Spark lit for “next generation”
More than 200 people attended the young voter informational event held in Aspen on Wednesday.
When it comes to the ballot issues voters are considering in this fall’s election the sentiment was that of a shared, inter-generational community.
Proponents of each ballot measure - property tax funding for the school district and the hospital; using the old armory building as a community center, and the development of Base 2 Lodge - each spoke briefly before crowd. Then, attendees were able to mingle and learn more, as well as register to vote.
Almost 32 percent of Pitkin County’s registered voters are under 40. That’s enough to have a powerful influence during election season, but the problem is they don’t show up.
Kyle Piorkowski has lived in the valley for four years, but says orchestrated deals behind-the-scenes made voting seem useless. Piorkowski is indicative of the younger generation trying to make it in Aspen. He works four jobs, and says he has experienced the “bad habits” and “darkness” that can be found in the valley. This year, though, he is inspired by the passion of his young friends who are increasingly concerned with community issues.
“When you see people like that, when you see how connected everyone wants to be, the passion to still have a choice and act like it instead of just talk about it…” he said. “So if me participating in voting can drive that even further then that's awesome.” Piorkowski says he will be voting this election.
While attendees say this year's ballot questions are relevant to the entire community, many acknowledged that there is a generational divide in town. Taylor Ortiz is both a millennial voter and an Aspen native, putting her in the camp of being a young-oldtimer.
“I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “I want to keep the consistency and the originality that we think of from the Hunter Thomson days, but at the same time I know we need to evolve and we need young companies in there, and young ideas.”
Former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland is a career politician and has collected extensive data on local elections for the past three decades. He says only 8 percent of voters under thirty years old voted in this past spring’s election. He wrote in his recent Aspen Daily News column that anyone counting on the young vote will be a loser sparked a challenge to the young demographic in attendance. And perhaps that was his intention.
“The future is going to be shaped by those who show up,” he said via cell phone yesterday. “If you aren’t there nobody is going to care what you think.”