We have a new state song (John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High"), a new state reptile (the Western painted turtle) and now a new state plane.
In May, a month after Frontier Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Governor Bill Ritter declared that the Denver-based company's second Airbus A320 would be Colorado's official state plane. The 164-seat plane is adorned with Ritter's giant signature on the front door and has the word "Colorado" scrawled on its nose.
"Frontier is Colorado's hometown airline and provides our community with consistent high-quality service and low-cost airfare," Ritter said at the plane's dedication.
There were smiles and handshakes all around. Frontier CEO Sean Menke said the plane "is our way of saying thanks for the continued loyalty."
But just six short weeks later, Frontier paid back that loyalty by cutting its flight schedule by 17 percent, laying off up to 1,000 workers here in Colorado and adding some baggage charges. As for ticket prices...prepare to open your wallet.
Was this Colorado's official state layoff?
Did Ritter know the layoffs were coming when he added his John Hancock to the plane? "He and Sean [Menke] talked for a little bit, but I don't how specific the conversation was," says gubernatorial spokesman Even Dreyer. "I think that it is concerning to the governor and to all of us that Frontier is going through such a tough time. We want them to survive this and to thrive. It's indicative of how rough it is for the airlines right now."
Yes, the airline industry is hurting. It never recovered from 9/11, and now fuel prices have forced many companies to jack up prices, cut services and charge fees for everything from snacks to checked bags. Still, the timing of Colorado's official state plane seems a little misplaced.
Then again, the airlines aren't high on our list right now. Frontier, United, American — they're all giving us fits as we embark on our summer vacations. Eight years ago, Westword held a contest asking people to describe how United had ruined their summer vacations. This time, we're expanding our target to the entire industry. Have a complaint? A horror story? Still trying to reclaim lost baggage, missing vouchers or lost dignity? If so, e-mail us at email@example.com. The best bad tale wins a free trip — on Amtrak.
A Udall nation: Despite his connection to the Kennedys — uncle Stewart Udall served as John Kennedy's Secretary of the Interior — and his family's longtime political power in the West (father Mo, a longtime Arizona congressman, ran for president in 1976, and cousin Tom Udall is running for the U. S. Senate in New Mexico), Democratic Colorado congressman Mark Udall says his clan entertains little discussion of the "d" word: dynasty.
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"My aunt [Elma Udall], I think, had it right," says Udall, who is vying for a Senate seat as well. "She once remarked that the Kennedys are East, the Udalls are West, the Kennedys are the ocean, the Udalls are the desert, the Kennedys are rich industrialists (and bootleggers), the Udalls are Mormon dirt farmers."
But a Udall dynasty — call it Camelot West — would suit national Democrats just fine, and even help them achieve the elusive, almost mythical sixty-seat majority to block the possibility of Republican filibustering.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), vice-chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says he has a keen eye trained on the Senate race, one that has "national significance." But Udall downplays talk of national implications in his campaign. "There is obviously interest around the country in the race, but you know where my focus is — on the campaign in Colorado," he says.
One quest at a time.