Off Limits

The Denver Election Commission hadn't finished counting the ballots for the November 4 election when petitions pushing the next citizens' initiative showed up at the door.

Taking no chances, the folks of YOTAA -- Youth Opposed to Animal Acts -- had collected more than 9,000 signatures in the name of ending animal circuses. And you thought Safety Through Peace was a hot topic!

"Just think, in the same amount of time it takes to hold a candle or sign at the yearly Ringling Brothers Circus Vigil for the animals that are already dead, you can help stop the abuse and death of the animals still alive," noted the Rocky Mountain Animal Defense in a Web posting pushing the petition. "If it passes, the city of Denver would only be able to host Animal-Free Circuses!"

Jeff Peckman needed under 2,500 signatures to get his stress-free Initiative 101 on the ballot. But the anti-animal circus measure will need close to 5,400 verified signatures to make the next ballot, according to commission spokesman Alan McBeth. That's because initiatives require that the number of signatures equals 5 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election -- and just over 108,000 Denverites voted in the June runoff between John Hickenlooper and Don Mares.

Peckman, who took his initiative's defeat with the same is-he-dead laid-backness he'd exhibited throughout the campaign, has some advice for citizens taking the petition route. "It's important to have a good idea that helps the people and will save money," he says serenely. "And if you can get some scientific research to back it up, that helps a lot, too."

Will he bring back his petition? "It really shouldn't be necessary," Peckman says. "Everything we proposed is well within the realm of city government."

Okay, one last question. What about that duck that quacked its way into Denverites' cold hearts during the Jon Stewart segment on Safety Through Peace? You know, the piece in which Denver's anti-stress measure was shown bringing peace to the Middle East, and in which Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown said that Peckman made more noise than "a jackass in a tin barn"?

"There were ducks," Peckman replies, still serene. "I can't guarantee that particular sound. But it took me a full three days to realize the caption under Osama bin Laden was a phrase from a John Denver song."

Sunshine on his shoulders makes him happy.

Ka-ching! Mayor John Hickenlooper may have been the big winner in last week's election (and his name wasn't even on the ballot!), but he's not the only politico getting some love. State treasurer Mike Coffman is earning his eBay chops, having received his first set of user feedbacks, the coveted currency of eBay-ers everywhere.

The Colorado Unclaimed Property office currently has listings for approximately 500,000 people who need to be reunited with their possessions, and space is getting slim. So Coffman decided to take a handful of the items -- typically stuff that a bank turns over to the state after it's languished in an expired safe-deposit box for more than five years -- and unload them on the auction Web site to generate some extra income for the state.

Using the handle, Coffman made $180 on an 1834 penny, earned $1,454.99 on a gold Rolex -- and gained a host of glowing reviews. "Good Communication!...A+A+A+" wrote the proud Rolex winner. "Very friendly & helpful seller!! Thank you! A++," exclaimed the new owner of a gold-and-"purple stone" ring.

Understanding the cardinal rule of eBay -- leave no positive feedback unreturned -- Coffman offered his own praises to each and every correspondent: "Paid promptly and easy to work with."

If only the same thing could be said of every government office.

Take your best shot: Homer Simpson once said, "In heaven, the beer will flow like wine." At the Brown Palace on November 4, though, it was the pourers of fine-blended Scotch who knew no limits. The Johnnie Walker Black Label "Journey of Taste" had hit town that night for the first of two stops on the label's national tour of exclusive tastings for true Scotch connoisseurs -- and anybody else who could wrangle an invite. The fun began at 7 p.m., and turnout was heavy; the Brown Palace walking bridge spanning Tremont Street was crammed with impatient would-be tasters waiting to clear the guest-list check. By 7:20, the cheese plates had been reduced to cracker crumbs and lonely grapes, and the black-tied servers bearing appetizers were followed by weaving schools of revelers locked on to the silver appetizers trays like salmon on a herring lure. And the Scotch -- Oh, good God, yes, the Scotch -- as much as you could drink of the good stuff, any way you wanted it: on the rocks, neat, with soda or (sacrilege!) mixed with sour. Realizing that the formal-presentation portion of the evening was drawing nigh, attendees pounded round after round, and soon the lobby outside Brown Palace Ballrooms A and B resembled a huge game of Buzzed-Yuppie Bumper Cars.

At half past the hour, the crowd was divided between the two ballrooms and ushered to rows of tables set with place mats each bearing -- hurrah! -- five more shots of Scotch: two of Johnnie Walker Black and one each of three of the 24 single malts that go into the Black Label blend. One Meagan McCarthy, who was dressed smartly and looking quite faux Scottish in a plaid skirt and black Black Label top, hosted the tasting in Ballroom B. She began by playing a brief propaganda video, tracing the rich history of Johnnie Walker. People cheered heartily at its conclusion. (The strategy of giving people a lot of free Scotch and then bombarding them with branding was working like a charm.) Then McCarthy began conducting the tasting, reminding everyone to sip the whiskey rather than shoot it. Not everyone listened. The room filled with coughs as emboldened tasters who had been drinking Scotch and waters or whiskey sours in the lobby now downed it straight.

"I see a few winces," McCarthy said with playful reproach.

On to shot number two. Notice the vanilla flavors, she said. Shot three. The smoke and the rich fruits. Shot four. Notice that quicker legs equal a lighter body. Shot five. And did you know it takes a hundred years to grow one inch of peat?

Still pondering the Zen of peat, the Scotch-soaked hordes were released around a quarter past eight. As they stopped to scoop up their commemorative Johnnie Walker lapel pins on the way out, McCarthy's parting words of wisdom clanged in their ears: "Remember, the Lord makes the world go around, but Scotch whiskey makes the world go around much faster."

Straighten up and fly right: "Welcome to the Queen City of the Plains," said the Frontier Airlines pilot, happy that the Monday-morning clusterfuck at LaGuardia hadn't made his airbus -- "and isn't this a comfortable plane?" -- more than an hour late. "Welcome to the Crown City of the Western Plains."

Apparently this pilot hadn't gotten the memo that the city and the Metro Denver Network (the newly renamed eco-devo arm of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce) and the Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau (when it's not too busy firing directors and visiting strip clubs, that is) are all working together to combine Denver's marketing concepts into one coherent message. And ideally an accurate one, unlike the pilot's final advice, which threw even hardened New Yorkers into a tizzy: "Smoking is banned within the borders of Colorado," he said. "So, better find a designated smoking lounge at DIA."

Hmmmm. As advertised, Frontier is indeed "a whole different animal."


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