to their citizens and are forced to deal with the hopelessness, despair and self medication of declining economies, Aspen and Snowmass have the luxury of fighting over four-minute delays getting out of town and the inability to park a car right in front of our chosen retail destinations.
There are market-based solutions such as congestion pricing and there are alternatives like increased transit services, all annoyingly expensive but workable.
Think for a minute about our neighboring cities: Delta, Paonia, Grand Junction, Meeker. Parking is mostly free. Local governments have few resources to deal with problems that are only background noise here — opiates, overdoses and related crime.
Consider our housing crunch, a problem seldom experienced in the rural counties down the road. Yes, it’s worse than ever with VRBO and AirBnb snapping up what were once longterm local rentals. And second, third and fourth home purchases are again driving the single home market.
A severe problem to be sure, but one we actually know how to solve. We have money, we have experience with what works and doesn’t work, and we might even have the political will to build some units. Again, the problem is severe but the solutions are known and doable: make employers provide for their employees’ housing generation and add some units.
Meanwhile, there is some very good news on the young people front. Not only did our youngest athletes shine at the Olympics and the Paralympics, but they joined in the nationwide student movement to limit guns. We sometimes forget what a great job our students are doing, achieving their brains out and getting into competitive academic programs throughout the nation. This is not a slacker generation.
Last week, the Aspen Middle School students marched to Paepcke Park to speak out on guns with a level of sophistication that exceeds most of what passes for congressional dialogue on this complex issue.
They waved homemade signs and presented their case with a fluency that my generation could not have mustered at their age.
Whether you agree with their point of view on AR-15s or not, you have to concede Mia Wells, 13, Bates Kurkulis, 10, and their classmates who made a good showing, did their homework and made their case in a civil manner that the rest of us would be well advised to model.
So here we are, with all the hope of spring just around the corner and snow in the forecast, each day longer and steadily warmer, the Smuggler Mountain road melting and drying, the kids are alright and road bikes are coming out of hibernation. Offseason parking surpluses are only a few weeks away.
Let’s celebrate that we have problems we can solve and beautiful weather we can’t avoid.