An endorsement for Mick Ireland |

An endorsement for Mick Ireland

Like most mayoral elections in Aspen, this one has been marked by rhetorical volleys and polarizing remarks.

And, once again, the field is full of colorful characters ” candidates with whom we might not always agree, but appreciate because of the time they have spent to improve the quality of life in Aspen.

There is incumbent Mick Ireland, loathed as much for his hardball style as he is revered for his tireless ” or some would say overzealous ” pursuit to control growth in Aspen.

Challenger Marilyn Marks’ fiery campaign has pulled no punches concerning Ireland, and has sparked a formidable movement to dethrone the mayor on a platform that advocates civility and property rights.

Local TV personality Andrew Kole’s candidacy hinges on upgrading Aspen’s marketing efforts and building consensus.

Longtime local LJ Erspamer is the wild card who touts himself as an independent thinker acting on principle.

The chatter around town is this the most important election Aspen has seen in some time. It seems we hear that every election season, but this time that observation resonates more than it has in the past. Aspen, like the rest of the country, is in the midst of an economic crisis. Locals are losing jobs, businesses are shutting down, construction activity is moving at a glacial pace and there’s a general sense that we’ll be in this predicament for a while.

That means we need a mayor who is smart, trustworthy and has keen economic sense.

As savvy as she is, we are suspicious of Marks. Based on her behavior in the months and weeks leading up to the May 5 election, Marks is undeniably intelligent and does her homework. She deserves credit for exposing questionable practices and decisions at City Hall, but her blog, The Red Ant, has been unnecessarily nasty and smug; these are not the ingredients for leadership. Similarly, her divide-and-conquer campaign approach runs counter to her pledge that she would bring everyone together.

Kole, a perennial campaigner for city office, has run on essentially the same platform he has in the past. He brings humor to the campaign and advocates consensus building. Kole has received a bad rap for being a candidate whose chief goal is to promote himself, but we disagree with that tired assessment. Kole sits on numerous volunteer boards and has proven he cares about Aspen. But we don’t think he has the vision and foresight to get Aspen back on its feet. Kole would make a fine Aspen marketing guru, but we don’t think he’s mayoral material.

Erspamer demonstrated the most civility of all candidates without ever boasting about it, but he might be a victim of his own kindness. A likable, community-minded guy and the quintessential longtime local [he was a ski patrolman, ran a rafting company and sold real estate], Erspamer lacks the particular grit that Aspen needs in a mayor right now, and his platform lacks focus.

Which brings us to Ireland. He can be abrasive, even rude at times, but his record demonstrates an absolute focus on Aspen’s health, as a resort and a community. To us, Ireland’s manners leave much to be desired, but his priorities as a public servant are never in doubt.

Local priorities such as housing, transportation and the environment are not “talking points” for Ireland. They are issues that he literally lives and breathes, and has for years. He logs untold numbers of volunteer hours on these issues, not only in local government meetings but at the state capitol and in Washington, D.C.

Of the four mayoral candidates, he has the most clear and integrated view of Aspen’s future and how it needs to change in order to succeed. He wants a sustainable resort economy, and not a boom-and-bust economy based on real estate development and speculation.

We ask Aspen residents to vote for Mick Ireland for mayor on May 5.

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