Monday, May 09, 2011
Michael Cleverly, VIle's Aspen Bureau Chief
Submitted by: Editor

Original Company Town - Part 10

“Company Town” traces the evolution of the influence of the industries that have driven Aspen’s economic life from its boomtown silver and gold mining days to its growth into one of the premier ski resorts in the world. It also traces the changes in Aspen society, from its mining days, when basically no one had any class, to the freewheeling 70’s when the place was so democratic as to be a classless society, to today, when the entire town is essentially a gated community. The gates are not made of steel, they’re economic, and the society now is far from classless.

Ugly people, ugly politics

The closest thing to a Y2K crisis the old ski town of Aspen experienced was an influx of loudmouthed right-wingers to the neighborhood. Probably emboldened by the Bush presidency and his penchant to send American troops to the far corners of the earth to try to beat up people who’d had rocks for breakfast, these folks at some point decided that Aspen was being run by a bunch of hippie, commie, buffoons, and it was their job to set things to right. Of course they were vastly wealthy, and had bought into a town that they had no real connection to.Aspen, being a small town in the west, had always had its share of conservatives. In the early days they were the cowboy majority, and they ran the show, from law enforcement to city and county government. Once the influx of young people began in the late 60’s and early 70’s the power shifted to the left and never swung back. But as Aspen’s affluence grew, rich corporate Republican types slowly joined the redneck right-wingers. Politically far more sophisticated and subtler, these people appreciated the power of the PAC as opposed to just bellowing at longhairs. Once in a while one would step up and run for something, but most of the time they would lurk in the shadows. They created a PAC, or PAC like entity, called The Common Sense Alliance. The Common Sense Alliance would promote their conservative, pro development agenda with a paid spokesman and all the advertising dollars one could ever need. To this day people don’t know who is actually behind the alliance. They claim the need anonymity for fear of retribution from the lefties in power. They might actually believe it, as that is most likely the way they do business. The last thing they wanted was for it to be more difficult for them to circumvent codes when they decided to build a 25,000 square foot house in an area zoned for a 5000 square foot house. They would spend vast amounts of money anonymously sliming liberal, anti-development candidates, and when their own, rare, candidates lost, they would advance bitter recall after bitter recall, simply refusing to accept the voters choice, and the fact that they couldn’t buy elections in this tiny town.

Into the mix came two women, Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias. Wealthy conservatives, they quickly fixated on and targeted mayor Mick Ireland. Ireland had been a County Commissioner who was term limited out then ran successfully for mayor. A classic liberal, Ireland personified the antidevelopment ski-bum ethos that had been entrenched in Aspen since the 70’s, he was also characterized by his utter lack of charm. His often rude and dismissive attitude towards the wealthy, the developers, and dull witted Republicans in general, made him a hero to the rank and file and despised by his enemies. Even his closest friends and staunchest supporters were occasionally stunned by his treatment of political opponents during city council meetings. Every time he opened his mouth, the target conservatives visualized on his back grew larger. Wealthy people who weren’t used to being treated like that were spitting nails.

Part 11: Let The Games Begin

Posted by Editor on 05/09/11 at 12:24 PM •  (0) Comments

Tags:  wealth, aspen, cleverly,

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