New Blood But Not Too New

The Aspen Times recently opined that we need “new blood” on City Council. Hmm, why might that be?

Let’s start with the council member who also is mayor. He once went to Europe on a “Sister City Tour” for which the city reimbursed him $2,400. He tweeted (how hip!) that being feted in Chamonix, Davos and other swanky resorts “feels like work.”

He likes his “work.” A lot. He’s in his third term of this “work.” Before he became the mayor, he was the previous mayor; and before he became the previous mayor, he was the mayor before that. And before he became the mayor before that, he was a Pitkin County commissioner and on the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority (not sure what that is, but it can’t be good) Board.

And before that, he boasts, he became interested in politics at age 6. He was urinating on his enemies figuratively at an age when the rest of us were still doing it literally. He’s apparently been a politician of sorts ever since, interrupted only by a brief spell a few years ago so he could recover from a bicycle crash.

He wants to be mayor of Aspen the way Hugo Chavez wants to be president of Venezuela – for life, at least.

But the people passed a law that prohibits a mayor from staying in office from here to eternity. This term-limit law requires that once in a while the hand of graft shake a different tree.

Our precocious and hard- “working” mayor is one step ahead of the law, however. He’s scheming to run for one of the other four council seats while simultaneously endorsing for mayor the guy who currently holds that council seat. So the net effect would be for the two of them to just switch seats on the council (wink, wink).

After criticism that he’s violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, the mayor got a subordinate called “city attorney” to write a memo on city time saying it’s A-OK with him.

The mayor says the reason he has to stick around, like a wet booger on a 9-year-old, is that otherwise the “developers” (aka “vampires”) will take over. No, there aren’t any developers or vampires on council now, and none have expressed any interest. Maybe that’s because they have businesses to run. I doubt it’s because they’re busy visiting Chamonix and Davos at taxpayer expense.

Moreover, if the mayor lost his tenured “job” as the local taker-in-chief, he might lose his hall pass to taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing. Yikes!

Like the mayor, three of the other four council members are on the affordable-housing dole. It’s better than Mom’s basement because you can have sleepovers without Mom’s permission.

The council meetings are as much fun as a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Recently they talked about how to make Aspen more “welcoming” to businesses. This is long after they banned big businesses and shortly after they demanded a $100,000 tribute to (surprise!) affordable housing from a little gallery that showed local art in an unused hallway.

One of them worried at that meeting that making Aspen more welcoming to business might result in “pop-up” businesses. Don’t you hate it when a business pops up and crashes your business’s welcoming party?

The solution, they speechified, is to add to the city website a “welcoming” page that will be created and maintained by paid “staff resources” (a commodity that is apparently not in short supply – see “city attorney” above). And the “staff resources” will “outreach” to businesses – but not to big ones, little ones or pop-up ones.

Personally, if I were a businessman on the receiving end of an “outreach” from the council boys or their sandbox subordinates, I would immediately (1) bathe in rubbing alcohol, (2) take antiviral medication and (3) flee town faster than you can say “affordable-

housing mitigation fee.”

Yes, we could use a little new blood on City Council. But not too new. This time, let’s make sure it’s from people older than 13.

Published in The Aspen Times on Feb. 21, 2013 at http://www.aspentimes.com/news/6323807-113/columns-columnsivg-apcolorado-apunitedstates

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Going to the Dogs

All this barking, howling, yapping and snarling lately about allowing dogs into affordable housing prompted me to check out the Aspen Animal Control website at http://www.aspen

pitkin.com/Departments/Animal-Safety. It’s one of 43 different city departments, not including subdepartments and not including county ones.

(And, yes, we need every single one, especially the Global Warming Department. And the Sister City Department, where we spend tax dollars to “relationship” with six “sister” cities. And the Map Department, where you can get a map made with your tax dollars complete with a disclaimer written by the City Attorney Department saying it might not be accurate.)

The website contains a “Frequently Asked Questions” page. On that page there are no questions at all, but there are lots of answers. It’s like “Jeopardy!” where the answer is given and you have to guess the question.

The answer given to one unasked frequently asked question is “any dog off its property must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet in length.”

But this answer raises questions beyond the unasked one that it answered. First of all, who knew that the dogs of Aspen own property? Of course, if any dogs would own property, they would indeed be the ones in Aspen. Even after Bernie Madoff fleeced them, they still live pretty high on the hog. Unsurprisingly, this dog property is not affordable housing.

Come to think of it, the website doesn’t say that the property owned by these 1 percenter dogs is real estate at all. Maybe it’s alimony, Land Rovers, royalties, solar-panel tax credits, currency futures and derivatives. (If you need to ask what a derivative is, maybe that’s why you’re in affordable housing while the dogs of Aspen are on Red Mountain.)

Whether they own property or not, they are supposed to be licensed. Those that aren’t are, umm, undocumented.

They say that the cost for the license “will be $6.00 for altered dogs and $16.00 for intact dogs.”  I think “altered” ones are those that have “had a little work done,” as we say here in Glitter Gulch. “Intact” ones are, well, have you heard the expression “big dog”?

While you’re down at Animal Control getting your dog of Aspen licensed or “worked on,” or maybe just showing off your big dog’s big dog, note the statement on its website that “The Animal Safety Division will remove nuisance raccoons and skunks,” apparently in answer to the unasked frequently asked question “What kind of raccoons and skunks will Animal Control remove?”

I appreciate the government answer about removing “nuisance” raccoons and skunks from our houses, even though nobody asked the question, but now I have a follow-up question. Namely, is there any other kind? I can hear the Animal Control guy now: “Oh, yeah, buddy, you got a family of raccoons in the attic chewing up the wiring and one in the medicine cabinet eating the Viagra, but they’re not a nuisance any more than the skunk in the dryer. What do you expect in affordable housing?”

We are cautioned that, this being the government talking, they won’t be removed right away. “There must be alternative measures taken” first, which are not specified. They can’t remove nuisance animals right away because that would be like a (drum roll) – nuisance-animal cliff! First, let’s talk awhile, call one another names and then postpone it a few months. Then do that again.

What exactly would be the alternative to removing a skunk from the dryer or an ADHD raccoon family from the attic? That the resident and skunk undergo joint counseling? No, not the kind of “joint” counseling legalized in the recent election. I mean the kind where you, your husband and the skunk get together and you talk to the stinky critter – and to the skunk, too.

And why do you have to be a “citizen” to get them to remove the nasty thing (no, not the husband)? Do noncitizens have to live with raccoons and skunks? Next, we’ll be asking them to speak English (no, not the raccoons and skunks).

And what’s this about “citizens” anyway? This is Aspen, and we’re comrades, not citizens, and we love one another, doggone it, and if you ever forget it, we’ll send you to Siberia or Vail.

Animal Control boasts that “We answer all questions concerning big game in the area.” Well, not quite all. It goes on to say that if you have questions about “big game hunting or damage to real property,” they don’t answer that kind. Sorry. And there’s no offer to remove “nuisance” big game or even alter it. You got a bear in the kitchen? You’re on your own, buster. Remove or alter it yourself. But whatever you do, don’t do it until you’ve tried and documented every possible alternative measure including Ritalin and “joint” counseling.

Which brings us back to the dog ordinance. Even more puzzling than the reference to dog property is the requirement that the dogs of Aspen must be on leashes. In walking about town and even in the local stores, restaurants, gondolas, buses, theaters, chairlifts, grocery stores, bars, Learjets, synagogues and churches, one would never know.

So next time you’re sprinting up the Ute Trail, sweat pouring and lungs roaring, and you get attacked by a wild and dangerous animal that is off its Red Mountain property and has “had a little work done” on it, tie it up with all 10 feet of a leash 10 feet in length, and muzzle it if necessary to protect yourself from the danger of being bitten, clawed, followed home, slobbered on, licked, marked, flea’d or leg-humped.

Then, and only then, you can safely pet her dog.

Published in The Aspen Times on Feb. 7 at http://www.aspentimes.com/news/6321996-113/columns-columnsivg-apcolorado-apunitedstates