Carroll: Mayor Mick and the media

Talk about a vanilla election season. The usual venom and sparks seen in the past few city elections wasn’t prominent this time around, perhaps because Mick Ireland wasn’t a candidate.

The underlying theme throughout the various campaigns seemed to be that whoever is elected Aspen’s next mayor will be a pillar of accessibility, civility and consensus building.

In other words, when the new mayor is elected, expect to see white smoke rising from the rooftop of City Hall.

As most journalists in this town can attest, Mayor Ireland can be as warm and cuddly as 24-grit sandpaper. There were times over the years that I’ve woken up to scathing emails from Ireland, hastily fired off as proven by his failure to use spellcheck and success at crafting run-on sentences. Or I’d hear from a City Hall reporter about Mick lambasting media coverage during the public portion of a City Council meeting.

Show me an Aspen journalist who hasn’t gotten into a some type of argument with Ireland, and I’ll show you a Red Ant website that promotes liberal ideals.

But Mick also was about as good as it gets in Aspen politics, and for a while there, he could play the media like he owned it.

Perhaps it was because he used to write for this newspaper before he headed off to law school, but Mick was a pro at steering the local news.

He also has the uncanny knack of walking into the newsroom at deadline. Dried sweat on his face and muffin crumbs on his bicycle shirt, Mick would help himself to a seat in the editor’s office and make his case for whatever was on his mind. No “You got a minute?” or “Can we chat for a second?” He’d just plop his fanny down and get to working on us.

Over time, however, both newspapers weren’t as eager to lap up everything he served on his political platter than they were during his time on the Board of County Commissioners. That’s not to say we didn’t ever bite. We did. But we did it less often.

That’s because turnover at both newspapers eased up over the years, likely due to the recession and journalists not using Aspen as a springboard for a bigger market. No longer were there rookie and sophomore reporters who could be putty in Mick’s hands. We became less charmed by Mick’s politics, but we still agreed with most of his platforms.

Mick carried the endorsements of both newspapers in his three successful runs for Aspen mayor. The papers blasted the recall attempts against Ireland when he was a county commissioner.

Critics often accused the Aspen media of being too cozy with Mick. And some looked at us as being the PR machine for the so-called Mick Machine.

But I make no apologies for the Times having an overall agreement with Ireland’s views.

He championed the working class, and were it not for Mick and his ongoing crusade for affordable housing, many of the journalists who cover Aspen would also be commuting to it.

He swiped a page from Citizen Kane’s playbook by comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

He was progressive about transportation, housing, the environment and other things dear to many Aspen residents. He put up the fight when nobody else would.

He also realized that he couldn’t stop development, but at least he could contain it.

Was he always right? No — and he’d never admit that because he was also stubborn as hell. But did he take a stand for what he believed in, no matter what the political fallout? For sure.

Regardless of how many voters were sick of Mick’s politics, he still managed to survive, getting the necessary number of votes to prevail at the polls, with the usual 45 percent or so wishing he’d just vanish.

Well, come next month he will, at least from the elected-official arena.

Today’s election, with a wide-open field for mayor, is much too difficult to handicap. But the smart money says that no matter who gets into the runoff — yes, there will be one — none of them will have the stones that Mick had. The guy could flat out politic, and there’s little question Aspen is better for it.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at