Snow Blind

Last Wednesday morning, as a few inches of snow fell on Denver -- throwing the town into its usual snow-blind tizzy -- Jesse Morreale heard a knock on his door. He opened it and saw a young Latino entrepreneur, shovel in hand, who asked if he'd like his walk cleared -- whatever the homeowner wanted to pay.

Morreale had just suggested twenty bucks when another man suddenly hollered at him from across the Seventh Avenue Parkway. "Excuse me, sir, I need to talk to you," he shouted, like it was some kind of emergency, Morreale remembers. The man, who was leading two fuzzy little dogs, then ran across the street and came up to Morreale and the young entrepreneur.

"Did you check his credentials?" the man yelled. "You're hiring an illegal alien. And just about every other house in this hifalutin neighborhood is doing the same thing."


Snow shoveling

The busybody continued shouting, even as the young entrepreneur, who spoke perfectly clear English, tried to explain that he was from Texas and had a Colorado ID. Finally, Morreale told the busybody to go away -- which he did, after taking careful note of Morreale's address to report to the authorities. The Denver Department of Legal Snow Removal, perhaps? After the city's slow response to the storm, Denver would probably put known terrorists behind the wheels of snowplows if they could get the job done.

"I didn't see any Anglo kids walking up and down the street asking to shovel my walk," Morreale concludes. "Whose money was this supposedly illegal immigrant taking?"

The tracks of their fears: While the new Southeast Corridor looks like a hit -- as long as you're not trying to reach Park Meadows -- a misbegotten, $14 million transit experiment at FlatIron Crossing has reached the end of the line. The mall's developers, the City of Broomfield and the Regional Transportation District had partnered to create the Zip Shopping Shuttle, a system of six trams designed to ferry shoppers and employees between the three major retail centers that comprise the regional mega-mall.

The first of their kind in the United States, the trams cost $200,000 each and resembled miniature versions of the high-speed trains in Europe. (They were manufactured by Dotto Trains, an Italian company that also builds the little "magical express" choo-choos found at theme parks.) Though the propane-powered trams ran on tires rather than tracks, planners designed a special 2.6-mile landscaped pathway complete with its own bridges and tunnels, with expectations that the sales-tax-funded system would be used by up to 3,000 joyriders a day. Five years after Zip debuted at FlatIron's opening, though, ridership was lagging at a pathetic 419 daily riders, despite marketing efforts.

So last month the six trams were sold to a California movie-prop company for $8,500 -- total! -- and replaced by six traditional shuttles that cost $1 million. Although FlatIron spokesman Hugh Crawford didn't return Off Limits' call about the tram sham (and who can blame him?), an employee at the FlatIron Improvement District, which oversees the Zip line, offers this blunt assessment for why the trams had to go: "They were expensive, they were unsafe, they were falling apart. They were made over in Italy."

Scene and herd: Second-best quip at the Independence Institute's Founder's Day dinner, held on that same snowy Wednesday -- "I've seen Rush Limbaugh in a mini-skirt, and there's no comparison," said Mike Rosen in introducing the evening's long-legged and loose-lipped speaker, Ann Coulter (who refrained from wearing mukluks). But the best line of the evening belonged to the think tank's president (third in a series that started with John Andrews and continued with Tom Tancredo), the always quotable Jon Caldara, who, in noting the large number of women being honored that night, issued this warning: "We are not just going to be your eye candy."

Good to know.


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