Former mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks sells home, moves to Denver | AspenTimes.com

Former mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks sells home, moves to Denver

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Marilyn Marks — the runner-up to Mick Ireland in the 2009 mayoral race who spent years fighting the city of Aspen over its election processes and other issues — has sold her West Aspen house and relocated to Denver.

Marks, who moved to Aspen in 2002, bought her 3,600-square-foot residence on Homestake Drive in October 2006 for $5.07 million, according to Pitkin County Assessor's Office records. The sale closed on Monday to a buyer listed as Homerunstake LLC for $3.85 million.

When asked Thursday if she was disappointed in the sale price, Marks answered the question with a question.

"Isn't everybody always disappointed with the sale price of their home?" she said.

Marks — praised in some Aspen circles, vilified in others — specialized in asking questions during her time in Aspen. Over the years, friends and foes all came to agree on one thing: She possesses a unique brand of tenacity.

Shortly before a 2005 public vote on the question of moving the Burlingame affordable-housing development forward, Marks found an error in a city brochure that had been widely circulated to residents. The brochure lowballed the project cost. The city ended up apologizing for its mistake.

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In 2007, incensed that the city had passed an emergency ordinance restricting properties 30 years old and older from being demolished without public input, Marks dove into the process and worked with another activist and city staff to rewrite the measure.

She is perhaps best known locally for her battles with city government following the 2009 municipal election. For the first time, the city was relying on technology known as Instant Runoff Voting, a system designed to choose the ultimate winner without going to the expense of an actual runoff election.

After coming in second to Ireland in the mayoral contest, Marks was critical of the system and asked for digital copies of the ballot images. But the city denied her request, citing state law and the public's right to a secret ballot.

Marks filed a lawsuit in October 2009 (naming then-City Clerk Kathryn Koch as the defendant). A district judge dismissed the case in March 2010. Marks appealed, and the state Court of Appeals in September 2011 ruled in her favor.

The city filed a writ of certiorari in November 2011 asking the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case, but the higher court declined — thus handing Marks the win in her quest to view the images. Later, a judge ordered the city of Aspen to pay Marks a little more than $195,000 for her attorneys' fees related to the legal battle, less than half of what she sought.

Through it all, Marks always insisted that her fight with the city was about transparency — not the election result.

Marks said her experience with working to change Aspen's elections systems brought her to where she is now. She has founded an advocacy group, The Citizen Center, which in the past few years has thrust itself into numerous elections controversies in counties across the state.

"I am still working on the same issues I was five years ago, which is transparency of elections and making sure that ballots are completely secret," she said. "I'm now on my fifth lawsuit specifically on secret ballots. I've done 20-something lawsuits, either on transparency of elections, which was the Aspen issue, or secret ballots.

"To sum up what I'm doing, I'm working (to ensure) that ballots are marked in private and counted in public."

City Attorney Jim True, who spent long hours working on behalf of the City Council to counter Marks' legal strategies, declined comment when told that Marks sold her Aspen house and moved to Denver. Neither Ireland nor current Mayor Steve Skadron could be reached for comment Thursday.

Elizabeth Milias — who started a conservative blog with Marks in 2008 called The Red Ant and continued to manage it after Marks stepped away — suggested that Marks should be appreciated in the community for shining a light on flaws in city government.

"I think one of the fortunate outcomes for the city was that Marilyn's lawsuit forced their hand to upgrade their election systems," Milias said.

In the bigger picture, "The hard questions that she asked brought forth the Burlingame scandal and exposed Instant Runoff Voting for the mess that it was. She held the city's feet to the fire," Milias said.

Marks said she has not soured on Aspen, and hinted that she might return one day. Her work in other parts of the state made it difficult to remain in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially during harsh winters with poor travel conditions.

andre@aspentimes.com

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