Drawn into the crossfire | AspenTimes.com

Drawn into the crossfire

Dear Editor:

The compassion and admiration I feel toward all who offer to serve in elected office is severely strained by a recent letter attacking me.

The letter is signed by an entity that refers to itself or themselves as The Red Ant and speaks in the third person. It claims I have a conflict of interest because my niece earned a scholarship from the Aspen Art Museum.

It is true that Kathleen Marie Bird was awarded a scholarship in her senior year of high school from the Aspen Art Museum based on demonstrated financial need and an expressed interest in a career in the visual arts.

That scholarship is one of three she has been awarded based on her artistic ability and the need of her family for financial aid. She was also given two scholarships by Denver University and one scholarship by the Red Brick Center for the Arts.

The clear implication of the attack is that Katie did not receive the aid because of her need or ability but because the Aspen Art Museum was trying to bribe me for support.

This attack, repeated by at least one other candidate running in the name of civility, is unfair, hurtful and most uncivil to Katie.

Katie Bird was one of three Aspen High students whose names were forwarded to the Aspen Art Museum for consideration for the scholarship. I did not have any input or awareness of this process.

Katie was a near straight-A student and is an art major and on the dean’s list at Denver University, where she did receive an A in her first college-level art class.

I have known Katie since the hour of her birth. At age 4, she was able to use a computer to draw a complete horse, which doesn’t sound like much except that she drew a complete horse without any training on my tiny laptop and learned only by watching me how to operate it.

She would frequently ask me to draw animals and people so she could watch them being drawn. By the age of 6, she was far past anything I could show her. By high school, the talent was obvious, and the honors began to flow her way, though she never was vain.

Don Bird and Molly Ireland are longtime Aspen residents, trying to send children to college on savings and the multijob lifestyle so many of us share. They, not I, are contending with debt and sacrifice to send my niece through school so that her talent may be realized.

The Red Ant authors allege I failed to disclose this alleged conflict. The city attorney found no conflict in the fact that my niece earned a scholarship from an entity that later asked voters to approve a negotiation for city property.

Katie’s parents disclosed the existence of the scholarship at a public hearing on the Aspen Art Museum election question.

I am sorry that my niece has been drawn into the political crossfire for having earned a scholarship on her own merit and her family’s need. While I accept that I have offered myself for office and must endure whatever is thrown my way, I find the implied attack on Katie Bird decidedly uncivil, unfair and unjust. She earned a scholarship on merit, and the community should be proud that our school and our arts community recognize and reward talent and hard work.

Thank you for listening to this side of the story.

Mick Ireland

Mayor of Aspen

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