Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

The glitch that almost stole Christmas

This is not energy conservation here, folks, this is a glitch," quipped Mayor John Hickenlooper at last Friday's "Light the Lights" event, after he and son Teddy flipped the switch on the new LED light display at the City and County Building — and the entire scene went black a few seconds later.

The glitch was no failing of the new energy-efficiency system, which cost $325,000 (with the Walmart Foundation donating $50,000 and Denver picking up the rest) but is supposed to save the city more than $275,000 a year after this. No, it was "human error," says Eric Brown, Hickenlooper's spokesman. A city employee was sitting in the control room, watching the 9News live feed streaming through the Internet (and no doubt the mass singing of "Happy Birthday" to Kim Christiansen) — but there was a thirty-second delay in the feed, so after this employee saw the lights come on, he thought it was a mistake and turned them off. "It disabled the switch," Brown explains. "That switch at that point was useless."

Instead of going Josh McDaniels ballistic, though, Hickenlooper entertained the crowd while the glitch was identified. The lights were soon back on, and "they've gone on every night since then," Brown adds. "It was an unfortunate mistake."

Not as unfortunate, though, as the eight elf-like figures imitating the Country Bears in a wooden stable on the steps of the City and County Building — which were all too easy to see after the lights went back on. Now that the lights have been replaced, perhaps next year the city can update this portion of the display with something truly indicative of Denver.

Eight medical marijuana dispensary owners...laughing all the way.

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.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun