Colson: A bushel of sour grapes in Basalt?

with John Colson

It appears that a couple of residents in Basalt have concluded that the voters got it wrong in the recent municipal election, and that it is the job of the two objectors to toss newly (and narrowly) re-elected Mayor Jacque Whitsitt off the town council.

Both of the voters — Mary Kenyon and Stacey Craft, both supporters of losing mayoral candidate Rick Stevens — have asked the town clerk to provide the names of 187 voters who cast their ballots on election day, although Craft withdrew her request after learning of Kenyon’s move to get the same information, according to recent news coverage of the aftermath of the close election.

Kenyon reportedly first made her skepticism known on Facebook, where she declared that she had “been here since 2001” and couldn’t reckon why she had seen faces at the polling place on election day that she did not recognize.

By some pretty questionable logic, she seems to be arguing that 15 years of residence in Basalt has given her a sufficiently broad base of friends around town that she knew everyone who might decide to vote.

I’ve been around this valley for nearly 40 years and long ago admitted that the valley’s population is growing at a gallop rather than a walk, the number of new faces has outstripped my abilities to meet and remember even most of them, and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

I’m also puzzled at Kenyon’s apparent supposition that if mail ballots are available, anyone who might choose to vote the old-fashioned way is somehow suspect.

I resent that notion. I always have distrusted mail-in ballots and long have preferred to go to a polling place and cast my ballot in person, whether by dropping it in the ballot box watched over by the town clerk, or by going behind the voting-booth curtain and making my marks in the little black boxes.

Call me anachronistic, call me neurotically tied to the past, call me whatever you want, but I like the politically intimate contact of going in and casting my vote in person, while at the same time catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while.

There undoubtedly will come a day when I’m too lame to make the walk to the polling place, or they eliminate the possibility in some way that forces us to use the mails, but I don’t look forward to that day.

To return to the matter at hand, Kenyon, who reportedly was an open booster of Stevens’ candidacy, has claimed she has no particular axe to grind, she just wants to know that there were no “shenanigans” on election day.

Fair enough. Show her the names, and put an end to it.

Craft, on the other hand, has declared she wants to eject Whitsitt from the mayor’s job, through the use of some unspecified “mechanisms,” according to the news stories.

It appears that Craft is not planning to mount a recall against Whitsitt, but has decided the best way to get around the election results is to accuse Whitsitt of misdeeds during a previous term in office.

So far, the alleged “misdeeds” don’t seem to have a lot of oomph behind them, and I doubt if Whitsitt is very worried.

Well, we’ve been down this road a few times in my years here, most publicly and notoriously in the efforts by disgruntled voters to get rid of former Pitkin County Commissioner and Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who was elected and re-elected so many times in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s that I can’t count them off the top of my head.

A quick stroll through Google, however, turned up a 2013 article in Sojourner magazine by the late Stewart Oksenhorn, which stated that Ireland was victorious in 10 elections over the years.

And in at least two of those contests, possibly three (if you want exact historical details, look it up), he was targeted by his political enemies for recall, although mostly it was strictly a matter of sour grapes on the part of people who did not like his style, his diehard championship of local working people’s right to have affordable housing options, his battle to minimize the social damage of rampant luxury development, or just about any other thing he said or fought for.

Now, I’m not comparing Whitsitt to Ireland — either or both of them might take offense at that — and I recognize that in cases where someone wins election by popular vote, the losers get the chance to make their case if they truly believe the vote count was rigged or hanky-panky was going on.

But just as it was with the efforts to sink Ireland, so it appears to be in this move against Whitsitt.

Some people can’t accept it when they or their side do not win, and too often they are of the personality type that finds it easy to noisily make much ado about nothing.

And the rest of us just have to put up with it.

Aspen Times Weekly

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