Lee Mulcahy: the artist vs APCHA


Photo courtesy of Megan Tackett

Lee Mulcahy and mother, Sandy Mulcahy, posing with sign in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse in 2019.

Over the course of five years, the community of Aspen bore witness to the dramatic story of Lee Mulcahy and his battle against APCHA, the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority and the City of Aspen. However, the conflict appears to be coming to a head.
Mulcahy won an affordable housing lottery lot from APCHA many years ago, and spent over two years building his home in Burlingame. The City of Aspen has a unique affordable housing system, as there are 3,300 affordable housing units in Aspen, with a town population of 6,800. Five years ago, APCHA declared that Mulcahy was unable to prove that he worked 1,500 hours per calendar year, which is a requirement to live in APCHA housing, and that he should be evicted for it. APCHA ordered to buyback Mulcahy’s home, at a price of over $1 million dollars, but Mulcahy and his Mother have declined, opting to stay in their home.
In response to the eviction, Mulcahy has sued the City multiple times, protested, and has made some threats; the most significant being that he would defend his house with his life, and that he would only leave the house horizontally, which caused the city to have fear of violence.
Mulcahy has an upcoming appeal in the Colorado Supreme Court as well as ongoing appeal in federal court after an APCHA loss in the United States Court of Appeals 10th circuit. Recently, the court in Aspen gave permission to the Sheriff to use forcible entry to complete a pre-closing inspection. However, APCHA later asked the judge to waive the pre-closing inspection, which caused even more conflict.
Mulcahy was quoted in the Vail Daily saying, “Violence is only justified to repel an aggressor. If someone decides to attack you, you’re justified to use force against their attack. It’s not complicated. Such an idea is far superior to the barbaric theatre that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. It was a big mistake granting the government the ability to use aggressive force.”
The APCHA conflict arose from Mulcahy unable to prove he worked 1,500 hours because he works untraditional jobs: he is an artist, and a caregiver to his mother, and he argues that his art and the building of his house for two years was his employment at the time. Since then, Mulcahy has continued his art as well as working in construction, and for Uber, but his family is still being evicted on the original claim.
“Artists and caregivers are part of the community. The arts and artists have always been fundamental to Aspen. Dissidents and artists are often the first ones to be persecuted for being outspoken. Ahistorical,” and “The City has threatened to cut off the gas, the water, and the electricity. Fine. I’ll paint in the daylight hours.” Mulcahy said.
Mulcahy has been banned from City Hall, Aspen Art Museum, and was originally banned from some SkiCo properties, but the court ruled that the SkiCo ban was unconstitutional. Mulcahy believes that his family has also been misrepresented by the media in Aspen.
“We realize many are over this eviction drama. None more so than us. We are super grateful that we live in a town with two newspapers. One newspaper has their false narrative: lawbreaking Mulcahy’s, good honest government. The truth is coming out: lawbreaking government persecuting a dissident artist,” Mulcahy said.
The conflict between Mulcahy and the City brings interesting discussions about free speech and the questions of whether or not APCHA’s housing should create special requirements for nontraditional jobs. However, Mulcahy believes that his protest against the APCHA eviction order is necessary.
“I love and am devoted to this community. It’s home. In order to be the most human, you must serve something other than yourself. Civil disobedience is putting yourself in harm’s way to bring attention to a problem (APCHA’s tyranny) and affect change,” and “Society moves forward by acts of peace. Peacemaking and compromise are part of the essence of love which was the message of Jesus.” Mulcahy said.