Guess who’s not coming to dinner |

Guess who’s not coming to dinner

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” It appears there will be no exchange of olive branches over dinner for Mayor Mick Ireland and one of his more ardent local critics, Marilyn Marks.

The pair have been facing off for weeks over the city’s inaccurate depiction of the costs of building the Burlingame affordable housing project, planned for 236 units and only about a third complete.

The city, in a 2005 brochure given to voters as part of a public relations effort, said the total cost of the project was $74.3 million, with the overall taxpayer subsidy being $14.7 million.

City officials now say, however, that the total taxpayer subsidy will be $85.5 million, and that the wording of the brochure was a mistake, for which city officials have since apologized. Officials have explained the figures were meant to cover only the “hard” costs reflecting the building of the homes, but not such “soft” costs as the value of the land, the laying of utility lines and roads, or the establishment of a bus route to serve the residents there.

Marks has called for a special investigation into the issue, although a recent report by two independent auditing firms ruled that the city did not intentionally mislead voters.

But Marks and the mayor have not reconciled their stances on the issue, and have accused each other of a variety of transgressions.

Marks has accused the mayor of rudeness and being “less than truthful” in his remarks to the public on Burlingame and other matters.

Ireland, for his part, contends that Marks has hidden motives that have nothing to do with the numbers underlying Burlingame, and more to do with using a public platform to force a more conservative political agenda on City Hall in general and on the housing program in particular.

In an effort to ease the stalemate, The Aspen Times in an editorial on July 25 offered to foot the bill for a dinner meeting, with no one present but Marks and the mayor, to give them a chance to iron out any differences they may have in private. They also were offered a chance to submit an article to the Times recounting their meeting.

Marks, who was part of a citizen-volunteer committee looking into affordable housing issues and who discovered the discrepancy in the brochure, has said she would be willing to take part in the dinner meeting if there were a “mutually agreeable third party” on hand to witness the exchange and prevent any “rudeness” or “abusive treatment.”

For his part, Ireland responded to a reporter’s question about The Aspen Times’ offer by saying, “If she wants to come talk to me, she can come to my office.”

The combative and tumultuous relationship between the two has prompted some humor among observers, as when former city finance director Paul Menter presented each with a specially inscribed T-shirt.

Marks’ shirt, according to a reporter, declares “This Is Not A Date” on the front and back of the shirt.

Ireland’s shirt states, “Please edit/remove the following words and resubmit your content: mick,” in reference to the use of the word “mick” as a slur against people of Irish descent, and the fact that The Aspen Times’ website would not permit the word to be used in online comments to articles or letters to the editor. The ban has since been lifted.

According to a reporter who witnessed the T-shirt exchange, Ireland did not laugh when presented with his shirt.

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