Mick Ireland does not deserve to be recalled
Pitkin County voters will go to the polls on Aug. 8 to decide yet again whether they want to throw two-term incumbent Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland out of office.
This is the third time Ireland’s foes have tried to get rid of him through the recall mechanism. One such attempt failed in the petition stage, one was soundly rejected by the voters. Now, for what we hopefully believe will be the last time, we advise our readers to vote “No” on the recall question.
The recall question is accompanied by a separate ballot on the choice of someone to take Ireland’s place, in the event he is recalled. We will get to that shortly.
For the record, Ireland is an abrasive, forceful politician who undeniably rubs some people the wrong way. And his critics, of whom there are a fair number, are completely entitled to their feelings about him, and they also are entitled to sponsor candidates against him in electoral contests.
The fact is, they have done this twice in regular elections, in 1994 and 1998, and he has won the voters’ endorsement both times. He has openly and clearly declared his goals and political intentions, he has made no attempts to hide his manners or his message, and he has followed through on the promises he has made to the voters. In the sense that he has done exactly what he promised during his election campaigns, Mick Ireland is a rare “honest” politician.
Ireland has been a strident and fairly consistent voice in the local political wilderness. He has held to his positions under intense pressure from powerful opponents who feel the county should be run differently, and who particularly blame him for the county’s continuing efforts to keep growth under control.
Those who would remove him from office base their objections largely on his alleged bad manners. But, given the intense pressure he has faced, a strong response has often been required. If Ireland has occasionally crossed the line, it is unfortunate, but it must be noted that those who oppose him have often displayed far worse manners than he. It is further worth noting that somehow all those most deeply disturbed by his manners – and only, they insist, his manners – also stand against just about everything Ireland stands for, from mass transit to affordable housing and growth control.
The effort to recall Mick Ireland is an attempt to overturn the results of an official county election, removing from office an official elected by a wide margin. Those who launched the recall had nothing to lose. If Ireland retains his seat, he has at least been distracted for months. He might, at best, be intimidated for the remainder of his turn in office. And, if he is removed, his opponents would have achieved a result they were unable to accomplish through the full electoral process.
By focusing this election entirely on Mick Ireland’s alleged flaws, his opponents have managed to avoid any scrutiny of their own political positions and motivations. In a normal election, both candidates have to meet the voters, reveal who they are and explain how they would handle the major issues of the day. No such openness to the public is required in a recall.
The recall proponents know that, in addition to serious public scrutiny of their political positions in a regular election, there would also be close monitoring of their observance of campaign-finance laws. They have already violated these laws. Although they claim justification for their violations of campaign laws, it should be pointed out that much of their case against Ireland is built on their claim that he willfully overrides certain laws they would like to see observed. We do not think Mick Ireland has broken any laws – and we certainly think neither Ireland nor his opponents should be free to pick and choose among the laws that are on the books. Before they object to his alleged violations, they should clean up their own very clear ones.
The basic facts of this election can be summed up quite simply – Mick Ireland has always said plainly what he intended to do if elected, has done what he said he would do when elected, and does not deserve to be recalled.
Vote NO on recall. Replacement candidates As for the second question, that of choosing a replacement if Ireland is recalled, the law provides that all who vote on the recall issue also have the opportunity to vote on candidates who hope to replace Ireland.
It is an unfortunate part of the recall election that, if Mick Ireland is removed from office, he will be replaced by a candidate who has not run a full campaign, open to the scrutiny of the voters. Indeed, one of the two replacement candidates in this election was out of town until just before the election.
Given that, it is even more unfortunate that both Pepper Gomes and MaryEllen Schembri pointedly declined to take advantage of the one opportunity they had to show their faces to the community at large, a hastily called candidates forum held Thursday night at The Gant. With a spate of flimsy excuses and disingenuous claims about prior commitments, they turned down invitations to the only truly public forum to be held this election season, a forum that citizens could either watch live or check out later on GrassRoots TV. This disinclination to be open and upfront with their candidacies does not bode well for their capabilities to serve as representatives of the people.
Still, voters are expected to choose one of them as Ireland’s replacement, in the event the recall is successful, so let us look at their qualifications.
It appears, from what little we know of the pair, that Gomes is the more open, least tainted candidate. He is a good man, a longtime, hard-working local resident who has made his living by the sweat of his brow and his skill on skis. He is the kind of person who ought to be better represented in local government. He has honestly answered questions about his stands on some critical issues. And while the positions he has taken are not something we can endorse, we appreciate his willingness to be open and honest and take a stand.
Schembri, on the other hand, has yet to give a comprehensive or comprehensible account of her political beliefs and agenda. She offers platitudes about the need for less “disharmony and discord,” but does not say how she stands on the difficult issues of the day. Moreover, she is one of the original members of the recall committee, and it would be a travesty of electoral justice if she were to fill a vacancy that she helped create by launching the recall.
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