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Lum: Opaque transparency

Su Lum
Slumming

When I first heard how transparent the Aspen City Council’s appointment process was going to be, I was very gung-ho in favor of it — the more open the merrier, I thought. Mini-Squirm Night — yeah, live discussions and transparent voting, right on!

But after watching the process, I have changed my mind entirely. They should have broadcast the Squirm and the interviews with the candidates, but from then on, those meetings should have been closed and held in executive sessions.

I don’t know whether I just didn’t see it or whether it wasn’t well-publicized, but I missed the first meeting where they narrowed the field to four. I found out by accident about the second meeting (impasse) and learned from that broadcast that the third would be held on the following morning.

If I had had any idea that it was all going to happen so fast, I would have endorsed Howie Mallory the week before.

The problem with those open meetings is that it put the four sitting council members in a complete bind. On the air and in front of the applicants, the council effectively had a gag order imposed upon it. While it could have wrangled and debated the issues in a closed session, there wasn’t much that the council members could say except, “Both are fine candidates. I could work with either one, but I prefer XXX.”

Councilwoman Ann Mullins was the most articulate on the subject, pointing out that the recent election was a mandate for new blood but, all in all, the discussions were perforce superficial and platitudinous in a vital situation where the entire balance of the council was at stake.

I’ve always been very negative about appointment replacements, and I don’t think I’ve ever endorsed anyone running in midterm until this time, and I was wrong to do it then. I still think Steve Skadron will make the better mayor, but the cost was too dear, and we ended up with the worst possible outcome. When it came down to Torre and Skadron, I should have endorsed Torre so we could have them both.

I was shocked — shocked! — when the first vote was 2-2 because it meant that Art Daily had voted for the strongest development candidate. No one was surprised at Adam Frisch’s vote, but Art? The next two years will be interesting if not disastrous.

No one was happy with the repugnant solution of the roll of a die, but it was a better solution than Skadron changing his vote to Romero. I understand why Skadron did it. I know he agonized over it and probably still is wrestling with his conscience, but he made the wrong decision, voted against his principles and now has to bear the blame of his constituents.

A roll of a die might have the same result but with no one to blame except Daily.

Su Lum is a longtime local who has some advice for the council: 1. Keep your hands away from your Mouth. 2. Turn your microphones on when you Speak. 3. Turn your microphones off when talking with one another privately. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at su@rof.net.


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