OK, so you always wanted the fame and glory of writing a column for the Aspen Daily News.
But you don’t have a dog, you weren’t born here, your job doesn’t leave room for 100 days of skiing, you have both an e-bike and a real bike, but you still want to write about life in paradise.
Let me help. It’s 2 a.m. and you and me and Hunter Thompson’s ghost are up wondering what to write. You don’t want to write about how crowded the town is, the good old days, how much you love the offseason and your teachers at Aspen High since, well, 98% of us weren’t born here and, besides, Lo and behold, that market has been pretty well cornered by skilled professionals who have been writing those columns for years.
Readers like it when you address things on their minds, so let’s start with affordable housing. Much has been written about Aspen’s 3,000-plus ownership units and what to do next. My advice to future columnists is to start with a few facts (not alternative facts — leave those for Fox News writers) and go from there in either of two directions: total despair or hopeful optimism.
Or neither. You could just blather about your personal experience with the problem and generalize from there about the good old days — but in that case, you should think about running for public office, since your campaign rap is already written.
So, here’s a few documented facts around which to draw conclusions either rational or faith based or, if we’re lucky, humorous:
Percentage of seniors age 65-73 who own affordable housing units and still work full or part time: 66%
Number of units occupied by people over 65 who are not working at all, (aka “lazy slugs” or “deserving longtime locals”): 151
Number of units being considered at the Lumberyard next to the Aspen Airport Business Center: about 300
Estimated cost at $500,000 per unit: $150 million.
Money available right now for the project: About $20 million.
So, the facts above support at least one inflammatory solution that could be your first submission to the Red Ant if it doesn’t make it in this paper: Kick out the 151 “lazy slugs” who should be working until their final days on the planet. Don’t let legal technicalities ruin a good screed — just assume that us oldies are expendable, and you’re halfway to 300 units. I mean, people get voted off the island all the time, and “Squid Game” will be looking for a new format pretty soon.
If you are a softhearted, pre-owned lib like myself, just recommend borrowing the money and go from there, hoping that by the time the project can be funded with a mere $50 million in borrowing and phased construction, you’ll have it well underway in about 10 years. Who knows? Burlingame took only 20 years and two elections, and it’s only been about 13 years since the Lumberyard was purchased for a mere $18 million. Your grandchildren or grand-nieces and grand-nephews might live there, assuming it still snows in the winter.
See, now you know how the same set of facts can lead to two very different, fact-based columns. You might even write both using the tried-and-true two-column solution, if you space them out long enough for the public to forget the first one — say, two or three weeks. No one is going to ask you in 2030 what you were thinking if things don’t work out or we have another wave of escapees from the real world who buy everything up and close the town. Depending on what happens, you can either a) shut up, hoping no one will remember how wrong you were; or b) blame the elected officials for not implementing your solution.
Mick Ireland has been writing about affordable housing for 32 years and living in such housing for at least that long. Submit your draft columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.