By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
As if to confirm that the whole show could have been run better by children, US West loaded thirty middle-school students into a flatbed truck, festooned the vehicle with "We Are the Future" banners, then drove the kids to the Capitol. Only later was it pointed out that the phone giant had violated a state law requiring children sixteen or younger to wear seatbelts. A more successful junior invasion was launched in January, when hordes of elementary-school kids invaded the Capitol toting signs that read, "We're Bugging the Legislature" and chanting, "Hairstreak! Hairstreak!" Having struck fear into the hearts of the legislators, the commandos won their fight to get the hairstreak butterfly declared Colorado's official insect.
When it came to bugging people, though, the legislature couldn't hold a citronella candle to the Regional Transportation District. How the buses ran on time remained a mystery, as RTD boardmembers continued to behave as if they'd been sucking fumes out in the motor pool. This year's greatest hits: Two boardmembers filed suit against their own agency and subsequently were barred by a federal judge from attending their own executive sessions; another boardmember traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby against federal funding for his agency's own light-rail project and then threatened to take RTD to small-claims court in a dispute over his $700 travel expense.
In May, seven of the fifteen RTD directors claimed at a press conference that the other eight had secretly been meeting without them. The board paid a year's salary and other severance benefits to an executive secretary who allegedly suffered "emotional trauma" from having to deal with the wild bunch. Her replacement didn't fare much better: She lasted just six weeks before announcing that she respected herself too much to work for the board. At times the place seemed about to lapse into all-out civil war. Former RTD board chairman Jack McCroskey claimed that when he tried to enter a public study session last year, a security guard "made a motion to go for a gun" when he refused to sign in and give his name. McCroskey escaped unharmed and was elected back onto the board in November.
The aura of the Wild West was everywhere this year. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder cashed in her chips and left town after varmints got into her car at Denver International Airport. An irate Schroeder told city officials she found "mouse droppings" in the vehicle, which was towed not once but twice from the airport's long-term parking lot. Word came from Elbert County that two county commissioners were attending public meetings with loaded guns, prompting one critic to predict a "shootout at the O.K. Courthouse." And a bitter campaign between horse trader Tom Strickland and horse doctor Wayne Allard culminated when, during a televised debate, Rocky Mountain News columnist Clifford May asked the candidates if they would endorse public hangings for criminals. Allard answered in the affirmative, providing reams of copy for May and in all likelihood cinching the election.
If Dick Lamm could have found a gallows small enough, he would have slipped a noose around the scrawny neck of Ross Perot. After urging Lamm to run for president to give his Reform Party credibility, Perot treated the unsuspecting Coloradan like a trained monkey, lending new meaning to the words "chimp" and "chump." The capper came when, after the never-silent Lamm declared his candidacy on Larry King Live July 9, Perot showed up the next night to announce his interest in the nomination on the very same show. "I knew he was unpredictable," Lamm said. "But this was not exactly welcoming me to the party." Lamm later compared his brief presidential bid to "drinking from a fire hose."
For former Rocky Flats grand jury foreman Wes McKinley, political life was more like sipping from a leaky garden hose. After the stubborn rancher launched an independent run for Congress, he was accompanied for much of the race by only his trusty mule, Marvin, who plodded with him across the Fourth District's 21 rural counties. Stumped over whom to endorse in the three-man race, the Greeley Tribune decided to back the mule. "Marvin doesn't mind getting out front and pulling the party's bandwagon," said the paper's editorial writers. "Or any bandwagon, for that matter."
Marvin couldn't quite pull off the victory, though, a disappointment that soured the people and the mules of the Fourth District on politics in general. Maybe Larimer County Democratic Party activist Anthony Clinton Brown had the right idea: Simply drop out and create a parallel political universe. Brown made national news when he faked a political action committee called Club 96, even going to the trouble of filing documents with the Federal Election Commission, printing up lists of contributors and listing hundreds of donations that had never been made. The first clue for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, which exposed the elaborate fraud: The officers of the PAC were listed as Zachery Ty Bryan, Taran Noah Smith and Jonathan Taylor Thomas--also known as the child stars of the television sitcom Home Improvement.
The town of Indian Hills went all out for National Pig Day on March 1, sponsoring an ice cream social for Winston, an 800-pound hog who slurped down cake and ice cream fed to him by local children. Denver was also in a party mood, as the city proved when it dusted off its sombrero, pulled on its party pantalones and got ready to rumba on Cinco de Mayo. The fiesta peaked when low-riders engaged Denver police in a Mexican hat dance along Federal Boulevard. After neighbors complained about the noise and traffic congestion, la policia joined the party with batons at the ready, apparently hoping to bust a few pinatas. In the end, the Sharks and the Jets decided not to let Officer Krupke play, but that didn't stop the media from turning the off-off-Broadway production into a national melodrama. The local TV stations called it a "near riot," NBC's Today show upgraded the scuffle to a "riot" and CNN trumpeted it as a full-fledged "race riot." You can't buy that kind of publicity!