Longform

Big Bang Theory

Page 3 of 7

Perhaps "Speedy" would have felt more comfortable over at the state legislature, where Golden Republican Sally Hopper drew chortles from colleagues when she explained why she thought it was more important to give penalty points than fines to deter speeding. Said the unrepentant Hopper, "I'm a rich speeder." Legislators didn't exactly put the pedal to the metal during the session, accomplishing little of note but still finding time for pranks. Republican jokesters Mike Salaz of Trinidad and Doug Dean of Colorado Springs set the overall tone when they rigged up plastic tubing and a small water pump so that Dillon Republican Bryan Sullivant's pants got wet when he stepped up to the podium to speak.

As if to confirm that the whole show could have been run better by children, US West loaded thirty middle-school students into a flatbed truck, festooned the vehicle with "We Are the Future" banners, then drove the kids to the Capitol. Only later was it pointed out that the phone giant had violated a state law requiring children sixteen or younger to wear seatbelts. A more successful junior invasion was launched in January, when hordes of elementary-school kids invaded the Capitol toting signs that read, "We're Bugging the Legislature" and chanting, "Hairstreak! Hairstreak!" Having struck fear into the hearts of the legislators, the commandos won their fight to get the hairstreak butterfly declared Colorado's official insect.

When it came to bugging people, though, the legislature couldn't hold a citronella candle to the Regional Transportation District. How the buses ran on time remained a mystery, as RTD boardmembers continued to behave as if they'd been sucking fumes out in the motor pool. This year's greatest hits: Two boardmembers filed suit against their own agency and subsequently were barred by a federal judge from attending their own executive sessions; another boardmember traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby against federal funding for his agency's own light-rail project and then threatened to take RTD to small-claims court in a dispute over his $700 travel expense.

In May, seven of the fifteen RTD directors claimed at a press conference that the other eight had secretly been meeting without them. The board paid a year's salary and other severance benefits to an executive secretary who allegedly suffered "emotional trauma" from having to deal with the wild bunch. Her replacement didn't fare much better: She lasted just six weeks before announcing that she respected herself too much to work for the board. At times the place seemed about to lapse into all-out civil war. Former RTD board chairman Jack McCroskey claimed that when he tried to enter a public study session last year, a security guard "made a motion to go for a gun" when he refused to sign in and give his name. McCroskey escaped unharmed and was elected back onto the board in November.

The aura of the Wild West was everywhere this year. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder cashed in her chips and left town after varmints got into her car at Denver International Airport. An irate Schroeder told city officials she found "mouse droppings" in the vehicle, which was towed not once but twice from the airport's long-term parking lot. Word came from Elbert County that two county commissioners were attending public meetings with loaded guns, prompting one critic to predict a "shootout at the O.K. Courthouse." And a bitter campaign between horse trader Tom Strickland and horse doctor Wayne Allard culminated when, during a televised debate, Rocky Mountain News columnist Clifford May asked the candidates if they would endorse public hangings for criminals. Allard answered in the affirmative, providing reams of copy for May and in all likelihood cinching the election.

If Dick Lamm could have found a gallows small enough, he would have slipped a noose around the scrawny neck of Ross Perot. After urging Lamm to run for president to give his Reform Party credibility, Perot treated the unsuspecting Coloradan like a trained monkey, lending new meaning to the words "chimp" and "chump." The capper came when, after the never-silent Lamm declared his candidacy on Larry King Live July 9, Perot showed up the next night to announce his interest in the nomination on the very same show. "I knew he was unpredictable," Lamm said. "But this was not exactly welcoming me to the party." Lamm later compared his brief presidential bid to "drinking from a fire hose."

For former Rocky Flats grand jury foreman Wes McKinley, political life was more like sipping from a leaky garden hose. After the stubborn rancher launched an independent run for Congress, he was accompanied for much of the race by only his trusty mule, Marvin, who plodded with him across the Fourth District's 21 rural counties. Stumped over whom to endorse in the three-man race, the Greeley Tribune decided to back the mule. "Marvin doesn't mind getting out front and pulling the party's bandwagon," said the paper's editorial writers. "Or any bandwagon, for that matter."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.