Torre apologizes for Ireland joke over AAM |

Torre apologizes for Ireland joke over AAM

From left, Aspen City Council candidates Mick Ireland, Andy Israel and Bert Myrin appear at the Aspen Square Hotel, where the Pitkin County Democrats held a campaign forum Thursday.
Jeremy Wallace |

Aspen mayoral candidate Torre apologized Thursday for jokingly pointing at former Mayor Mick Ireland earlier this week when asked who is to blame for approval of the controversial Aspen Art Museum during a public appearance.

“I made an inappropriate joke, and I say ‘joke’ because I truly didn’t mean it,” Torre said Thursday during a candidate forum at the Aspen Square Hotel. “Mick, I apologize. No one person is responsible for the final result at the museum.”

What started out Thursday as a controlled discussion between Torre and incumbent Mayor Steve Skadron evolved into a free-form back and forth between the two candidates. One of the questions that spurred heated debate was on Referendum 1, which, if passed, would strip the council of its ability to grant development variances on height, mass, parking and affordable housing without a public vote.

Skadron said he favors public forums at City Hall with “fact-based discourse” over the “pithy marketing” campaigns he said Referendum 1 will incite.

“The Charter is the framework of our government and should not have land-use items attached to it,” Skadron said. “The council chamber is the place for land-use debate.”

Torre brought up the council’s recent passing of Ordinance 9, a city response to Referendum 1 that caps developer variance requests at 2 feet above allowable height and 5 percent beyond allowable floor area. While some council members have argued that Referendum 1’s passing would hinder the council’s capabilities, Torre said Ordinance 9 is even more restrictive.

“Talk about tying your community’s hands,” Torre said. “Ordinance 9 does more damage than good. What Referendum 1 does is nothing to limit land-use code now but allows the community to accept positive development.”

Earlier in the conversation, moderator Howard Wallach asked each candidate what qualities separate him from his opponent. Skadron said he wished he was sitting beside a different challenger, because he and Torre are philosophically aligned on many matters. Skadron asked Torre, who has repeatedly vowed to bring leadership and accountability to City Hall, what he has done to get him so upset.

“Which vote is it that I made that you so reject?” Skadron asked, adding that his two years as mayor and his meeting preparation separate him from his opponent.

“Steve, it’s not one vote that you’ve done that has upset me,” Torre responded.

Torre said that with projects such as the Gondola Plaza intersection and the City Hall space-needs concept, there is room for improvement. He argued that the intersection was poorly planned and will be “ripped up and done again.” He also said the options the city is moving forward with for City Hall are the largest and most expensive available.

Skadron responded that it’s a 50-year decision, and it’s easy to campaign on “let’s do nothing.” He said it would be careless to do the same at the council table.

The candidates will next appear in a public forum at Squirm Night on Thursday at City Hall.

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