Yesterday Wendle Whiting, a prominent young voice in town wrote an eloquent, well-informed and very apt letter about changing the election day in Aspen. The reason is simple, coming in off-season, the date of the election serves to exclude a vast and too often unrepresented portion of our population - service, hospitality and tourism workers. Of which I have at various points, inhabited each station.
Representation is the cornerstone of democracy and an absolute requirement for a functioning town, an informed citizenry and an effective government. The deviation from this ideal has been a corrosive force across our nation the last three decades. Gerrymandering and primarying and have become household terms. Congress is more polarized than ever. The further the sides move apart, the more they denigrate and caricature each other. As this feedback loop takes hold the opportunity for reconciliation, compromise, and ultimately positive outcomes dissipate to the determent of both sides.
Aspen does not have to be this way! We have a long and deep history of true community, respectful disagreement, intellectual aptitude, and problem-solving.
We live in a snowglobe. I love this snowglobe. Wendle loves this snowglobe. Ann Mullins, Mayor Skadron, the Boot fitter and the Busser all love this snowglobe. Under here we are one family, one community, of deeply appreciative people who love and cherish each day in the place we have chosen to be. We should be very careful of throwing stones in our snowglobe, or we may all find ourselves out in the cold.
Wendle suggests that perhaps Ann does not possess the empathy she feels she does. He may be right. But by making her and those on council or in professional jobs “the other”, he risks demonstrating a lack of empathy for them.
This is a vicious cycle and I take issue with the conclusion he draws. Just because Bill Gates has never felt the pain of hunger, it has not kept him from doing more to eradicate poverty and disease in the world than any single human in history. So too does the career paths chosen by our Council people not bar them from acting to make Aspen more inclusive place for those in other industries. It also does not ensure it. Therefore it is up to Wendle, to you, to me, to make sure they do so. And
Wendle, I’m here with you every step of the way. Each day we wake up and go outside, bask in the sun or shred the powder, walk our children to school or go to work, and put a big smile on our face. We have and must continue to do this in unison. It's this cross-pollinization of ideas and people that gives Aspen its unique identity. Each of us adds vitality and utility to this town another does not possess. We are, like the country that spawned us, a town of. We have a unique tradition and a storied legacy to uphold.
So to Wendle I say Yes! Let us work to make changes to better our town. To support locals and service workers, ensuring the have a fair shot or better, both now and in the future. Let’s amend the election date to have a more inclusive process. But let’s do it together. Not because it’s better for one group or another- but because it is better for Aspen.
We need more of Wendle, more of Ann, more of Steve, more of anyone who is willing to stand up and fight to maintain the town we love. It is such a town because those who came before us did this as well. But they did it together and so must we.
As the Chair of the new Next Gen Advisory Commission I, and as Mayor Skadron has already suggested, would love to have Wendle inform and be part of our organization. We are striving to make our group and government more representative, as we have from the beginning. We invite every service industry worker, hotel employee, tourism professional and anyone who wants to make a difference to reach out to us and make your voice heard!
And though any behavioral psychologist will tell you that the voting day is a deeply problematic barrier to entry. We must never forget the central tenant of democracy- a government by the people. If the people cannot or do not participate, the democracy itself is called into question. While we must push for policies of inclusion, we must also remember that the day we start to view our form of government as an entitlement rather than a right that is earned and fought for, we stand ready to lose it.