Gimme Back My Hour!

IMG_0007 (2)aIt’s been a week now, and the government still has not returned the hour it stole from us on March 9.

They call it daylight saving time. Like all wonderful government institutions — from the IRS to the TSA — it goes by an acronym. It’s “DST.”

It’s a “savings” in the way that government spending is an “investment.” Each spring they steal an hour of our life. They return it — without interest — in the fall after everyone has finally gotten accustomed to its absence so that everyone can then try to get reaccustomed to its presence.

Since when does the government get to decide what time it is? Isn’t this just the government jerking our chains?

As always, they deny it. They say it’s for our own good — just like the mandates of Obamacare, the ban on big sodas and Aspen’s monstrosity of an art museum.

Here’s their do-good rationale: Continue reading

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Dino doo-doo

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Let’s check in with the local government spenders who hatch ideas like laying colossal, concrete eggs around the bus stops, burning fossil fuels to heat outdoor playgrounds abutting the highway and building bus stops with big quarter-million-dollar phalluses to compensate for the little quarter-inch ones in their pants.

Yes, I’m talking about the bus guys — the (drum roll) Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

First, let’s be clear on terminology. As a brand, “bus” isn’t cool. No one wants to ride a bus called “bus.” And “RFTA”? Forget about it. So the bus guys paid a consultant to come up with the brand (another drum roll) “Veloci-RFTA.” It came with a chicken-shaped dinosaur logo.

That’s right: the bus guys who will save us from global warming/cooling/whatever, named themselves after an extinct chicken-shaped dinosaur that failed to survive a climate change 66 million years ago.

You probably think that visitors from Austria and Japan who want to get around town are looking for a vehicle that regularly stops at a sign with the letters “B,” “U” and “S” in approximately that order.

You think wrong. Continue reading

Fly the Affordable Skies

Airfares into and out of Aspen are not cheap. United Airlines explained that it’s all about the rules of economics.

But wait — this is Aspen! Here, we have replaced the rules of economics with the rules of government. After all, the city government is, or wants to be, in at least the following businesses:

• The affordable-hotel business, to ensure that homeless skiers who have just dropped $114 on a lift ticket can spend the night here before hitchhiking back to their shelters downvalley.

• The affordable-restaurant business because they have to eat, too (slopeside, of course).

• The affordable-housing business.

• The affordable-bicycle-rental business, where for a few bucks you can rent a bike for which the government paid $6,500 and which looks like it was made for $23 in the Soviet Union.

• The free-bus business, where, oh, don’t get me started again on the stone phalluses and concrete eggs (which are apparently orphans ­— no one will admit responsibility for laying them).

• The subsidized-movie business, where the Wheeler recently announced that taxpayer money will pay for “full digital cinema projection technology” (owwhhh!).

• Imaginary hydroelectric and geothermal energy businesses because, you see, the City Council knows more about energy generation than the utility companies.

• The residential real estate market, where the city has adopted a, shall we say, contrarian approach of “buy high, sell low.”

• The health-club business because, after all, if the city didn’t keep us fit, who would?

Sorry if I left out some.

So all aboard. If the city can get into the affordable hotel, restaurant, housing, bicycle, bus, movie, hydroelectric, geothermal, residential real estate and health-club businesses, why shouldn’t an affordable-airplane business take off?

Here’s the flight plan:

First, the city must buy some airplanes. Let’s get the kind that run on the city’s imaginary geothermal and hydroelectric power.

Spend money painting the airplanes with a psychedelic ’60s motif just like the firetrucks and ambulances because people won’t use a firetruck, ambulance or airplane that is drab.

Outlaw “free market” seats in first class. The fare for the first-class seats will depend on how much of your income you disclose.

Rich people will be allowed, but they have to ride coach, they have to pay extra, they have to wear down and not fur, and they have to get vilified.

We have lots of flights around Christmas and only a few in April, even though it’s easier to get a hotel room in April. So they should delay some of the Christmas flights a few months till April.

Lots of Australians come here. I like Australians, mate, but they aren’t very diverse. So cancel the flights from Australia and launch new flights from, say, the Congo and Cambodia. Congolese and Cambodians don’t ski, you say? Well, of course not; that’s because there are no flights to Aspen.

The speed limit for the airplanes will be 18 mph.

Each flight will have at least 100 flight attendants (dressed in polyester bell-bottoms to complement the paint job on the airplane). But since they will be city employees, the 100 flight attendants will not serve the passengers. Instead, the passengers will serve the flight attendants.

Adjacent to the airport, the city can spend gobs of money on an airplane museum to give people a reason to come here, as they did with the wildly successful $5 million fire-station museum downtown.

Of course, for safety reasons, there will be height restrictions around the airport except, of course, with respect to government buildings.

They can blow a big airport horn each day at noon just to remind everyone who’s boss.

They should stencil graphics of airplanes onto the runways, just like the new bicycle graphics on all the downtown streets. That way, the pilots will know where to land the airplanes.

(By the way, I think the city should stencil little pedestrians on all the sidewalks so people will know where to walk, stencil little tricycles on all the driveways so kids will know where to ride their tricycles and stencil a clown in front of City Hall on Galena Street so that people know where the circus is.)

Speaking of the pilots, they will be the City Council. I know there’s not much expertise on council ever since we term-limited the tennis instructor who could afford only one name and the Irish bike-wrecker. But I’m sure the remaining Renaissance men and woman know just as much about flying an airplane as they do about the hotel, restaurant, bicycle, housing, bus, movie, geothermal, hydroelectric, residential real estate and health-club businesses.

Buckle up.

Published in The Aspen Times on July 11, 2013 at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/7261071-113/affordable-business-airplane-airplanes

Bus-ingham Phallus

Can you guess what the new bus stops cost us?

Whatever you guessed, it was too low. The fare was a quarter-million dollars each. The total bill for 10 of them, plus two “double” ones, is about $4 million.

Yes, the ones with the big stone towers. That big phallus is not the chimney for a fireplace. No, we’re told that it houses the “technology and electronics.” Oh, of course. It’s for air-traffic control.

Just kidding. That’s a ridiculous idea because airplanes don’t stop at the bus stops. Sometimes even the buses don’t.

No, the “technology and electronics” are for the lighting and sound system. They rent out the bus stops for wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs.

Just kidding again. That, too, is a ridiculous idea because these government bureaucrats obviously aren’t concerned about generating rental income. If they need or want additional income, they already know where to get it – from the taxpayers.

Enough kidding. Atop each phallus, they’ve tattooed “RFTA” in 12-inch letters. That’s not the name of the Hindu god to whom you pray for the bus to come. That’s the acronym for the government god that built these monuments to itself – the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. It especially likes the “Authority” part. That’s its middle name, almost, and don’t you forget it.

One of the Aspen City Council boys who, like all the other council boys, wants to be mayor (what happened to the permanent one?) tried (between votes to spend more taxpayer money on housing for himself) to throw the Authority under the bus by suggesting (after he knew it was too late to do anything about it) that these monuments had jumped the guardrail.

Like a deer in the headlights, the Authority manager (I’m guessing he’d like us to call him the “Authoritarian”) stared down the council boy and then got himself run over. He assured us that the bus monuments might look expensive but aren’t. He said that at a quarter-million apiece, they “aren’t pricey.”

Unconscionably expensive, perhaps, but they “aren’t pricey.”

They’re a good value, the Authority explained. You can’t have a bus stop that is “dark.” And “you want to be careful not to have the prison look.”

I so agree. The old, dark bus stops with the prison look often attracted filthy, rude, potty-mouthed reprobates. I used to think they were snowboarders just because they had snowboards, but I now realize that they were convicts attracted by “the prison look.”

There’s more from the Authority. A bus station has to be “appealing” in order to “entice” people to ride the bus, he said. If it isn’t, then people will take an offramp to a competing bus company that has nicer bus stops with a red-carpet room, free drinks, peanuts and priority boarding. Except there isn’t a competing company, of course, because the Authority is the government.

Keep in mind that the Authority’s measure of success is its number of riders. It doesn’t need to be cost-effective because, geez, didn’t I mention that it’s the government? So why not “entice” people to ride the bus by just paying them to?

Its current ridership is about 4 million trips per year. If it used the $4 million it spent on the monumental bus stops to pay people a buck a trip, it could generate another 4 million rider trips. That doubles its current annual ridership. If it raises it to $10 and serves Red Bull with vodka, it might even generate some big phalluses on which it could tattoo “RFTA.”

So far, its $4 million enticement program has increased ridership by exactly one. When I first saw the big RFTA phallus 16 feet above me, I pulled over, ditched my gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing SUV, kneeled in front of the phallus and prayed till the bus came. I’ve been riding back and forth between Truscott and Rubey Park ever since. If the Authority had just paid me the $4 million, I would have happily shared the old bus stops with those convicts armed with snowboards.

As part of this government monopoly’s strategy to entice people away from the nonexistent competition, the Authority informs us that it is also in the process of improving its “branding.” Maybe it should change its acronym to BMW.

It should at least shift gears on the weird RFTA brand atop each phallus. Let’s re-brand each one with a grandiloquent name befitting the Authority. I’ll jump-start this program with some suggestions:

1. Bus-ingham Phallus

2. Mount Bus-more

3. St. Peter’s Bus-ilica

4. Machu Bus-u

OK, I ran out of gas at four. Since I have no advertising agency paid for with tax dollars, let’s have a readers contest. Race to submit your suggestion online in the comment section to this column. In a week or when the next bus comes, whichever is first, I’ll pick winners.

Oops, this is Barack Obama’s America, so I’ll let him pick the winners. But if he doesn’t or if he picks Solyndra again, then I will.

First prize is an all-expenses-paid bus ride to the bus monument formerly known as the Intercept Lot. Second prize is the same thing, plus an autographed Glenn K. Beaton column.

Published in The Aspen Times on April 18, 2013 at http://www.aspentimes.com/news/6326881-113/columns-columnsivg-apcolorado-apunitedstates