For some time now I have read many of the letters to the editor as well as articles in the paper concerning city government, and silently fumed. I now need to break my silence and pen my once-a-decade letter to the editor. (It should be obvious from this admission that I am a longtime observer rather than participant in the public dialog, much to my embarrassment.)
I am writing in response to an article in Tuesday’s Aspen Daily News (“Ireland faces blowback on term limits,” Jan. 15) as well as a similar story in the Aspen Times. I begin by stating I fully support the need to bring new blood into the public arena. I firmly believe that if one is to reap the benefits of living in one of the more glorious parts of the world, one should at least attempt to reciprocate by participating in local government, either actively or passively and at the very least by voting — which, by the way, is a great way to term-limit someone running for office and with whom one disagrees.
I had the opportunity a couple of years ago of participating in the political process concerning a redevelopment project that I, and others, felt would adversely affect our neighborhood if allowed to proceed. During that process, I endured many City Council meetings long into the night before having my chance to comment. Also during those meetings, I was educated on the public comment process (as exhibited at last night’s City Council meeting), having the opportunity to witness some of the most brutal, disrespectful, undeserved, self-serving and berating comments that one can imagine — or not — by individuals whose primary purpose was that they disagreed with the point of view advocated by a majority of the City Council and felt the best way to express their disagreement and displeasure was by being abusive to those public officials with whom they took issue. You are correct, Ward Hauenstein, that the “tactics of belittlement and scorn must end.” But these tactics are not solely being utilized by the mayor and/or members of City Council.
If one wants to understand why new blood is so hard to find for elective office I suggest attending a City Council meeting or reading the above-mentioned articles about last night’s council meeting. Or how about reading the letters in the papers a bit more carefully or revisiting the last national election or turning on the television or the Internet and seeing how those who are presently trying to serve us are being treated by those who disagree with them? Who would want to subject themselves to this kind of abuse, no matter how passionately they might feel about serving the greater good, and thus, be in the firing line on a constant basis? Ah, but there’s the rub, eh? The greater good along with civility, common sense and compromise are long-gone concepts, having since been replaced with invective, disrespect and intransigence, making dialog and resolution nearly impossible.
In singling out Mick Ireland’s potential run for City Council and thus his long tenure as a public servant, you open up for controversy, an issue you might regret. And comparing Mick to Richard Nixon — really?
I support Mayor Ireland in his current role as Mayor and also will do so if he decides to run for City Council. There are not many who have the institutional knowledge and history of the issues facing the city of Aspen now and in the future — issues in need of committed long-term analysis and decision-making, as does Mick. Mick Ireland along with councilpersons Torre and Steve Skadron are rational voices in an environment that has become increasingly bitter and irrational; where problems are often proffered but solutions are in short supply.
As a matter of record, I did not win my “case” before City Council — a process that took over a year and a half. But I do not think ill of Council nor do I feel it necessary to belittle and besmirch them in public or through the media. Treatment was fair and respectful on both sides, and although I would have preferred a different outcome, I accept the decision that was reached.
You should run, Ward Hauenstein, for council, if not mayor. And others who are so stridently against the current city government should step up as well. But I ask you all, are you able to truly think outside the box and look at the bigger picture when it comes to affecting policy for the residents of Aspen? Or will you only see the interests of the one who stares back at you in the mirror and reject from the outset the possibility of dialog and compromise? If you choose the latter then perhaps you need be silent and let those who know how and want to do the job, for all concerned, do it.
Lead, follow or get out of the way. The choice is yours. “Old blood” such as Mick’s has a lot to teach “new blood” and should not be dismissed so readily.