A city bureaucrat's pet pig has given new meaning to the term pork-barrel politics.
In 1992 Carol Moran, the administrative assistant to current Denver City Council president Dave Doering, brought a Vietnamese pot-bellied piglet home to the Capitol Hill apartment building she owned with then-friend Karen Christiansen.
Louise, as the diminutive swine was known, looked like "a football on spikes with a schnozzle," recalls building tenant Cale Kenney. "She made quiet little oinks and kissed Carol when Carol balanced a piggy biscuit on her lips."
Louise grew up and lost her infant charm--but not her appetite. "A year later Louise was a two-and-a-half-foot sow as wide as a duffel bag," Kenney says. The pig had the run of the apartment building, and Kenney frequently found Louise in her apartment, eating her dog's food. On one occasion, Louise even managed to shut the self-locking door of the building while Kenney was outside depositing her trash.
Kenney managed to take her "year of living with a large rodent" in stride, she says.
Christiansen didn't. She and Moran had a falling-out over Moran's failure to return tenants' damage deposits, Christiansen says, and she worried that the resulting lawsuits would result in liens being placed on the building they both still own. She also questioned the legality of Louise's presence there.
The deposit disputes stemmed from misunderstandings that have since been cleared up, Moran says. According to court records, a couple of those lawsuits were cleared up when Moran paid three times the deposit amount as a punishment. But Moran blames her former friend for her troubles. "Karen is using the pig as a scapegoat," she says. "This has been worse than a divorce."
"She's a scofflaw," Christiansen responds. "She doesn't think the rules apply to her."
Or to Louise, for that matter. "She didn't have a permit to have the pig," Christiansen continues, "and she doesn't return money that isn't hers to keep. And now that pig has trashed the place."
Christiansen squealed to the city's zoning office, telling officials that not only was a pig residing in the building illegally, but also that the pig had been known to chase and bite people.
After visiting the building last fall, zoning inspectors cited Moran, giving her fifteen days to appeal Louise's eviction.
Moran asked the zoning office to grant a variance that would allow Louise to stay. The office might have granted her request but for one thing: Moran needed the okay of the building's other owner.
Christiansen refused to give it, and Moran and her pet moved out in January. Moran is now gathering the signatures of the six people who own the home in south-central Denver where she and Louise live so that she can apply for a variance there.
Moran concedes that Louise's fondness for food gets her into trouble. "The other day she ate so much of the rabbit's food that she couldn't get in through the doggie door," she says. "She was miserable because she ate so much."
And although Louise, now a solid 45 pounds, used to take the occasional nip at people who came between her and anything edible, "I've trained her not to do that anymore," Moran says. "She really is a lovable pig."
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Apparently she's also something of a party animal. Moran took her to a February 28 bash honoring outgoing councilmember Cathy Donohue, who now heads Mayor Wellington Webb's Office of Regulatory Reform.
"The theme of the party was `No More Pork,'" Donohue explains. "They were going to rent two pigs until they found out it would cost $200 for 45 minutes. On the other hand, Carol had Louise, and we'll take a free pig anytime we can get it. I thought it was great. I've known Louise for a long time; I've visited her and consider her a personal friend... sort of."
At first, Louise wasn't so sure about rubbing snouts with politicians and civil servants. "But everybody started feeding her, and she ended up having a really good time," Moran says. So good, in fact, that Louise didn't seem to mind that the meatballs were made of "the other white meat."
"We decided not to tell Louise," Donohue says. "It might have spoiled her evening.