Aspen City Council to the people: Shut up

Here in Aspen, our city council has announced that the taxpayers who decided to elect them are too stupid and lazy to decide properly how to spend their own tax money. Here’s the story.

City bureaucrats for years have wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars on lavish new offices. The most recent price tag is over $23 million. This is for a city with a population of only 6,500 people.

Do the math: These nice new offices for the government bureaucracy would cost over $3,000 per resident — or over $12,000 per family of four residents. That’s on top of a city budget that exceeds $100 million a year, or about $15,000 per resident and $60,000 per family of four.

Part of the reason the building is so expensive is that they want to put it right in the middle of town, naturally, because that’s where the action is. Most of the rest of us can’t afford the middle of town because real estate there costs thousands of dollars per square foot. But it’s easier if someone else is paying for it.

Just to make sure this monument to themselves is sufficiently monumental, it will rise to 46 feet in an area where other development is capped at 28 feet in order to preserve the mountain views. Obscuring the view is evidently OK if the rule-makers do the obscuring.

There’s just one snag in this plan.

The snag is Continue reading


Is the Aspen Art Museum a Parody or just a Joke?

03_1430C_09_4At the imposing new $48 million Aspen Art Museum that looks vaguely like a big, square bird’s nest, a new exhibit has hatched. You have to see it to believe it.

I did and still don’t. Here’s my story:

The first thing I saw upon entering the museum was a nice sign. It listed all the wealthy people who have donated big bucks to the museum.

In the old days, donating big bucks to the right recipients could make you semi-royalty, like a count or maybe a baron. Really big bucks could even buy you eternal salvation.

Today, big bucks buys you the title “patron of the arts.”

It’s disappointing. In a better world, patrons of the arts wouldn’t need their names on a list. They would just buy art. Then artists would flourish and culture would thrive.

But museum donators don’t do that because Continue reading

Don’t Fall For The College Scam

One of my friends (yes, I have some, even in liberal Aspen) is a mountaineering guide.

He communicates concepts of climbing and safety to people who have never been in the mountains. He has a spatial ability to see the terrain in his mind’s eye. He provides emergency medical treatment for injuries ranging from foot blisters to pulmonary edema. He’s smart, articulate and well-read.

He never went to college.

I have another acquaintance who owns a concrete company. His idea of a “concrete solution” is something that is poured out of a cement truck and into a set of forms. And I don’t mean the printed kind.

He figures out the cost of a project. He lines up and manages the necessary staffing. He knows both how low he must bid and how high he might. He does well and, like my mountaineering guide friend, in his spare time he also does good.

He too never got a college degree.

Meanwhile, Continue reading

Does the Pitkin County Sheriff Think He’s Bull Connor?

Here in Aspen, the Democrat sheriff for the county recently announced that he doesn’t like a set of federal laws duly enacted over the course of decades by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.

Therefore, he boasts, he won’t cooperate with the enforcement of those laws.

The laws at issue, of course, are the immigration laws.

Our local sheriff is not the first political opportunist to defy the nation’s laws while entrusted with enforcing them. Back in the 1960s, there was another Democrat law enforcement official who refused to enforce federal law. The laws at issue then were the new civil rights laws, and the Democrat at issue was the commissioner of public safety for Birmingham, Alabama.

His name was Theophilus Eugene Connor, better known as “Bull Connor.” He’s now buried in Birmingham, but still lives in infamy. Continue reading

The “Artisan Salmon” of Whole Foods

“Charlie, they don’t want tunas with good taste. They want tunas that taste good.” — Charlie the Tuna advertisements from the 1960s to ’80s.

I recently visited the local Whole Foods that is 21 miles downvalley. (Aspen itself has banned chain stores because customers like them more than City Council thinks they should.)

I overheard a conversation between a customer (or what they surely call a “client”) and a fish monger wearing a purple earring (what they probably call a “pescateur”).

Client (looking over a counter of iced salmon): “But are the salmon farmed sustainably?” She asked her question a little too loudly so that other customers could hear it.

Pescateur: “Are you kidding? This is artisan salmon. Our partnering salmon supplier — which operates off the coast of Norway using special deep water salmoniniums — harvests two salmon eggs for each salmon they sell.”

“What happens to the eggs?”

“They’re at the other end of the counter.”

“OK, I’ll take 4 pounds of salmon.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll take 4 pounds of the salmon, please.”

“Lady, we don’t chop these up. This is Whole Foods and we sell only whole salmon.”

“Fine, Continue reading

Should Toledo Taxpayers Pay for Aspen Art?

Here in the billionaires’ playground of Aspen, the politicians waived the zoning laws a few years ago for a monstrosity they call an art museum.

It’s a huge square wicker basket dominating a city block, with zero setback and zero architecture. This place that is supposed to display visual beauty is itself an eyesore.

Almost everyone hates it.

But not the director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. In an artistic burst, she created for herself a $900,000 salary. Her salary is about the only permanent or valuable piece in the collection. To put that number in perspective, it’s higher than the salaries paid to the directors of real museums like the Guggenheim and the Getty.

Even so, this director of the Aspen Art Museum has a bone to pick, now that she’s picked off the easy flesh. She’s grousing that budget-conscious legislators in Washington might reduce taxpayer funding for her shtick.

It’s not that there isn’t any money in Aspen to take up the slack. In perhaps the understatement of the year, I’ll say this about that: There is. Continue reading

Double, Double, Trump in Trouble?

“Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.”

— The witches in Macbeth, William Shakespeare.

The Democrats, the purported “party of science,” have a new strategy to beat back President Donald Trump and the other Republicans who’ve overrun the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, two-thirds of the state legislatures and most of the governorships.

Their new strategy is witchcraft.

It had to happen. The recount ruse didn’t add up. The Electoral College refused to go rogue. The Russian conspiracy theory backfired.

But the Dems are nothing if not creative in demonizing those with whom they disagree.

For example, Continue reading