THE BLOG

Aspen Gunfight at the Hotel Jerome

12/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The only thing historic about Aspen's hstoric Hotel Jerome these days is the historical record that tells the story of how the mayor and the previous city council managed to take a sure thing, a good thing, and turn it into scat that still stinks up the whole city.

If you're just joining us, then you may not have heard the Hotel Jerome is now up for auction after its current set of owners turned out to be cash-poor at the worst possible time. But what you may not remember is how the City of Aspen turned its back on the Gaylord family, the previous owners of the Jerome, and all but forced them to sell out, albeit after the family made millions of dollars in profits.

What was their sin? The Gaylord family wanted to add some fractional units to the Jerome, and the City threw up enough hurdles to render the idea moot. The Gaylords did the smart thing and got out while the getting was good.

In such fashion did Mayor Mick Ireland and the anti-development former Aspen City Council majority managed to kill the golden goose just as it was alighting downtown. Like the zillionaire Crown family, the benevolent owners of the Aspen Skiing Company, the Gaylords would have been all but perfect owners of the Hotel Jerome, dedicated to its care and feeding of the grand old building more or less in perpetuity. But they made the tragic mistake of mentioning the D word.

Development.

Say it in Aspen and you're all but doomed to fail.

Instead, we have a mayor who came to office as a champion of affordable housing -- a euphemism for making the rich pay through the nose to shelter those less fortunate, namely the voters who blithely and blindly vote for Mayor Ireland every two years.

And what exactly has happened to affordable housing in his two terms?

We had the mishandling of the Burlingame fiasco. And the land rush that coughed up $38 million for a few pieces of land, including the unimaginable $18 million for the lumber yard. And the continuing attempt to saddle the unborn with hundreds of millions of debt to pay for ... affordable housing. And the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) shortfall. And now the truly pathetic attempts at the "public-private" partnership for the simple reason that the City of Aspen has no money to pay for affordable housing.

If it weren't so tragically unnecessary you could be watching opera buffo at the equally historic Wheeler Opera House, where a developmental tragedy of its own is only now unfolding.

Welcome to Historic Aspen, where the richest of the rich meet the poor of spirit.