It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — and when you want to blame someone or something for the latter in 2016, you can start here. Introducing our 2016 Hall of Shame nominees.
We’ve all heard the saying “You get what you pay for.” And this year, it seemed like Frontier Airlines really took that sentiment to heart. While the budget airline continues to offer some of the cheapest flights around, it also seems to be exploring new frontiers in unreliability and poor customer service. That was most evident during a weekend snowstorm in mid-December that caused the carrier to undergo a self-described “meltdown.” Translation: over a hundred canceled flights, thousands of stranded passengers and lost bags, and a complete loss of confidence by many Frontier customers. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for Frontier to expand its number of routes by 40 percent in 2016. How about putting the focus back on the basics?
RTD’s A Line
Train enthusiasts — and travelers tired of paying $60 in cab fare for a one-way trip to Denver International Airport — were delighted when the A Line started up in April. But problems quickly derailed any hope that this RTD line would become a dependable way to get to DIA. It didn’t take long for crossing gates to begin malfunctioning, stalling trains and requiring human guards at each gate. Broken rails and power outages threw the trains themselves off track; a news chopper caught aerial shots of passengers walking along the A Line’s path to catch rides from buses coming to their rescue. All in all, the line’s been a Grade-A embarrassment for RTD, contractor Denver Transit Partners and the University of Colorado, which paid $5 million for naming rights...to what? “This line, connecting downtown to the airport, has been planned for thirty years, so you’ve got, you know, generations that have been anticipating this line,” RTD spokesman Nate Currey told Channel 7. “To have it kind of stumble out of the gate the way it did was embarrassing and disappointing for all of RTD, Denver Transit Partners — our concessionaire — and for everybody in the region.”
State Representative Tim Leonard
Tim Leonard became the first sitting Colorado lawmaker in forty years to serve time, after a judge found the Evergreen Republican in contempt of court in September. When Leonard and his wife of twenty years divorced in 2013, she was given sole decision-making authority over their children’s education.
Disregarding the court’s decision, Leonard had since tried to keep one of his children from taking a standardized test and another from using a school-issued iPad. To make matters worse, Leonard was reappointed to the House Education Committee this year, an irony not lost on Democrats. As outgoing Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst stated: “It is absurd to imagine Representative Leonard taking a seat on the House Education Committee...and making important decisions for Colorado’s students when a judge has prohibited Representative Leonard from making educational decisions regarding his own children.” Ouch.
Denver’s Road Home
Denver’s Road Home was created in 2005 to implement a ten-year plan to end homelessness. It doesn’t take an expert auditor to tell you how that worked out. More than a decade later, the city’s umbrella organization that coordinates homeless services has become nearly as embarrassing as the Denver police officers being caught on camera taking blankets away from the homeless. And Denver’s Road Home was itself caught using donation funds intended to help the homeless to instead fund the city’s controversial sweeps. Meanwhile, the organization’s advisory commission continues to fall apart, with longtime members resigning, meetings suddenly canceled, and all involved feeling like Denver’s Road Home has hit a dead end.
Mitch, Mitch, Mitch. Oh, how we’ll miss you? After twelve years as Denver’s district attorney, you did notch some accomplishments, like modernizing Denver’s forensics lab. But during your last year in office, you managed to go out with some impressive schmuckery. Clarence Moses-El certainly won’t be sending you ny holiday cards after your bizarre decision to (briefly) retry him. Nor will Lorenzo Montoya, who is suing the city because you still refuse to admit he was wrongfully convicted of murder when he was fifteen. And let’s not forget how the state of California collectively shrugged at your attempts to prevent it from legalizing marijuana with your questionable claims that the drug has caused more Colorado homicides. It’s time to relax and embrace the green, homie. We hear toking is a great retirement activity.
As his recent cringe-worthy interview with Shelley Duvall demonstrated, Dr. Phil knows you don’t have to be as heavy-handed as Jerry Springer to exploit the emotionally troubled for fun and profit. But even ranker was his much-ballyhooed, ratings-bait sit-down with Burke Ramsey, who spoke publicly for the first time about the 1996 murder of his six-year-old sister, JonBenét. While the producers tried to tease as much suspense as possible out of Burke’s odd mannerisms (frozen smile, wildly darting eyes, inappropriate chuckles, etc.), the three-hour yawnfest contained such stunning revelations as Burke’s admission that the late Patsy Ramsey was an okay mom and his denial that he bashed JonBenét with a baseball bat. (Unrevealed, however, was the cozy relationship between Dr. Phil and the Ramsey lawyer he interviewed, who also happens to be Phil McGraw’s attorney.) Thanks, Dr. Phil, for turning us off daytime TV forever.
The headline was shocking, to say the least: “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide.” That was the topper to a story shared on Facebook a half-million times after it was published in early November by the Denver Guardian, a website that purported to be a) legitimate and b) Denver’s oldest news source. In actuality, it was a fake news site started by Californian Jestin Coler, who got his start in fake news with a piece for nationalreport.com about how customers were using food stamps to buy marijuana at Colorado dispensaries. “What that turned into was a state representative in the House in Colorado proposing actual legislation to prevent people from using their foods stamps to buy marijuana based on something that had just never happened,” Coler told National Public Radio. The fake-news business is big business these days, but Coler appears to have pulled the plug on the Denver Guardian. Good thing, too: We have enough trouble figuring out what’s real in this city.
Alden Global Capital
These are hard times in the newspaper business. There are a hundred fewer daily papers in America than there were twelve years ago, and those that remain have seen ad revenues plummet and endured crippling layoffs. But it’s particularly galling to see a paper that’s still raking in millions in profits, like the Denver Post, ruthlessly paring down staff and coverage just to maximize the return on investment for a bunch of fat cats with no particular interest in the goals of journalism — or life in Denver. That’s the “harvesting cash” strategy of Alden Global Capital, the hedge-fund firm that owns a hefty stake in the Post’s parent company, MediaNews Group. Under Alden’s control, MediaNews has been emptying newsrooms, selling off assets, and transforming the once-mighty Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire into a squeak-toy on Colfax.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.