Meredith Carroll: Aspen vs. Lee Mulcahy: Can both lose?
February 6, 2018
Unless you're native to Philadelphia or Boston, you were probably among the tens of millions who watched Sunday's Super Bowl with a super-sized bowl full of indifference and antipathy. Between peak Tom Brady media-adoration saturation and correctly predicting Philly fans would set fire to their own city even after emerging victorious, it was a hate-watch, game-day dish best served lukewarm.
"Can both teams lose, please?" was a common refrain among football fans. Trying to decide which side to root for in the city of Aspen vs. Lee Mulcahy inspires a similar bout of dry heaves.
Ever since he skyrocketed up the local radar by picking a fight with Aspen Skiing Co. in 2011, Mulcahy has emerged as a scallywag of the highest order, battling not just Skico, but also the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen Police Department, Aspen Institute, Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority, which is under the city's purview.
No doubt, Mulcahy's thorn digs just a little deeper in the city's side every day he remains in the employee-housing unit that he and his dad built with "their own two hands," which he mentions as if that makes him compliant. He's threatened, needled, sued, demonstrated, politicized, dramatized, whined, manipulated, complained, kicked and screamed for what feels like an eternity, all so he can keep the home that he's not entitled to because he hasn't worked enough hours at a job that generates a paycheck from within Pitkin County.
Making matters worse, as (all) the Mulcahy case(s) drags on (and on and on), he can't seem to entrust his high-powered legal team with his dirty work, some of which preceded the city's latest move.
Last week the Police Department hand-delivered Mulcahy a letter saying he's "demonstrated behaviors that have crossed the boundaries of the city of Aspen's policy for a safe work environment" and therefore may enter city offices by appointment only. The letter also referenced Mulcahy's threats to city officials and cited his "bullying behavior" in person and on social media as rationale for needing a police or city escort in municipal buildings.
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The APD said the intent is not to "obstruct" his contact with city officials, but "control" it as they broaden efforts to institute better workplace safety. Not surprisingly, Mulcahy isn't thrilled with his muted access.
And in all fairness to Mulcahy, with the city still moving forward with its 37,500-square-foot new headquarters despite a judge's recent ruling in favor of a group of citizens who want voters to have a say on whether it gets built, giving voice to the people is not exactly their forte.
"While I intend to comply while my lawyers review this," Mulcahy wrote in a letter to the editor, "I have to note that the city certainly has legal avenues to attempt to impose these restrictions on me, but they have chosen, in typical fashion, to avoid having to make their case in an open forum such as a court room or defend their allegations to a judge."
Banning Mulcahy from city buildings via a letter is not a choice Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo would have made, either, referencing Colorado deputies killed in the line of duty in recent years while enforcing property evictions.
"This office has a long history of not tangling with people over property," DiSalvo said. "It's not worth getting hurt over."
He's not the only one who thinks more diffusion and less escalation is in order. Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which includes elected officials from the town of Snowmass Village and Pitkin County's board of commissioners, heard Patrick Brower on his new book, "Killdozer: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage," at its Jan. 25 meeting. "Killdozer" details Merv Heemayer's 2004 domestic terrorism attack in Granby and holds a microscope to the events leading up to him flattening the town with an armored bulldozer, nearly killing several people on a revenge mission against those he said wronged him in a series of local property disputes.
Brower, a former longtime editor, columnist and reporter at Sky-Hi News in Grand County, said it's imperative for local governments to listen more closely to their constituents to aid in diminishing animosity and the potential for violence.
The BOCC is already demonstrating the capacity for compassion through education: The agenda for this week's board retreat includes an item addressing how they can "effectively represent the community and move decisions forward when dealing with public policy issues that have strongly held views/opinions from different stakeholders and individuals in the community," according to County Manager Jon Peacock.
The BOCC's exercise in civility wasn't designed with Mulcahy in mind, even if Peacock acknowledges they're "taking a step back to think about what we need to do to ensure a healthy community dialogue and decision process."
The city might earn some fans if it focused on more of the same. For his part, if Mulcahy were genuinely representing the people he claims to be of, his antics would easily net wider support while causing the city to lose more.
But Mulcahy's problem isn't his irreverence, especially not in a town with a long history of embracing envelope-pushers. It's that it's difficult to tell which he loves more: the spotlight or his house. His attention-seeking capers and petulance are less gonzo and more grade school, and therein lies a key difference between an artist and an amateur. Either way, it's hard to root for the good guy when you're not sure who it is, especially if a victory on one side still might mean everyone loses.
And that's DiSalvo's point: "You put your life on the line when someone stands to lose theirs," he said.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.