Year in Review

2001? What 2001?

Something the census didn't count was cows. But Colorado ranchers had to take stock of their stock following an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease that began in Britain in February. Although the incredibly contagious disease didn't make it to the United States, it managed to spread to other parts of Europe, where hundreds of thousands of cows were killed, as well as South America and South Africa.

And it still managed to touch off a panic in Colorado, one of this country's largest beef-producing states. Although humans supposedly can't catch the disease, they can carry it on their shoes. Thus, many cattle ranchers closed off access to their land and their herds. At Denver International Airport, special agents from the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scrubbed the shoes of anyone returning from England; the Colorado Legislature passed a law giving the Colorado Agriculture Commission permission to impose quarantines and destroy entire herds in the case of an outbreak in the state.

Sushi, anyone?

Patrick Merewether

Unfortunately, the legislature did nothing about foot-in-mouth disease, which seems to infect its own members each and every spring. State senator John Andrews sustained bruises over the majority of his body after a particularly nasty bout. On March 26, right after female lawmakers were honored, Andrews took to the podium and announced that "ordinary logic and women's logic aren't always the same."

Get that guy some antibiotics.

A Spaced Odyssey

One of the strangest journeys of 2001 began on March 21, when Boeing CEO Phil Condit stunned the business world by announcing that after 85 years as the plane-maker's headquarters, Seattle just wasn't cutting it anymore. Instead, Condit said he wanted to relocate HQ to Chicago, Dallas...or Denver.

Although Condit denied that he was trying to start a bidding war, that's exactly what he got as all three cities began a frantic, theatrical, ass-kissing effort to land Boeing. Condit and a team of execs visited each city on two separate occasions, during which they were wined, dined and wined again before being flown from site to site in helicopters. In Denver, the pressure was turned up a notch at a high-powered event at the Governor's Mansion, with John Elway for star power.

In the end, though, even the king of last-minute comebacks couldn't help Denver; the toothy former quarterback couldn't compare to a VIP cocktail party and dinner at the famous Art Institute of Chicago featuring entertainment by a harpist, an Indonesian bell troupe, a children's choir singing "My Kind of Town" and a string quartet from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- oh, and a $50 million incentive package (which dwarfed Colorado's offer). On May 10, Condit ordered the governors of Illinois, Texas and Chicago to stand by their phones. He then boarded a 737 business jet with three possible flight plans before making the suspenseful in-flight victory call to the winning, windy suitor.

A few business analysts wondered how Boeing could have passed Denver over, but Mayor Webb had an answer ready. "Am I disappointed? The answer is obviously yes," Webb told a reporter. "Am I depressed? Absolutely not. I would have been depressed if the Avalanche had lost last night." Hizzoner then moved on to a party at Maggiano's, where, alongside some Broncos cheerleaders, he helped slice the restaurant's millionth meatball -- a thirty-pounder -- and proclaimed May 10, 2001, as Maggiano's Millionth Meatball Day.

Hmmm. And Boeing didn't think Denver was sophisticated enough to be a world-class headquarters?

Not that "Beef" Wellington hasn't tried to establish Denver as a major player by initiating a series of inexplicable trade missions in such far-flung cities as London, Tokyo, Santiago and, this past year, Shanghai. Unfortunately for Webb, he and the rest of the 47-member Denver junketeers were setting up that most recent office when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet on March 31, sparking an extremely tense international standoff in which the 24 crew members of the U.S. plane were briefly held hostage by the Chinese government.

Despite calls from citizens and politicians alike for Webb to cut the mission short, he remained in China. The brouhaha wasn't exactly what he had in mind for his ego-boosting venture, especially since he'd been roundly criticized for embarking on the trip in the first place. Many critics complained that the U.S. shouldn't trade with China because of its poor record on human rights -- and skinflints joined in the criticism, pointing out that the eight-day excursion cost Denver taxpayers more than $36,000. And then, only a few weeks later, Webb fired the new head of the trade office, Roland Tong, for undisclosed reasons. Tong had been pulling in an annual salary of $84,000.

Of course, the China mess was just one of many incidents that made 2001 a year that Webb would probably like to forget as much as anyone.

In mid-June, the three-term mayor gave his eleventh state-of-the-city address, in the process announcing that he wouldn't actively campaign for the Denver Botanic Gardens' planned $40 million bond initiative, since his first and only election priority would be a new jail. This information was a particularly brutal blow for the DBG, considering that Webb delivered his speech there. But Botanic Gardens karma got its revenge -- on the mayor's wife -- when a gust of wind blew an aluminum tent pole onto Wilma Webb's head seconds after the mayor finished his address. The dazed First Lady was treated on site by a doctor from Denver Health Medical Center, then transported to the hospital as a precaution.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help