Elizabeth Milias: ‘Grab ’em by the Skippy!’ | AspenTimes.com

Elizabeth Milias: ‘Grab ’em by the Skippy!’

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

It didn’t start with the video.

Young councilman Skippy Mesirow’s recent tirade on social media denigrating our holiday visitors was not, as he proclaimed, the result of gastrointestinal distress from steak with compound butter following a two-month cleanse. As preposterous as that excuse was for the insult-ridden rant that he saw fit to post on the unforgiving and unforgetting internet, it was not a one-off, nor was it merely a moment of frustration as he later claimed. Sadly, it was evidence of what appears to be a troubling pattern of disingenuousness, targeting, profiling and divisiveness.

Recall last year when Mesirow expressed his desire to drive retirees from their subsidized housing, going so far as to accuse APCHA of “red-lining”? Then, in early December, when meeting with the city’s event staff, Mesirow provided a premonition of his future online diatribe by proclaiming, “I would rather take the approach of, who are the people that we really want to get to know, who we want to experience Aspen, and what are the events that would attract or service that type of person?” So which is it, inclusivity or highly targeted programs for “the right people,” Skippy?

If you missed it, on Dec. 29, at the height of peak holiday season, Mesirow posted an expletive-laden screed on Instagram. Doubling down on his earlier expressed desire to attract a certain element, with the inherent implication that we ought to exclude others, his invective began, “Driving today is a f—ing disaster … there are godd— people and things and accidents everywhere. 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.”

A wise man once said, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” But not Mesirow. Cajoled to publicly apologize by blowback and a subsequent article in this paper, Mesirow half-heartedly said he was sorry yet doubled down with excuses. In addition to blaming his denunciation on digestive issues, Mesirow added that he was speaking for the working man, our service industry employees who work long and tiresome hours during the busiest weeks of the year. According to Mesirow, someone had to speak out against these not “right people,” advocating for fewer visitors, less business and therefore less income all around.

Service industry work can indeed be grueling, and it’s not unusual for local workers to put in ridiculous hours during the holidays for days and weeks on end. It’s also when the really good money is made. But service industry work is not for everyone. Another wise man added, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Being tired and frustrated never feels good, but we live in a tourism-driven economy and our mission is service. Mesirow, never mind no one really knows what you do for work, choosing which visitors should come here and mitigating their impacts on our economy are distinctly not your job.

And then Tuesday at the first council meeting of the year when this chapter should have become a footnote in Aspen history, Mesirow walked back his “mis-steak,” clarifying that he actually got sick four days after his incendiary post, but justifying it just the same with his stated right to have a moment of frustration. His feigned sorrow for “dividing people” was awkward, if not laughable.

What will Mesirow’s colleagues on council do, aside from expressing surprise and shock? The specter of censure, a formal, and public, group condemnation of an individual, often a group member, whose actions run counter to the group’s acceptable standards for individual behavior, has surfaced. A little public shaming would certainly be appropriate. Mesirow, who regularly yet clearly disingenuously extols his mission to “heal partisan divides and bring people together,” has earned a public rebuke. Besides, severe consequences for unacceptable personal behavior by an Aspen city councilman are not unprecedented. In 1990, then-councilman Steve Crockett passed a nasty caricature of a citizen to fellow-councilman Michael Gassman at the council table. Casually tossed into the trash, the note was later fished out and became the springboard for a contentious campaign to oust Crockett, as well as Gassman and two others. In the end, in a public vote, Crockett was recalled from office.

Mesirow’s immature tirade is disturbing on many levels. On its face, it’s an embarrassment to Aspen. As a member of City Council, Mesirow is part of the cabal that regularly sees fit to tax and regulate us as an example to the world, ostensibly because the world looks to Aspen as a shining example of all that is right and just. His recurring theme of a desire for a preferred visitor at the exclusion of others is appalling.

Skippy, some in our community elected you to public office. No one elected you God. You may have a role in the oversight of a $105 million annual city budget, which provides for important engineering-driven responsibilities including the city waste water plant, stormwater drains, bridges and roads, but you have zero responsibility for social engineering. Your personal ideas about shaping our demographics are frightening. Furthermore, this thinking has no role in 2020 society.

Politicians have an uncanny knack for saying things they regret forever. And the internet never forgets. A third wise man (these events occurred over the holidays, so work with me) reminds, “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”

Like the internet, The Red Ant never forgets. If you missed the video, email TheRedAntEM@comcast.net.