Wendle Whiting: Happy off-season, you’re disenfranchised

Happy off-season, you’re disenfranchised

 It’s that time of year where almost all the columnists are writing about getting excited that the long slog of the season is as good as over and the extraordinary exodus to the great beyond past the roundabout is upon us. An astute reader of the local paper would reasonably come to the conclusion that the migration must be a thing. Phrases like “quiet off-season,” “ghost-town,” “open parking spaces” and “Sayulita” sprinkle almost every writer’s ramblings this time of year. If it weren’t true why would we write about it? Is it fake news?

It’s not. And I have evidence. Actual, factual proof that town empties out in April and May like no other time of the year and the evidence is crap. Really. Literal poop. This is important because of the upcoming election and how it affects everyone who is not here to poop this off-season.


Aspen’s sewer runs downhill to the sanitation plant below the ABC. Once there the volume is constantly measured and at the conclusion of every day the total number of gallons that flowed into the plant is recorded. Over time this becomes a fascinating data set that objectively lets you peer into how busy town really is — not based on what it “feels” like.

Another interesting data point is the date of our municipal election which, since before the advent of Aspen as primarily a seasonal resort, has been the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.

I have the data from the sanitation plant since 2003; here are some interesting tidbits. When you look at the overall annual ebb and flow, it correlates perfectly with what you would expect: Christmas through New Year’s, town is very busy, with a spike on New Year’s Eve; July 4 nearly matches, Food and Wine and Labor Day have a nice go of it too. The fall off-season lasts longer than the spring-offseason, but it is busier. Right around April 1 every year there is a precipitous decline in our population up until the least busy day of the year, which you may have guessed is basically the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May or sometime during the two weeks leading up to it, during which you would have been able to early vote, had you been here.

If we were to put together a cabal of lawyers, real estate agents, developers, foreign exchange derivative experts, architects, designers, bankers or anyone not actively working in a seasonal industry, armed them with this data and gave them the agenda to disenfranchise as much of the seasonal-industry demographic as they could, their answer would be, “Hold the election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of May.”

My argument is that the Aspen City Council is the absolute perfect embodiment of representative democracy of the demographic that is here to vote in the two weeks leading up to election day — and that is not great for Aspen. Each person on our council matches perfectly to a subset of the population that voted for them. We have lawyers, marking consultants, foreign exchange derivative experts and landscape architects making the decisions that affect Aspen. Yes, Aspen has a lot of people in those occupations; but Aspen, the quintessential resort town, lacks anyone from the hospitality and service industries as decision makers. Nor do we have anyone younger than 40 and that’s a number that’s flattering the current council. All of them live in free market housing.

Yes, it can be argued that the seasonal industry employee is not a demographic that votes in municipal elections. However, that argument really holds no water because we simply don’t know, we’ve never given them the opportunity. A person making the argument that “they wouldn’t vote anyway” has an immoral attitude toward enfranchisement. It is not up to us to make that decision for other people. It is up to the morality of our leadership to decide that we need to give the most people possible the chance to vote.

Another argument I’ve heard is that anyone can request to receive a ballot in the mail wherever they intend to be in the off-season. OK, but why make them jump through hoops to vote? This is the same tactic used in the south to disenfranchise students and minorities. Also, ask a young person where they’re going to be this off-season and see if they are able to provide you with a mailing address. That’s laughable. However, there is one clever method to vote that you may not know about. If you are going to be outside of the USA, then you are able to vote by email. Just Google “Special Absentee Ballot Aspen” and you will find an easy form that you can fill out prior to April 28 in order to vote by email. That applies to a lot of you. The caveat is you must physically get that form to the clerk before you leave.

This year the first Monday in May is the 1st, which means the election will be at the earliest possible date it can be held in the off-season. Ballots will be mailed from the clerk on the 10th of April. Highlands closing day is the 9th, which means you may miss receiving your ballot by as little as one day. But if you happen to still be around, take a moment to fill it out before you leave. Know that there is one candidate that is under 40 and represents the seasonal industry demographic: Skippy Mesirow. He wants to change the election date to enfranchise everyone, which is all I need to hear. We have to start somewhere.

Wendle’s birthday is the most popular day of the year to not be in Aspen. Crap. wendle@wendlewhiting.org

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