Myrin email blasts incumbents as Aspen election nears
April 13, 2017
If Aspen's municipal campaign has seemed a bit sleepy of late, City Councilman Bert Myrin shook it wide awake Wednesday morning.
Myrin fired off a blast email lambasting incumbents Art Daily and Ann Mullins as well as Mayor Steve Skadron while endorsing challengers Ward Hauenstein and Torre. Myrin did not endorse a candidate in the mayoral race, which pits Skadron against challenger Lee Mulcahy.
Both sitting council members said Myrin's email, which came three weeks before the May 2 mail-ballot election, was misleading and unexpected.
"Here Bert is serving on council and attacking the mayor and two City Council members," Daily said. "I guess he wants to replace us pretty badly."
Mullins said, "It's very difficult to address this when (Myrin's political opinions) are done through emails and Facebook posts. It's not done directly face to face. It would be easier to talk through these things, but I end up secondhand finding out what he's saying, and it really sets up an unhealthy dynamic at the council table."
Candidate Skippy Mesirow also found himself the target of the Red Ant political blog Tuesday, when government critic Elizabeth Milias offered her endorsement — actually just one, for Hauenstein — and lambasted Mesirow for not responding to her candidate questionnaire. Mesirow, speaking at The Aspen Times offices Tuesday, insisted he emailed his answers to Milias and she overlooked them. Mesirow said his chief worry was that Milias has more than 2,500 subscribers, many of them Aspen voters, who now wrongly believe he blew off the Red Ant.
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Myrin, meanwhile, conceded that his stance against his fellow council members will make it "incredibly awkward" to do business with them in the future.
However, he noted that when he was pitted against liberal stalwart Mick Ireland in the June 2015 runoff for a council seat, elected Aspen officials — including Daily, Mullins and Skadron — wrote letters to the newspapers and their supporters endorsing Ireland.
"I think they all opened the door," Myrin said, adding that he did not endorse Mulcahy because he does not believe his candidacy is strong enough to propel him to the mayor's seat.
In a May 2015 letter to his supporters, Councilman Adam Frisch wrote, "I feel Mick is by far and away the better choice." Skadron wrot, "I can trust Mick to tell me honestly and directly what his position is." Daily, in a May 2015 letter to The Aspen Times, opined that Ireland "will fight unto the last for what he believes is right for our community." Also in a May 2015 edition of the Times, an endorsement letter from Mullins called Ireland a "strategist, a team player and an authority on local issues."
Despite their pleas to Aspen voters, Myrin ran away with the win by a near 2-1 margin. It was Ireland's first defeat running for a seat in either the city or Pitkin County.
Taking his colleagues to task
Myrin's email offers a succinct yet detailed argument on why Daily, Mullins and Skadron "have been out of touch with Aspen over the past four years."
Among the issues he criticizes them over are their positions to preserve water rights on the Castle and Maroon creeks with the creation of dams in the future, their approval of plans for a new police station that will be heated with natural gas and not renewable energy, fiscal decisions that included their approval of a $500,000 transportation study, and making questionable decisions about development that led voters in 2015 to favor a Home Rule Charter amendment that waters down the council's authority on land-use decisions.
"I could go item by item," Mullins said. "But basically he has got a lot of information wrong."
Among those errors, Mullins said, was Myrin's assertion that Mullins chose to appoint Dwayne Romero over Howie Mallory when there was a council vacancy in July 2013. While Mullins supported the appointment of Mallory, when the final vote was tallied she agreed with the rest of the council to appoint Romero.
Mullins also said Myrin's grouping of her and Daily together is misleading to voters.
"Art and I are many times on opposite sides of the issues," she said. "We're in a campaign now, and you don't want to be lumped together with someone else."
Daily also defended his record and said Myrin's missive failed to put his policymaking in the proper context.
Both Hauenstein and Torre, in separate meetings with The Aspen Times over the past two weeks, said they are not running as a ticket. Myrin said he has not met with them about formalizing a campaign strategy to dethrone Daily and Mullins.
Myrin called Hauenstein and Torre "independent thinkers" who are beholden to no one and won't "circle the wagons" at City Hall when a crisis surfaces. The same cannot be said for Daily, Mullins and Skadron, he said.
"I've given them both the same advice, that they've got to go out and get some endorsements from city voters," he said. "Those are what translates to votes."