Happy Meals for the happy comrades of Aspen

McDonald’s is a fine place with honest and sometimes nutritious food. It’s close to the slopes, too. Other good, inexpensive spots nearby include CP Burger, Poppycock’s, the Paradise Bakery, Jour de Fete, Starbucks, Boogie’s, New York Pizza and the Red Onion. And City Market now has prepared food for takeout.

But former Mayor Mick and his City Council perceived a problem, to which, naturally, they had a government solution. The perceived problem was that these 10 places are too few. The comrades of Aspen, the council said, want and therefore need and therefore are entitled to an 11th inexpensive restaurant near the slopes. Forget the fact that the market does not perceive this same need. What do capitalists know about the entitlements of the comrades?

So their government solution was to mandate such a place. Think of it as the local restaurant equivalent to the mandates of Obamacare.

Here’s how they did it: The developer of a building on Cooper Avenue needed government approval for his project (even though it complied with applicable building codes). Ah-ha, the council said. It conditioned the necessary project approvals on the developer renting out the basement to a government approved restaurant — one with a menu and prices acceptable to the council.

You see, the council believes that the people and the restaurants cannot be trusted with the important decision of choosing where to eat. Remember how the market thought that there was no demand to rent Soviet-style bicycles, that a hydroelectric plant was not workable, that there wasn’t free geothermal energy under Herron Park and that there was no need for heated concrete eggs at quarter-million-dollar bus stops? Council itself had to pursue those projects because the market refused, and — voila! — it wasted millions on those bad ideas, all of which proved, to the council, that it was right to pursue those bad ideas because if it hadn’t ,no one else would have.

So the courncil cooked up a mandate for an affordable restaurant in the Cooper Avenue project. Their mandate aspires to the complexity of the Obamacare mandates. The restaurant would be required to set menu prices in the bottom third of Aspen restaurants. There would be surveys conducted, calculations of where the bottom third fell, inspections of the new restaurant’s menu and comparisons of the prices of apples served at the old restaurants with the prices of oranges served at the new one.

In the event of a violation by the restaurant, as City Hall chooses to define “violation” from time to time, heads would roll, eggs would crack, toast would burn, the souffle would fall, and someone would eat cake. Or crow. Or something else unpalatable.

The council figured that violations wouldn’t happen, however, because the council didn’t want them to. Instead, it figured there would be Happy Meals for happy comrades, and billions and billions would be served, all of whom would express their gratitude by faithfully voting for the incumbent council members regardless of the term-limit law so that the council members could ride in the dining car of the taxpayer-subsidized, affordable-housing gravy train forever.

But, oops, the market is plotting a gravy train wreck. The council mandated what but forgot to mandate whom. When the developer duly sought someone to lease the space for the purpose of opening and operating the mandated restaurant, no one was interested. Turns out that the market (darn that market!) thinks that opening an inexpensive government-regulated restaurant in a high-rent district under the watchful eye of City Hall comrades is not an appealing proposition from the standpoint of (apologies for using the following vulgar word) profitability.

Not to worry. The council is stepping in to take over the task of finding a restaurateur. The developer was not able to, but hey, what do developers know about development? This is a job for the council hydroelectricians/geothermalites/Soviet bicycle renters/heated-concrete-egg layers!

Watching these council experts in action in the restaurant business will make their Aspen comrades swell with pride if not gastroenteritis.

While waiting to be served, the rest of us should whip up a name for this new government-mandated culinary sensation. Here are a few ideas:

1) Mick Donald’s.

2) Big Brother Bites (or BBBs).

3) ObamaFare.

4) Belly Out.

5) Shut Up and Eat.

OK, that’s my entire menu of names, and I don’t have access to taxpayer money for a consultant to gin up more. So let’s have a potluck naming contest. Leave your suggestions on the comment page, or email them to me. Feel free to make menu suggestions, too. Please make everything well-done.

The best suggestion earns a free dinner at the new government-approved restaurant. Second place gets two. Third place gets all you dare to eat.

Downbeats

Our library holds the world’s worst collection of DVD movies. A librarian explained that the library doesn’t want to stock popular movies because that would compete with the little family movie-rental store down the street. I appreciate that sentiment, but it suggests that maybe the library should not be in the movie business at all. It’s bad enough to spend library tax dollars to satisfy a demand for popular movies that the taxpayers want. Isn’t it even worse to spend library tax dollars to satisfy a nondemand for unpopular movies that the taxpayers don’t want?

Upbeats

In his first official act, the new mayor recently was sworn in. In a refreshing display of respect for the office he fills and the people he serves, he wore a coat and tie. There is hope.

Published in The Aspen Times on Aug. 15, 2013 at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/7699149-113/council-restaurant-comrades-government

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