Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
You know what? Marilyn Marks might well make a damn fine mayor.
Just not, I think, for Aspen.
Let me hasten to say that I don’t really know much about her politics.
Sure, I know she made a fuss over Burlingame. She made a fuss over historic preservation of ski-era buildings. She made a fuss over Instant Run-off Voting.
Actually, I agreed with her on a lot of what she had to say, if not necessarily on the way she said it. But still, making a fuss ” even making a bunch of fusses ” doesn’t add up to a coherent political platform.
Of course, making a fuss is often a build-up to a run for office ” and despite Ms. Marks’ frequent declarations that she had no intention of running for office, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she announced her candidacy. Hell, I would have been surprised if she hadn’t run.
But that’s politics. You raise your visibility, bide your time, tell a few white lies … and then pounce!
And I’m not surprised that Mick Ireland is facing some serious challengers ” LJ and Andrew, as well as Marilyn.
I had concerns about Mick as mayor from the very start.
Let’s be clear. As he proved when he was a county commissioner, Mick is impressively qualified. He’s hard-working. He’s smart. He’s painfully honest.
Actually, he’s “painfully” a lot of things and that’s the problem. He’s painfully Mick.
He just can’t help himself. He can’t help enraging people.
It’s who he is: smart as hell and a bit of an arrogant twerp. (And I say that lovingly. Really I do.)
But if Mick was nearly perfect as a county commissioner (aside from driving some real jerks to the edge of apoplexy and generating any number of recall efforts), mayor of Aspen looked like it was going to be more of a challenge.
Being mayor is a much more “political” job than county commissioner. The mayor is a spokesman for the town. People expect the mayor to represent Aspen.
That was just never going to work out well for Mick.
He seems to keep his foot semi-permanently jammed in his mouth ” offending people who don’t need to be offended.
And, frankly, Mick has done things as mayor that have driven me crazy.
Don’t get me started on the parking-enforcement debacle. You don’t want to hear my Big Brother rant again. And, honestly, I think “historic preservation” of cruddy 1950s fake ski chalets is pretty odd.
But that doesn’t get me anywhere near thinking Marilyn Marks would be the right mayor for Aspen.
I admit I’m put off by her “I’ve run a business, so of course I can run a city” riff.
It sounds good, if you don’t stop to think.
But may I please point out that less than a decade ago the United States got its first “CEO president.” We had a president who was ready to run this country like a great big business.
And we all know how that ended. Not well, I’m afraid. Not well at all.
It seems as if running a business ought to be great preparation for running a government, but it just doesn’t work out.
(And if you conservatives think that’s just a wimpy liberal talking, remember: Ronald Reagan never ran a business.)
But that isn’t why I think Marilyn might make a swell mayor for some other town.
And it isn’t because she hasn’t lived here long enough.
I hate the fact that every political comment in this town has to begin, “I’ve lived here XXX years, and I think …”
Who cares how long you’ve lived here? An old-timer idiot is still an idiot.
No, my problem with Marilyn goes back to a message she sent me after I wrote a column disagreeing with her about Instant Run-off Voting.
In that column, I rejected her argument that Instant Run-off Voting was too risky, because no city had done it before.
Actually, it turns out that lots of places have used and are still using Instant Run-off, but that wasn’t my point.
My point was that Aspen used to be a place where people took chances, a place where people liked to be leaders, liked to experiment.
I ended my column, “Let’s take the lead ” and wait for the rest of the world to catch up with us. The way we used to.”
And Marilyn Marks wrote to me to say that she didn’t approve of the flippant tone of my column (which I certainly understand) and then concluded with this:
“And what is it exactly that Aspen has been such a world leader in?
Skiing? Okay, I’ll give you that.”
That bothered me. And now that she has thrown her no-doubt-tasteful hat into the ring, it bothers me even more.
It bothers me because I do think of Aspen as a special place that has led the way.
Aspen led the way with Walter Paepcke’s Aspen Idea ” the idea that a “mere” resort town could aspire to be a center of art, culture and intellectual endeavor, as well as athletic achievement. Body, mind and spirit.
Aspen led the way by putting those high-flying ideas into action with the Aspen Music Festival, the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Center for Physics ” and so much more.
And, if not truly first, Aspen certainly was way ahead of the pack when it came to growth control, historic preservation, affordable housing and even banning smoking in restaurants.
Yes, growth control has been overwhelmed by the sheer force of money; historic preservation has gone over the line by preserving those faux Swiss chalets; and affordable housing has led to some wasteful excess and hideously careless government oversight at Burlingame.
But those are the failures of a town that was trying, a town that was willing to take chances ” and, damn it, a town that was leading the way.
And if Marilyn Marks doesn’t understand that side of Aspen’s character, well then, I’m sure she’s a very nice, very intelligent, very capable woman … but I don’t think she’s the right person to be mayor of Aspen.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.