Mayor Ireland backs off emergency ordinance for campaign funding

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland on Monday withdrew his proposal for an emergency ordinance that would have required the reporting of campaign contributions of less than $20, but City Council will still consider the change to local election law through the normal channels.

Currently, political committee organizers can raise money in less than $20 increments, and the donors are shielded from having their names appear on campaign finance reports.

Ireland proposed a policy last week that would change that, so all contributions would have to be reported. He wanted the policy considered as an emergency ordinance, which would take effect immediately upon passage, instead of 30 days after approval which is the normal protocol. Emergency ordinances also require a supermajority of four votes to pass.

Ireland acknowledged at a work session on Monday that he did not have the votes to pass the policy as an emergency ordinance. However, he was not happy about it.

“The council has the ability to act to correct something that is wrong,” Ireland said, pointing to his desire to get the policy in place before campaigns for the May 7 municipal election get too far along.

The other council members said they are willing to consider the policy change through the normal process, but not via an emergency ordinance, which is reserved for issues affecting the health, welfare and safety of the public.

“Unless tanks are rolling up Highway 82, I’m not a fan of the emergency ordinance,” Councilman Adam Frisch said.

City Attorney Jim True said he would bring forward an ordinance enacting the reporting requirement at Monday’s council meeting, and set it for a public hearing at the March 18 meeting. If passed then, it would take effect on April 17, about three weeks before election day.

Ireland is still smarting from an effort organized in 2011 by his political foe Elizabeth Milias, who made a public display of collecting donations less than $20 for her “Sick of Mick” campaign. Bumper stickers and yard signs appeared around down bearing that message.

Ireland said such efforts lead people who might be considering public office to back down. He also said that unreported donations encourage a nastier discourse.

“If you want to spend money to call people names, tell people who you are,” he said.