“In the end, it’s all about money.”
Google that supremely cynical phrase and you’ll get thousands of iterations, with a single governing idea: greed is rampant! Scoundrels unburdened by conscience are making big bucks and you aren’t!
Fine by me, actually — in fact, it’s always a pleasure to read about the inventive scalawags who manage to make off with a bundle without actually doing much of anything. And similarly, it’s refreshing to read about the selfless behavior of our elected officials, who so often introduce legislation without any prospect of personal gain.
But most of all, wouldn’t we all like a simple, painless, and upright way to make a bundle without a lot of work? Of course we would — and here it is!
If you own a home in Denver or Colorado Springs, last week’s newspapers made for some notably unpleasant reading. Foreclosures in both markets reached near-record levels, and property values scarcely appreciated. If you were hoping that your home equity was going to puff up enough to make that retirement home in Costa Rica a reality, you had to resign yourself to another dismal Colorado winter.
But it was a different story for the lucky few who own homes in Aspen.
The average price of a single-family home in that desolate little town on the western slope increased from a piddling $4.3 million in 2005 to a slightly more robust $5.44 million in 2006.
In Denver, by contrast, the median price of a single-family home in 2006 reached $249,900 — 4.5 percent of its Aspen counterpart. That was up $2,900 from 2005, a whopping 1.16 percent rate of appreciation.
Aspen property appreciated at an annual rate of 26.5 percent — a rate which was described by a local Realtor as “sustainable.”
Now let’s assume that the future will resemble the past, that property in Aspen and Denver will continue to rise in value at the baseline rates established in 2006. If you own the median house in Denver, by 2016 your homestead will be worth a big $290,000 — not all that bad, really!
But if you own an average house in Aspen — just a rickety old miner’s shack, updated with electric lights, a space heater and running water — it’ll be worth a cool $57 million come 2016.
Now you may scoff, but here’s a cautionary tale: way back during the second Eisenhower administration, your columnist was up in Aspen drinking illegally, skiing badly and looking for girls unsuccessfully, when he noticed a “for sale” sign on a substantial brick Victorian near downtown on a big lot — not just an average house, but a superb house. The price? $27,500.
I was only 18, but I knew a scam when I saw one. At that time, you could have bought a much bigger, much better and far more practical place on North Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs for about $20,000.
So — pity the fool! — I laughed at the overpriced pile of bricks, and walked on.
But let’s face it — it was a good decision. To collect my millions in appreciation, I would have had to wait for nearly 50 years — and who wants to do that? Nope, the ground floor in Aspen is right now! Just buy an average house, wait for 10 years, collect $50 million!
That’s my plan, anyway — so all I have to do is scrape up $5.44 million … and how hard can that be?
Meanwhile, it was interesting to note that newly sworn-in U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is out front and center promoting a new cemetery for Colorado Springs veterans.
For those of you who haven’t followed this particular issue, our local veterans strongly support the creation of a veteran’s cemetery in the Pikes Peak region. After all, the nearest such cemetery, the Fort Logan cemetery in Denver, is more than 70 miles away — and there are as many as 100,000 veterans living here, thought to be the third-largest such concentration in the country.
But according to the guidelines developed and refined during the past several decades by the VA, we don’t qualify. We’re too close to Fort Logan, which won’t run out of burial spaces until 2030. End of story — or is it?
Nope. It’s time for political maneuvering. The newly ascendant Democrats would be perfectly happy to throw the Springs a bone in the form of a cemetery — there’s even land on the periphery of Fort Carson that could be used for such a purpose, without affecting Carson’s mission.
But the Dems want to get the credit. More specifically, they want the Salazar brothers, Ed Perlmutter, and Mark Udall to be seen leading this particular fight. They want to strengthen Udall for a possible Senate run in 2008, and push the GOPsters into the shadows.
But Sen. Wayne Allard and our canny newcomer have other ideas.
Lamborn would like to grab at least some the credit, and erode support for his most likely Republican primary opponent in 2008, retired Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn. Allard would like to have at least one feel-good accomplishment to point to after a dozen obscure years in the Senate.
So what will happen? Most likely, the Dems will invite Lamborn and Allard to share the credit while helpfully pointing out that for all those years of Republican control, they didn’t have the decency to provide a cemetery for our vets … so all the politicians get something, and we finally get the burial ground that our veterans so need and so richly deserve.
And Lamborn is actually on his way to pulling this off as an obscure minority freshman, after Joel Hefley’s years of struggling in vain to bring a VA cemetery to Colorado. He’s cosponsoring the House bill with Bob Beauprez’s Democratic replacement, Ed Perlmutter. And, according the man himself, he hopes to persuade the entire Colorado delegation to sign on as co-sponsors.
If he succeeds, we’ll have a special award for him.
Henceforth, the increasingly ineffectual — one might say politically impotent — Douglas Bruce will no longer be known as “The Dougster.” That honorific will pass to the long-underestimated new sheriff in town, Congressman Lamborn … maybe we could even name the cemetery “Fort Dougster.”
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.