City: Aspen roundabout no place for politics
November 3, 2015
Election season is no stranger to dust-ups over campaign signs and where they are allowed. Lee Mulcahy is making sure of that for this fall campaign, as well.
The outspoken Mulcahy, a candidate for the Aspen school board, had a lively email exchange with City Attorney Jim True this week after Mulcahy accused Mayor Steve Skadron of ordering political signs removed from the roundabout.
True said Thursday the city had received complaints about political signs in the roundabout, prompting officials to move them. Skadron merely heard some complaints and passed them on to the city, True said.
The roundabout's island is publicly owned, meaning political signs are prohibited there.
In an email he sent to Skadron on Tuesday, Mulcahy accused the mayor of ordering the removal of signs promoting the defeat of Base2 Lodge from the roundabout island.
Mulcahy also accused Skadron of overriding what Mulcahy said was the City Attorney's Office's policy allowing signs in the roundabout.
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Later Tuesday, True responded to Mulcahy's email.
"The suggestions you made, which I must assume are politically motivated, are entirely false," True wrote. "The signs that violate these provisions will continue to be removed, including your sign in front of the Forest Service property and on public property near the roundabout. Any sign removed can be retrieved at the Parks Department."
True also cited city code that states: "Political signs may not be placed on publicly owned property, rights-of-way adjacent to public property or within the state Highway 82 traffic way, including the roundabout and traffic islands. Political signs carried or worn by a person are exempt from these limitations."
Prior to the complaints about the political signs at the roundabout, the city's level of enforcement there hadn't been an issue.
In an email to True on Wednesday, Mulcahy suggested the city was getting too rigid with its sign enforcement.
"We're still a community, regardless of the 23 pages of 'Moscow in the Mountains' sign rules, so I'll bend over to stay on the good side of City Hall," his email said. "However, citizens should realize that it's a testament to how corporate Aspen has become that yesterday's 'live and let live' hippie/counter-cultural longstanding policy regarding the signs in the roundabout has recently been altered by the city."
Mulcahy was on the campaign trail Thursday and couldn't be reached for comment. His campaign manager, Ray Cheney, said Mulcahy recognized his mistake of accusing Skadron of overstepping his authority.
"He is going to apologize to Steve," Cheney said. "He went off in Lee world, and it was just a tempest in a teapot."
And apologize Mulcahy did: "Steve, sorry about the tone of the prior email. I had no idea the number of complaints regarding the signs; I completely understand the enforcement of the sign ordinance as written. Sorry, Lee."
Mulcahy, or any other candidate for that matter, can still use public space such as Paepcke Park to post their political signs, but only if they secure permits.
That's what Mulcahy has done. He rented Paepcke Park on Wednesday for a campaign rally, and he has it secured for today and Monday. He paid the city $50 for each day of use, and he's allowed to place as many as five campaign signs in the park while the events are in progress, True said.
True said anyone can hold up a political sign on public property. But if a stake is planted, it's a different matter.
"You stick it in the ground, you've got to rent the park," he said. "That's the distinction."