Lee Mulcahy, Cale Ryan Mitchell to challenge Steve Skadron in Aspen mayoral race
Minutes before 5 p.m. Monday, just one person stood in the way of Steve Skadron's third and final term as mayor of Aspen, and it was a candidate who is no stranger to publicity.
Lee Mulcahy had entered the mayoral contest, City Clerk Linda Manning said, at approximately 1:15 p.m. Monday.
But at the "last minute," according to Manning, Cale Ryan Mitchell submitted a petition to run for mayor, possibly changing Mulcahy's role.
That's because Mulcahy's petition had a note saying he would only run "if it is a two man race for mayor."
Mitchell, 31, works at The Big Wrap and is graduate of Aspen High School.
He said he is running in part because of the political environment, with his belief that he can make the biggest difference locally.
"I think that the town of Aspen represents a whole lot, and I think it has a big voice internationally," he said. "And I would love to see some big changes in our town."
Among those changes, he said, are giving more rights to property owners and having the city take on more environmental initiatives.
"I would like to see more action from Aspen," he said. "Aspen often cries out (about what it has done environmentally), but where's our solar grid, where's our sustainable greenhouse that's growing a community garden?"
Mulcahy was in Asia and could not be immediately reached. If he runs, it will mark at least the third time he has run for public office.
As a Libertarian candidate in 2014, he picked up 4.2 percent of the vote in the election for Colorado State Senate District 5. He also lost when he ran for the Aspen School District's Board of Education in 2015.
"I didn't expect to be running uncontested, first of all," Skadron said before Mitchell entered the fray. "I had heard Lee had picked up his paperwork (to collect petition signatures to run), and I think the community and democracy are strong when more people are involved, and I welcome the challenge."
The field for the two open City Council seats, held by incumbents Art Daily and Ann Mullins, also has expanded with the entrance of retired professor and Red Brick studio artist Sue Tatem. Tatem joins the incumbents and challengers Ward Hauenstein, Skippy Mesirow and Torre.
"The people who signed my petition, the one thing they talked to me about was the transportation problem in the valley and not just the city," Tatem said. "I would probably make a real effort to do something about that."
Torre, who was a councilman from 2003 to 2007 and 2009 to 2013, said he's running again because he believes the city's current elected officials have shown a "lack of responsiveness to community voices."
He said that Referendum 1, which voters passed in May 2015, showed the public's waning faith in the council. The referendum stripped the City Council of its power to grant land-use variances on height, mass, parking and affordable housing without a public vote. It applies to all commercial zones in the downtown core but exempts residential development.
Torre also said the City Council's waffling last summer on the use of the old Aspen Art Museum building as well as its current plans for new offices has fed public disappointment.
"I think it has played out with the citizen referendums, the process that happened with the old (Aspen) Art Museum and the current City Hall, and other building issues that are going on," he said.
Mulcahy, meanwhile, is an artist who often is critical of government. He is battling the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority over his pending eviction from his Burlingame Ranch affordable-housing unit, and he also is banned from its offices for allegedly threatening to punch its executive director. The Housing Authority wants to evict him because it claims he hasn't provided the necessary documentation showing he qualifies for government-subsidized housing.
Mulcahy also is suing Aspen Skiing Co. on claims that it violated his rights to free speech when he criticized the company over its policies and sought to start a union for ski instructors, which he had been for 15 years until Skico fired him in January 2011. Skico claims it fired him over performance issues and violation of company policies.
Mulcahy is banned from properties Skico both owns and leases, including U.S. Forest Service land.
Skadron said, "I've generally had a good relationship with Lee, but it's curious because sometimes he treats me respectfully and sometimes he treats me otherwise for no reason."
The municipal election is scheduled May 2.