`I won’t resign’
Surrounded by nearly three-dozen supporters and white balloons embossed with “I Don’t Recall” and “You Can’t Lick Mick,” Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland declared: “I want to make it clear, I am not resigning.”
Ireland held a rally at noon yesterday in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse to announce his plans to fight for his seat in a recall election likely to be held Aug. 8.
The announcement comes just one week after Ireland said he might step down in the face of relentless criticism and community discord.
The commissioner has been the focus of some people’s ire since early January, when the county adopted a six-month moratorium on development applications for large homes. Sources close to the recall have said in past interviews that recall meetings began in January, although the campaign to remove him didn’t formally begin until the end of February.
If his opponents drum up 33 more signatures on their recall petitions by June 1, Ireland will face his fourth election in six years.
Ireland’s statement yesterday closely followed a draft statement that was the subject of lead stories in both local newspapers Thursday. He began with an apology to the people who have been offended by his behavior, and promised to do what he could to change.
The focus of the recall campaign has been Ireland’s behavior, recallers say, not the issues. But Ireland characterized the recall as an assault on the will of the people, who have supported him in two general elections and one previous recall election since 1994.
And he called on his supporters to refrain from negative attacks and name-calling that has marked the campaign against him.
“My name and my beliefs have been deliberately tied to the great tyrants of history in a fashion that has probably done irreparable damage not just to me, but to the aspirations of anyone who might seek political office in the future,” Ireland said.
Banker Howie Mallory was among the supporters present yesterday. “I support Mick – absolutely. I think he holds and represents the basic philosophy of this community,” he said. That includes controlling growth and “maintaining the quality of life we all moved here to enjoy.”
“The man’s an environmentalist, and that supersedes any problems with his personality,” said conservationist Patty Lecht. “And I’m bothered that money can buy someone out of office – especially when we don’t know where that money’s coming from.”
“I think Mick is much more than a local figure,” said six-year resident George Detko. “He’s a symbol to me that if you work hard enough and are smart enough, you can block an area from being destroyed by greedy developers.”
Detko said he’s been particularly impressed with the fact that government and community leaders from around the country have in recent years consulted Ireland in their own efforts to control development.
“I’m as Republican as you can get and Mick’s as Democrat as you can get, but I support him and everything he stands for in this campaign,” said retired dentist and longtime resident Bruce Carlson. “You can’t buy Mick Ireland – that’s why we need him. I don’t trust Schoenberger on that level.”
Recall spokesman David Schoenberger, who was filming the event with a camcorder, was the only member of the recall campaign at the rally. He said he was filming the event so he could show it to others in the recall campaign and had no plans to use the video of Ireland and his supporters for television advertising.
Ireland ended his speech with a thinly veiled criticism of his opponents’ fund-raising techniques by promising full disclosure of his campaign contributions. The pledge was aimed at so-called issue groups like the Redstone-based Common Sense Alliance, which refuses to identify its financial backers. The Alliance has announced its support for the recall, and spent money on full-page newspaper ads attacking the two-term commissioner.
Asked if the recall campaign would pressure the Common Sense Alliance to publicly disclose the sources of the money spent in the recall effort, Schoenberger said, “I don’t think that’s our place. But we’ve done what we’re supposed to do,” referring to the fact that the Committee to Recall Mick Ireland has filed financial disclosure forms with the county clerk.
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