Off Limits

Can't we all just get along?

Without much success, judging from the nasty tone of races across the country. Still, Poticha isn't discouraged: "This is the first time there's been a full-blown campaign in Colorado in the three most highly contested races -- the Senate and the 4th and 7th congressional districts. The goal is to help promote codes of conduct among all candidates in the various races so that all the candidates agree on how they will fight fair. We want them to fight; we want them to brawl in the best American tradition, as long as they don't hit below the belt or sell the voters short."

According to studies by the Pew Trust, which is funding the effort, 70 percent of American voters say they're less likely to vote when campaigns are so negative that they don't understand what the true issues are. "I think we're seeing the same thing in Colorado," Poticha says. "It's time for voters to get the message across that they won't stand for it."

Even so, with less than two weeks to go before election day, Poticha hasn't achieved consensus on a code in any of her three targeted races -- and is unlikely to do so, she concedes. "But the real audience is the public," she adds. "Maybe it will take two or three election cycles to learn some tools to make the candidates behave."

About a dozen codes have been signed in five of the nineteen states where the Institute for Global Ethics is pushing the concept. "And in all of the states," Poticha points out, "we feel like we've elevated the dialogue with the candidates and with the public."

It certainly couldn't go lower...

Missed America: And now, as a brief break from this country's unpleasant political intrigues, we take you to Dharmsala, India, where the first-ever Miss Tibet was crowned last week. The competition came in for plenty of criticism from Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Dalai Lama's government in exile, and not much cash, despite requests made to such Hollywood-type Tibet supporters as Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn (the Aspen resident said she doesn't support beauty contests).

"Miss Tibet is about instilling a sense of nationhood and identity to the nationless," explained Lobsang Wangyal, director of the Free Spirit Festival and Shambala Miss Tibet Pageant, at the start of the evening. Still, only five of the thirty original entrants stuck around for the controversial contest -- one of them Tenzin Diki, who's studying metallurgical engineering in Denver when she's not competing in beauty pageants.

During the speech portion of the competition, Diki talked about Tibetan political prisoners, saying she's most inspired by Takna Jigme Sangpo, recently released on medical parole by China after serving more than three decades in prison. During the talent portion, she sang Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes," which "got the crowd shouting for more," according to the Miss Tibet Web site (

Even so, Diki lost out to Dolma Tsering, who was crowned Miss Tibet by Ama Adhe, a veteran freedom fighter, in the conclusion to "a glittering yet modest event," reports. Tsering will go on to compete in the Miss Tourism World pageant in Colombia this December.

Meanwhile, back in Colorado: The state's unemployment rate went up a tick last month to 5.2 percent (which would cost Rollie Heath if he were governor, since he's pledged to give back part of his salary if unemployment rises), but one county proved oddly immune to the bad news.

Hinsdale County, in southwest Colorado, fared better than just about anywhere else, with a 1.4 percent jobless rate -- which probably means that about three people are out of work, since only a quarter of the 800 or so people in the county are year-round residents. And that accounts for another odd Hinsdale County stat: It had the state's lowest rate of return for census forms, about 18 percent. "That's because nobody's here," says county administrator Ray Blaum. "Actually, when you think of it, if that 18 percent was from the quarter who live here returning forms, it was pretty good."

He doesn't have a magic formula for keeping the jobless rate low, either. "Most of our business is tourism and construction that supports it," Blaum says.

But that doesn't explain nearby San Juan County, which tops out at 7 percent unemployment -- and feels lucky it's that low. "Oh, gosh, we could be at 15 or 18 percent," says county administrator Bill Norman. "Once the tourism season is over, our numbers skyrocket." Since its last mine closed abruptly in 1991, the county, with a population of about 550 souls, relies mostly on government jobs to keep afloat.

Signs of the times: Even those far-flung counties aren't safe from the campaign signs that have sprung up across Colorado's most scenic vistas. Governor Bill Owens has led the way with his purple posters, but red, white and blue billboards are popping up all over, too.

One exception to the patriotic color scheme comes from Democratic state senator Joan Fitz-Gerald, who's locked in a tough battle for the 16th District with Gilpin County Commissioner Web Sill. While Sill is sticking with true blue, the feisty Fitz-Gerald has gone for green. She's been endorsed by environmental groups, she points out, and then, well, there's her name. "I am truly Irish," she says.

On November 5, we'll see if she has the luck of the Irish.

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