The Mick laws |

The Mick laws

Dear Editor:

Aspen is a city of unique beauty, history, culture, and friendliness. Aspen also seems to be a city with a unique legal system. In most places the laws are written in books where citizens can read them and understand their rights and obligations.

In Aspen, one apparently must await announcement by our mayor of the ad hoc rules he thinks ought to apply from day to day and according to his whim whether or not they actually were enacted into law. We could save a lot of printing costs, as the law books seem to be superfluous to the mayor.

Another Aspen citizen and I sponsored a petition about Castle Creek hydro that attracted 953 Aspen voters’ signatures. Our city clerk is reviewing the signatures now for validity. Meanwhile, a local news reporter who knew nothing about the law thought there might be some campaign rules that ought to apply to our effort. He mucked around and dug up a part of a state law (which we believe does not apply) and waived it around City Hall, asking why it didn’t apply.

City employees weren’t sure about the answer, so they did the professional thing: They performed some research, resulting in a letter from the city clerk asking us to register with the city as an “issue committee.” The city did not ask us to disclose any information at this time about money raised or spent promoting the petition because even the city’s interpretation of the law did not require that. We researched the law and responded to the city about our view of the applicable law. We even voluntarily provided the city with the information it requested as a showing of good faith, even though we believe it is not legally required.

In short, our view is that city law applies, and it does not require even the requested registration at this time; that state law does not apply because Aspen is a home rule municipality. The city has a somewhat different view. Both views are based on reading the law. We voluntarily met with city legal officials to discuss our respective views, as we understand this is a complex area of law on which people can disagree in good faith. The correspondence between the city and us is public record; anyone who wants to know the facts about our discussions can get the letters and read them.

Instead of allowing the matter to be resolved in an orderly and professional manner by competent city officials, our mayor preempted and interfered with the activities of professionals in City Hall by writing letters to the papers “demanding names.” When asked for the legal authority for his demand, he produced none and said that isn’t his job. He has told us what is “customary” and that we know the law as well as he does.

We can’t confirm the mayor’s legal knowledge, but we certainly do know the law; we read it and are following it to the best of our ability. The mayor, meanwhile, tosses around baseless demands and makes up imaginary legal requirements. Maybe that’s OK for a partially informed reporter, but unseemly if not downright improper for a mayor.

We are resolving any differences with the professionals in City Hall, who also have read the law. If the mayor wants to be city attorney and city clerk as well as mayor, he can eliminate three jobs in City Hall and save the city some money. One way in which the mayor could accomplish this is to imagine some other non-existent law he can accuse City Hall professionals of violating and fire them. Or maybe, he ought to let professionals do their jobs and let citizens work with City Hall professionals to resolve routine matters courteously.

Maurice Emmer


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