Aspen Editorial Board: What Aspen councilman said is his right, it’s how and where that matter
When Skippy Mesirow campaigned for Aspen City Council in 2019, he declared City Hall broken, with residents experiencing “complete frustration with City Council getting anything done and constantly changing their minds.”
His campaign was branded around the image of a dynamic juggernaut in Aspen politics, an innovative Millennial hyper-qualified to shake up City Council with his contemporary overstock of ideas and ideals.
Some of Aspen’s old guard also rallied behind the 32-year-old Mesirow during his campaign — hotel developer John Sarpa, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his predecessor, Bob Braudis, gave Mesirow ringing endorsements.
It all added up to a second-place finish for Mesirow in March’s four-person contest for City Council, good enough for him to claim one of its two open seats.
Now as a councilman, what he says matters and can be seen as speaking on behalf of our fair city. We certainly want to know what he’s thinking, but we encourage him to think a bit more about what he says and how he says it.
Mesirow has only been in office since June. It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect the newcomer to satisfy his political pledges in just over seven months on the job.
Yet as City Hall takes significant steps to address some institutional shortcomings — it hired a communications director and brought on a new city manager since Mesirow took office — Mesirow seems to be working in the opposite direction.
We realize that we all live in glass houses and we will all make mistakes on the job. But as an elected public official, words — and actions — matter and will always fall under a more powerful microscope.
Mesirow’s flagrant lack of respect for his elected position, as well as his Aspen constituents, was on display in a video he recorded and posted on Instagram over the holidays.
While chronicling a drive through downtown Aspen during one of its busiest nights of the year, Mesirow haughitly declared that “I think it’s time we have the conversation about it’s too many people in town at peak season and they are not the right people and even if we have to take a little bit of a haircut on our income, which I certainly would, it’s worth it for quality of life and the character of our town.”
Mesirow is at liberty to say what he chooses on whatever medium he pleases. It’s not anyone’s place to gag him in a free society.
Yet Mesirow, whose online rant came fresh off his return to town from a weeklong “digital cleanse” in a foreign country, should know better than to grandstand about taking an income loss while also saying “they are not the right people.” When pressed for clarification by an Aspen Times reporter, he declined to elaborate. In an age of “words matter,” though, he owes his constituents more.
Mesirow did apologize when one of our reporters asked him about his comments. After he was pelted with criticism on social media following a Times story about the episode, Mesirow said though he regretted the video’s content, his remarks started a conversation about Aspen’s carrying capacity during the high seasons.
In later social media posts, Mesirow thanked the community for helping him learn from his mistakes. It was all about him, but at least he was consistent.
There are other instances of Mesirow walking the line on social media.
As the City Council’s representative on the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board, last year Mesirow likened an APCHA policy change to “redlining,” a term that goes back to the Jim Crow era of the 20th century when such financial services as insurance or loans were denied to minorities, in particular black Americans.
Mesirow’s tone-deaf critique also was made on social media; he later apologized for the analogy.
Seven months into his term and two public apologies later, it’s time for Mesirow to do what he was elected to do: build on his experience as a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, be a wind of positive City Hall change, and be the voice of the people. We hope he’s learned why words matter, and that he’ll do better starting now.
The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, and reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.
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