Vail writer: Time for Aspen community to stand up for Mulcahy |

Vail writer: Time for Aspen community to stand up for Mulcahy

Having followed the saga of Lee Mulcahy for the last several years, I have a question to ask the people of Aspen. Where are the adults?

As most know, the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority is trying desperately to evict Lee from his home, on the primary basis that being an artist who didn’t make any money means he didn’t have an acceptable profession. As any Realtor, artist, entrepreneur or self-employed person will attest, hard work and dedication is no guarantee you will make a profit.

It seems ironic that reverence of the arts is a cornerstone of Aspen life and that legend Hunter S Thompson is a revered folk hero, and at the same time artists who are not making money are deemed ineligible for deed-restricted housing. Does anyone remember, or know, that HST grew up in poverty and was reportedly pretty much flat broke until he wrote his first successful work in 1967? Evidently Hunter might well have faced the same fate as the Mulcahy family had he tried to live in Aspen and in deed-restricted housing before his success.

Yet who can imagine the history of Aspen without the exploits of Hunter Thompson, many of which were publicly much more outrageous than anything Mr. Mulcahy has ever attempted.

It seems that the housing authority, their attorney Tom Smith, and a few members of the Aspen City Council are on a mission to railroad Lee Mulcahy out of his home. Lee tells me he now meets the employment requirement acceptable to the APCHA (and he feels he always did) and certainly they have made their point that they are serious about that requirement. It’s time to move on and forcing a man to sell his home over a past misunderstanding should not be viewed as a solution by any reasonable adult. The financial and emotional drain on the Mulcahy family have been enough.

Indeed, perhaps counselor Smith and Mayor Skadron should insure everyone is treated equally and push to adopt a truth in advertising ordinance for local galleries demanding that only artists who first prove they are making a living be allowed to hang their works in Aspen. In the interest of fairness, perhaps performers at the Aspen Institute should be asked to submit their tax returns to ensure they are indeed true artists. To pose that one artist is “genuine” and Mulcahy is not based upon income levels seems rather disingenuous at best.

Perhaps the adults are all employed by Aspen Skiing Co. (who have their own agenda for wanting Mulcahy gone) or live in the approximately 2,900 housing units under the jurisdiction of APCHA and fear retribution. To those individuals I would remind them that unchallenged power has often historically led to unchallengeable tyranny. If they can do this to Lee, they can do it to you. Any self-employed person that does not punch a time clock or occasionally loses money is very vulnerable to the whims of the APCHA it seems. Realtors, other artists and entrepreneurs had best beware, as should anyone involuntarily unemployed.

This situation has gotten out of hand, and it needs to be de-escalated and resolved in a manner that is fair as well as morally and ethically right. It is time for the adults in Aspen to stand up and insist the Housing Authority, City Council and Mr. Smith negotiate a mutually fair and beneficial resolution.

From what I hear, Mulcahy is willing to negotiate and is prepared to offer a deal that will benefit Aspen (and two other communities) hugely and an offer via a public announcement will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. The powers that be need to listen and hear him out and do what is in the best interest of Aspen, and what is morally right. The APCHA should get back to their mission and devote their resources to creating more housing and managing what they already have.

Chris Neuswanger