Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
In the song “Ya Got Trouble in River City,” from “The Music Man,” Professor Harold Hill riles the citizenry of that placid hamlet into thinking their boys are budding juvenile delinquents and the town is in deep trouble.
I nudged the friend sitting next to me. “It sounds like the Ants,” I said.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he said.
Since their arrival on the political scene, Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias, collaborators in their e-mail publication The Red Ant, have steadily and resolutely attempted to undermine the credibility, reliability and competency of our elected officials (the bufoons, Elizabeth misspelled it), the city manager, the city attorney and the city clerk.
“Don’t tell Su, but she’s just furthering our cause,” Marilyn told a friend of mine after I’d written an anti-Ant column. One wonders: What’s the CAUSE? Elizabeth explained it quite well to Peter Louras, saying, “You don’t understand, Peter, we’re not trying to fix anything, we’re just having FUN. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel!”
Trumpeting transparency and good governance from their high horses, the mighty Amazons, sabers in hand (but properly clad), slashed through historic preservation, Burlingame, Instant Runoff Voting and attempted to unseat Mick Ireland, only to meet their Waterloo through their favorite weapon of all – e-mails.
Back in March, the City Council appointed Elizabeth Milias (Republican) and Chris Bryan (Democrat) to the Election Commission, chaired by City Clerk Kathryn Koch, to oversee the upcoming May election. Under Aspen’s home rule charter, it was not a requisite to appoint both a Democrat and a Republican, but it has been a tradition in Aspen (next time, I’d say appoint two Independents) and it seemed innocent enough – it was basically a one-night stand.
Warning flags should have gone up when Milias, an open foe of IRV, said she wouldn’t certify the May election before it even took place. And the City Council should have smelled trouble knowing that Marks was even more vehemently opposed to IRV and, if she failed in her attempt to oust Mick Ireland as mayor, would be sure to raise objections about the process.
So we have an election commission with Milias, the treasurer of Marks’ mayoral campaign, friend of Marks, collaborator of Marks with The Red Ant and contributor to Marks’ campaign, having stated (along with Marks) her opposition to IRV. No small wonder that the feces hit the fan down the road.
Chris Bryan, a lawyer for Garfield and Hecht, was no innocent, but was certainly hit in the crossfire. At a City Council meeting, he said that he had received “a flood of e-mails” raising questions about the authority of the election commission, causing ex-councilman Jack Johnson to file a CORA (Colorado Open Records Act) request for e-mails supporting this “flood.”
What Johnson found was a veritable flood of e-mails not from concerned citizens but from Marilyn Marks, advising Milias and Bryan how to proceed (Kathryn Koch, the chair of the election commission, was excluded from the correspondence) – how to “force” the City Council to hire independent council at taxpayers’ expense, to pursue an audit (to be overseen by the election commission) of the election process and to push for the release of a CD of the ballot images and generally acting as if she were the chair of the election commission.
If you want to follow this issue, which for the most part has been ignored by the papers, listen to Mitzi Rapkin’s unprecedented four-day morning news series on KAJX (Oct. 27-30 at aspenpublicradio.org), Jack Johnson’s hour-long presentation at GrassRootsTV.org (search: Aspen Election Allegations), Michael Conniff’s reports on aspenpost.net and the floods of blogs in the two dailys.
The e-mails are available in the city attorney’s office and Michael Conniff has promised to post them on his website – the dailies should do likewise.
I have read the e-mails and, as inured as I am to the antics of the Ants, it was shocking stuff. How dare these women scold the city for lack of transparency, when they are secretly pulling strings behind the scenes to achieve their own ends, which could include voiding the May election.
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