Milias: Aspen has spoken |

Milias: Aspen has spoken

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant
Elizabeth Milias

Like the 2022 “living lab” parking experiment, the Skippy Mesirow experiment is over.

He was shown the door in Tuesday’s municipal election.

There is new optimism that we might finally see some debate and discussion in City Hall, not to mention provocative questions and fiscal responsibility. It’s a seismic shift to add two guys who can read a financial report to a body that has notably been led around by city staff toward ridiculous experiments, unfunded developments, punitive policies, and legislative overreach.

It wasn’t even close. Sam Rose ran away in the three-way council race, capturing 2,323 votes (You could vote for two) in an election where just over 2,800 voted. He shot the inside straight with a brilliant strategy of not taking much of a position on anything because he never had to. Rose had a strong following of his own, and given the dramatic ideological battle lines between Mesirow and Bill Guth, Rose became everyone’s second vote.

Business owner Guth, who offers real-world, matter-of-fact pragmatism, garnered 1,499 votes to Mesirow’s 1286, and will quickly assume the role of the grownup in the room.

Torre retained his mayoral seat for a third and final two-year term but not without a valiant fight by his challenger, Tracy Sutton. He had intended to coast to re-election unopposed, but when Sutton threw her hat into the ring in the 11th hour, he was forced to actually campaign. In the end, despite his record of failed policies and weak leadership, he prevailed: 1,675-1,114.

But the real story is how a well-respected businesswoman who had never flirted with elected office managed to come so close and left Torre without a mandate. It was nothing short of baptism by fire for Sutton, who endured some of the uglier moments of this year’s campaign season, notably from Torre himself, as well as Councilman Ward Hauenstein. We owe a debt of gratitude to this newcomer to the Aspen political scene who surprised everyone. Let’s hope she isn’t done.

And as Mesirow packs his chakras and retreats to a safe space where he can do yoga with kittens and rainbows and sing kumbaya around the campfire, we can thank Rose and Guth for joining the race and saving us from more pie-in-the sky lunacy.

Mesirow’s final undoing was likely his misguided pandering to the nostalgia squad about an Aspen “revival” that longs for the 1970s instead of being future-focused and solutions-based about the issues of today.

Yes, the past is to be respected, cherished, and, where appropriate, preserved. But Aspen is most certainly not going backwards.

The community made itself clear that a future that respects our small-town values is the challenge before us, and we can’t get there with elected leadership that espouses nonsense like “we are a single organism, connection feeds compassion, and well-being is contagious” when we have a bridge to replace, a rogue housing program to fix, and a community to unite.

On election day, I received a get-out-the-vote message that said it all: “We don’t need any more well-intentioned but impractical goals. Vision without action is useless. Action without vision is reckless. True progress requires both.”

Clearly Aspen agreed. In a notable uptick in voter participation, 45% of registered voters showed up and brought the change we so desperately need.

Now, two new city council members is not a panacea, but it’s a step in the right direction. New eyes and ears — and the willingness to ask the tough questions — are reasons for optimism. 

With new electeds who can think independently and have sound financial skills, gone is wasteful spending on countless consultants whose reports go unchallenged. Gone is the evil specter of a vacancy tax. Gone are unquestioned expenditures on the Lumberyard when how to actually pay for it has never been discussed. Gone is back-burnering a renovation of the Armory for community use. Gone is ignoring expiring deed restrictions and construction-defect lawsuits within our housing program in favor of developing new projects. Gone is blind acceptance of staff priorities as policy. Gone is ignoring citizen outreach and feedback. Gone are ill-informed 5-0 votes at the council table.

The new dynamic will be interesting to watch. In a post-election interview, Torre notably said (to the 40% of voters who went with Sutton), “I hear you.” Darned right he did, and loudly. But the question remains: Will he listen?

I’ll take winning 2 out of 3 any day. Contact


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