Obscenities, secrets, hypocrisy & sheer stupidity – wow!
Aspen has been troubled by a curious political storm in the past few weeks. We would tend to call it a “Tempest in a Teapot,” except that the obscene language that has been part of the controversy inclines us toward dubbing it a “Tempest in a Chamber Pot.” Still, given the swirling nature of these roiled waters, let us simply refer to it as a “Tempest in a Urinal.”Whatever we call it, the uproar has been both distressing and ludicrous. It has involved: an obscenity spoken by one county commissioner to another; several obscenities used by a city councilman to describe the ex-mayor; a secret memo and a “secret” meeting. Any more plot elements and we might expect to find it at the top of the best-seller list – at which point we could all read it, dismiss it as trash and forget about it.Let’s look at the elements one at a time.The first was a scatological insult spoken by County Commissioner Mick Ireland to Commissioner Patti Clapper. Ireland, always hot-tempered and abrasive, has attracted a host of political enemies over the years and, when his remark was reported in the press, they immediately began to clamor for his resignation or recall for such outrageous behavior. But the fact is that his remark – though regrettable – was spoken by one adult to another in what was essentially a private conversation, before the start of a public meeting. The remark was overheard by a reporter and printed in a local newspaper. The truth is that both participants in the argument have undoubtedly heard – and said – far worse. Ireland should know better. He should learn to control his temper. But the uproar that followed was wildly out of proportion.How far out of proportion is revealed by the almost total lack of reaction to the obscene remarks made by City Councilman Tony Hershey about former Mayor John Bennett. Hershey’s remarks were more insulting than Ireland’s. They were made, not in the heat of an argument, but many days after the incident that elicited them. And, for what it’s worth, they were remarks made by a public official about a private citizen. But there were no demands for Hershey’s resignation or recall. There was no outcry about this “outrage.” Could it have been because those who attacked Ireland tend to support Hershey – and also oppose Bennett? Well, maybe.In fact, Hershey has apologized for his remarks. He has apologized fully – indeed, more than necessary. He’s new to public life and can be forgiven a few foolish mistakes; although we can certainly demand that a man of his obvious intelligence cannot claim to be a “slow learner” much longer. One cannot extend the same courtesy to Ireland’s opponents, whose hypocrisy is very clear and very shameful.Once we are finished with the obscenities, we can move on to the “secret” meeting and secret memo.The meeting should be a non-issue. It was not secret. True, it was not properly publicized and those responsible should not make that mistake again. The board in question is a public group; its meetings should be public and that’s that. However, the meeting in question was public. The press was in attendance. No effort was made to close the doors. Let’s drop this one.Finally, sadly, we get to the secret memo from former Mayor Bennett to most – but not all – of the City Council members and county commissioners, as well as a handful of other local officials. It was this memo that triggered the obscenities from Councilman Hershey, who was one of two elected officials excluded. The other was Commissioner Clapper.One has to wonder what in the world motivated someone as intelligent as Bennett to do something as stupid as think he could circulate a memo to eight of the 10 city and county elected officials and not get caught. It is beyond imagining. Perhaps even worse is the fact that the contents of the memo were not worth keeping secret. The missive, in essence, encouraged the elected officials to keep trying to secure the money to finish the Entrance to Aspen. Yes, Bennett wants the Entrance completed so a train can run over the new bridges along the new right of way – but those who oppose the train also want the Entrance completed, so a four-lane highway can run across those same bridges along that same right of way. “Try to finish the project we all want finished” – Wow! That sure is a message worth keeping secret.Can we draw any conclusions from this Tempest in a Urinal? Perhaps two:One, that hypocrites will scream and shout and should be ignored.And, two, that perhaps we shouldn’t chastise the intelligent Councilman Hershey for acting foolishly during his first month in office, given that the intelligent Mayor Bennett acted with at least equal foolishness at the end of his eighth year in office.Now flush this damn thing and let’s get on with the serious business this valley faces.
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