Mick Ireland, who will be forced to step aside as Aspen’s mayor in June after three two-year terms, is considering a run for City Council in the May election.
The state’s term limits rules, implemented by Colorado voters for local government officials in 1994, do not prevent Ireland from running for council, said Aspen City Attorney Jim True, citing a 1998 legal opinion written by former City Attorney John Worcester.
State limits require local officials to step down after two consecutive terms, if the terms are longer than two years, or three terms if they are two years or less. A council term in Aspen is four years.
According to city attorneys, mayor and council are separate positions, so if elected and reelected to council, Ireland could theoretically sit on the board for 14 straight years.
Before being elected mayor in May 2007, Ireland was a Pitkin County commissioner for 14 years, from 1993 through January of 2007.
Ireland said he is considering the move out of concern that a pro-growth majority could emerge on City Council. He said he would likely wait to see who else is running before making his final decision.
“I would have to look at [running], mostly because I think there ought to be ... a balance on growth,” Ireland said.
Council has seen a number of 3-2 votes on growth and development issues, with the majority being Ireland and council members Torre and Steve Skadron favoring more restrictive policies in some cases. Perhaps most significantly, council was split 3-2, with Adam Frisch and Derek Johnson in the minority, on lowering downtown building height limits from 42 to 28 feet last year.
“These other guys [favor] let the market do whatever it wants,” Ireland said, “and that hasn’t worked out so well. ... I’d hate to see a majority come in and repeal that height limit.”
Ireland added, in a later conversation about a flurry of commercial property sales downtown, that “every time we’ve had redevelopment, it’s led to less vitality.”
While it “would be nice to be anonymous, I’d like to finish some of the things we’ve started,” he said.
Topics of concern for Ireland include making sure the USA Pro Challenge bike race keeps coming back to Aspen, as well as the Castle Creek hydro proposal. In an advisory ballot question in November, Aspen voters by a 51-to-49-percent margin voiced their preference for the city to stop pursuing the controversial project.
Ireland said that while the project perhaps needs to be “modified,” it should still go forward.
“Otherwise we are going to waste a lot of money,” he said, referencing the fact that the city already has spent about $7 million on the project out of an estimated budget of $10.5 million. Voters said “yes” to the project in 2007, approving bonds for its financing, which still must be paid back, but that was before a group of stream-side property owners began raising concerns that the hydro plant would divert too much water.
With Ireland giving up the mayor’s seat, the four remaining council members all have expressed interest in running for mayor and said they would make their decisions within the next month or so.
There are reportedly numerous others, including former elected officials and former losing candidates, mulling a run for either council or mayor. If either Skadron or Frisch, who are in the middle of their council terms, were to run for mayor and win, the council would appoint someone to finish their remaining two years on council. Torre and Johnson are at the end of their council terms, and both could seek another four years on council or the mayor’s seat, or step aside.
The first day to pick up paperwork to run for city office is March 18, according to the City Clerk’s Office. Prospective office holders must have lived in the city of Aspen for at least one year, and be able to find 25 Aspen voters willing to a sign a petition vouching for their candidacy. The final day to submit the petition is April 8.
If Ireland were to become a council member, he said he wouldn’t talk as much at meetings, since the mayor’s job is to run them, and “summarize what everyone else is saying.” As a council member, such loquacious tasks are “not your job,” he said, adding that he would defer to the mayor’s style in running meetings.
He also estimated that the mayoral job requires triple the time commitment of a council position.