Moral Preening for Flea-Bag Hotels

News flash: Aspen has become an expensive place to visit.

We’re voting soon on whether the local government should try to fix that by mandating that Aspen be less expensive for certain visitors.

Here’s what it’s about.

Think back to the old days when we rode the lifts with working-class skiers from, say, Baltimore and Bolivia. Remember that?

Me neither.

But in any event, the local social engineers looking to engineer better Aspenites are tut-tutting that we’re poorer without the diversity (which we’re instructed to treasure) of those impoverished and nonexistent Baltimorean and Bolivian skiers who never came here and still don’t. If their absence doesn’t make you feel deprived, then you’re depraved.

Big problems like this call for big solutions, the tut-tutters say. Government ones.

Here’s their solution: government-mandated fleabag hotels. That phrase isn’t very melodic, so they call it “affordable lodging.”

Builders playing the Aspen real estate game don’t construct such places on their own accord. They take pride in building nice hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place where they can charge real rent, not cheap dives at Mediterranean Gardens where the rent won’t even pay for the daily fumigation.

The class warriors plan to change that by bribing the builders. The bribes would be in the form of waivers from the town’s aesthetic standards on building size. Think of it as get-out-of-jail-free cards for building violations.

In other words, the affordability watchdogs will let developers build cheap, crappy, crowded, ugly stuff that does not comply with the building codes so that we can attract poor people but will not let developers build beautiful, expensive, nice stuff.

The scheme can be summed up in three words: “No nice stuff!” Friends know that I’m as parsimonious as any other Scot, but I think constructing lousy hotels in violation of our building codes for the purpose of persuading poor people to travel cross-country to pay $139 per person per day to ski is no bargain for them or us.

First, it’s not effective. Lodging is only one part of the expense of an Aspen visit. I don’t see restaurants or ski manufacturers offering discounts to the needy. I don’t see the airlines offering cheap flights into our notoriously expensive airport.

Second, it’s a bit ski-centric to suppose that working stiffs can’t get a quality skiing experience at other resorts like Breckenridge, Copper Mountain or Vail. (OK, maybe not Vail.)

Third, if these impoverished and nonexistent Baltimorean and Bolivian skiers really want and need to ski Aspen, can’t they stay 18 miles away in Basalt or 31 miles away in Carbondale and ride to Aspen in one of those WiFi-equipped buses we just bought that stop at those heated $250,000 bus stops we just built? A million Front Range skiers routinely drive from Denver to Front Range ski resorts 80 to 100 miles away. They seem to survive, thrive and multiply.

Fourth, spare me this nauseating nostrum that the presence of poor skiers (as if there is such an animal) somehow enriches the rest of us — but only if they spend the night.

I don’t need an imported lowlife from Baltimore or Bolivia to elevate my high life, and I sure don’t need them sleeping in a fleabag hotel on Main Street. The local lowlifes are good enough for me.

Finally, these bribes are not free. They’re paid for by you and me every time we look down the street and see one of these noncompliant eyesores. (I’m referring to the hotel, not the resident.)

Everyone knows all this — that the affordability ship sailed from Aspen long ago, that it’s not coming back and that there’s no place for it to dock if it did because, this not being Monopoly, there’s no such thing as free parking.

So why the fuss?

Here’s why: When not pretending to treasure phony diversity, the fussing tut-tutters nurture their liberal jealousy and guilt. They salve and stroke it by anguishing about other people’s money — even as they posture that money is not important to them.

And they want you to watch. They want you to watch them in their full monte of breathless angst because then, they imagine, you will think they are deep and wonderful people.

It’s moral exhibitionism.

I have a message for these people: We won’t watch your seedy little show of tut-tutting in your tutus as you salve and stroke yourselves. We have a town to protect.

We love our town and will not let you destroy it. We will not sacrifice our town on the altar of your guilty conscience or your jealous rage. Our town is a place for us to live, not a stage for your moral preening.

Take your show on the road.

(Published Oct 11, 2015 in the Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/18536346-113/beaton-moral-preening-for-fleabag-hotels)

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