No matter your perspective, 2003 has been a surly, divisive and melancholy year. The war in Iraq has officially been declared over since March 20, however the number of American soldiers, as well as Iraqi soldiers and citizens, continues to rise. Here at home, the recession is officially over, but one has to look no further than the local soup kitchen -- which is feeding record numbers of people daily -- to see how well the economy has "rebounded" for the masses.
Along with much of the bad news came the minor victories. Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family successfully organized efforts to protest this fall's Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, claiming they promoted teen-age group sex. Gays and lesbians celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional. Locally, environmentalists celebrated their victory in preserving Red Rock Canyon as open space. And, thanks to the Friends of the Black Forest, the county's "crown jewel" of its park system will remain intact.
The following is a look back at the wacky year that was, in the words of the newsmakers themselves.
"I don't eat that kind of meat anymore."
-- An unidentified King Soopers shopper, rebuffing Colorado Springs resident Jim Davis after he asked her to sign his petition to recall El Paso County Commissioner Chuck Brown. Efforts this year to recall Brown, and Commissioner Tom Huffman, ultimately failed.
"If you are looking for a Commissioner worthy of recall, take a look at the lying, cowardly closet liberal [Jeri] Howells, hero of the [TEA] Party and appropriate poster girl, who goes where the breeze blows to save her job because she is a career politician with nothing to offer employers."
-- County Commissioner Tom Huffman, describing his Republican colleague Jeri Howells, in an e-mail message sent on March 12 to his constituent David Crutchfield.
"It's troubling that there's someone watching and taking down my name. Knowing that I'm on some kind of list that typecasts me as some kind of subversive troubles me."
-- Jenny Finn, a stay-at-home mom and nonviolent death penalty opponent, who was spied upon by the Colorado Springs Police Department. Finn's name and address were subsequently turned over to the Denver Police Department, and possibly the FBI, for inclusion in the infamous spy files list. Finn's name appeared alongside peaceful groups who had been identified by police as "criminal extremists."
"We're the third-largest political party in the country and the state. What gives the police the right to conduct surveillance of political parties?"
-- John Berntson, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, which also was included in the spy files.
"I just inherently trust the integrity of the police chief and the city manager."
-- Colorado Springs Councilman Ted Eastburn, after initially expressing concerns over the police department's intelligence-gathering tactics.
"This has been a learning experience for us all. Part of the learning is recognizing a mistake and taking responsibility for it."
-- Colorado Springs City Manager Lorne Kramer, in a letter of apology to the Independent after the city withdrew its lawsuit against the newspaper to stop it from publishing a story involving police officer Jeffrey Huddleston.
"I made an error in judgment. I can't point to it as a lapse in judgment."
-- United States Olympic Committee CEO Lloyd Ward, as quoted in the New York Times, after an ethics report found that he had fostered the appearance of a conflict of interest when he used the USOC to help his brother in a business venture. In March, amid continuing scandal, Ward was forced out of his job of 11 months. USOC president Marty Mankamyer also resigned, along with other top officials, and the controversies, including allegations of mismanagement and misconduct, led to Congress pushing for a complete overhaul of the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit.
"If I walk down a dark alley with hundred-dollar bills hanging out of my pockets, it doesn't justify my being attacked or robbed, but I certainly increased the risk by doing what I did."
-- Brig. Gen. Silvanus "Taco" Gilbert, the commandant of cadets of the Air Force Academy, responding to Cadet Lisa Bellas after she reported that she had been raped by another cadet at a party -- and criticized her for attending the party and drinking alcohol. Stories of widespread rape and sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy ultimately led to congressional hearings into the scandal, and an Inspector General's report concluded in September that top Air Force officials were aware of sexual misconduct at the academy but allowed it to continue for years. Gilbert was transferred from the Air Force Academy to a Pentagon job in March.
"I would say it was powerful; it was probably a feeling of complete helplessness."
-- El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, after volunteering to get shocked by a Taser gun, which delivers 50,000 volts of electricity to the human body. This year, despite assertions by Amnesty International that the Tasers are "tools of torture," both the Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department purchased them to neutralize uncooperative suspects.
"Colorado Springs is awesome."
-- Palmer High School senior Richard McNulty, 17, who had the words "Colorado Springs," along with the "C" from the Colorado state flag, tattooed on his chest. The only other place McNulty has lived is at an Army boot camp in Missouri.
"They think the symphony should be run like a Wal-Mart. But we're not selling Tide. This isn't laundry detergent."
-- Alan Isaacson, spokesman for the local musicians' union, criticizing the past leadership of the Colorado Springs Symphony. Following the symphony's declared bankruptcy, musicians have reorganized as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
"This government, like in Vietnam, is lying us into war. Like Vietnam, it's a reckless, unnecessary war, where the risks greatly outweigh any possible benefits."
-- Daniel Ellsberg, the former Vietnam War Marine company commander who 30 years ago leaked 7,000 pages of documents -- known as the Pentagon Papers -- that exposed the extraordinary catalog of lies and duplicity on the part of the U.S. government leading up to the Vietnam. His comments were made just before George W. Bush declared war on Iraq on March 20.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
-- President George W. Bush's infamous 16 words that justified declaring war against Iraq. In July, the CIA admitted that the claim, uttered during the president's State of the Union address, was inaccurate. Since then, the Bush administration has come under intense criticism for misleading the American people with claims of weapons of mass destruction -- the rationale for war -- which have not been found.
"Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion."
-- President George W. Bush, responding to mass protests in the United States and abroad over the war on Iraq.
"I've never looked upon our police as being brutal and it just really kind of shocked me."
-- Peace demonstrator Dorothy Schlager, who witnessed Colorado Springs police tear-gassing war protesters.
"I always tell students, if we could pack all of American history into one room, the Chinese would need 25. I think of [the United States] as being a particularly athletic, attractive 23-year-old with all the money in the world, living in a community of middle-aged people. Sometimes we can be smart, but most of the time we just don't get it."
-- Best-selling author Gus Lee, who lives in Colorado Springs, whose latest book, Chasing Hepburn, explores the rich history of his Chinese ancestors.
"Let's get out there and win one for the Gipper!"
-- Sallie Clark, wrapping up her announcement speech as a Colorado Springs mayoral candidate. After two months campaigning cloaked in an American flag scarf and red pantsuit, Clark finished third.
"According to a source close to the singer, without the device he resembles a mummy with two nostril
-- An excerpt from the April issue of Vanity Fair, detailing the latest bizarre tales about singer Michael Jackson, including that he wears a prosthesis nose tip. In November, the King of Pop was arrested for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old boy.
"A few people did walk out, but I couldn't tell if it was because they were mad or bored or had to go to the bathroom."
-- UCCS student Amy Blakestad, commenting on state Rep. Dave Schultheis' Feb. 23 keynote speech to a group of college students who thought they were being honored for their academic successes but were instead lectured on the evils of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, drugs and alcohol.
"If you had asked me five years ago, Was my goal to be majority leader?' I'd say No.' If you'd asked me five years before that, Was my goal to even be in the United States Senate?' I would have said, No, I'm a lung transplant surgeon.' If you'd asked me five years before that, Would you ever be a lung transplant surgeon?' I'd say No, lung transplants have not even been invented yet.'"
-- Newly elected United States Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a former heart surgeon, in a March 6 Independent exclusive in which he talked about Iraq, terrorist cells, AIDS in Africa, local control and the man he knows better than anyone, former councilman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Ted Eastburn.
"Jesus did not live in a fiscally constrained environment."
-- Colorado Springs City Council candidate Scott Hente, explaining why he did not support the city's insurance program that includes benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Hente, who was elected to the Council in April, said he opposed the city's insurance program on fiscal, not moral grounds, and has since supported a proposal to offer domestic partner benefits as long as employees pay for them out of pocket.
"You're going to have to live with yourself."
-- Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, after a majority of newly elected city council members, including Hente, voted to cancel the city's same-sex employee health benefits program.
"These guys make Don Rumsfeld look like a Prada model."
-- Independent columnist John Hazlehurst, weighing in on the new makeup of the City Council, which includes eight men and one woman.
"I'm getting a lot of negative letters [from people] wanting Chuck [Baker] on the air, but as much as I'd like to accommodate that, someone has to pay the bills."
-- KKCS 1460 AM station manager Jerry Grant, after longtime local shock jock Chuck Baker's radio show was cancelled due to dismal ratings.
"It's the worst session I've been in. Everybody up here is crabby."
-- State Rep. Bill Sinclair, commenting on the mean-spirited and partisan climate that defined this year's legislative session in Denver.
"I'm not having a whole lot of fun."
-- State Rep. Richard Decker, echoing Sinclair.
"It's just been a very partisan year."
-- State Rep. Mark Cloer, echoing Decker.
"One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean that if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person?"
-- Congresswoman Barbara Cubin, a Republican from Wyoming, during a gun debate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cubin's comment drew immediate criticism, but she defended herself, noting, "some black people sell drugs" and claiming only someone with a "chip on their shoulder" could be offended.
"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
-- United States Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, in an interview with the Associated Press during which he also said that homosexuality, feminism and liberalism undermine the family. Santorum's comments drew outrage from gay and civil rights groups.
"Our dilemma is that in some ways we're doing much better; people know more now than they used to, there's a public acknowledgement that the Earth is in trouble. But overall, things are really, really bad."
-- Dave Foreman of the Wildlands Project, on the state of the environment, including the fact that more species are facing extinction since the time of the dinosaurs.
-- Words on a banner that President George W. Bush stood in front of while announcing the end of the war in Iraq on May 1. Since then, 31 soldiers who were deployed from or who were associated with Fort Carson have died in Iraq.
"He made me realize that the mayor is just like everyone else. I couldn't believe it."
-- Nancy Bramwell, who retired this year after 30 years as assistant to six Colorado Springs mayors and 15 separate city councils, speaking of the first mayor she worked for, Eugene McCleary.
"Local politics is [a] great hobby. It doesn't pay very well, so it's got to be a hobby."
-- Stockbroker and newly elected mayor Lionel Rivera, who disclosed in a May 8 cover story that, in addition to the $6,250 he earns as mayor, his other hobbies include investing in the stock market and running.
"Even if it's a magnet on a refrigerator, it's still God's word."
-- Kelly Littrell, manager of a local store that sells Christian products. The industry has grown to a $4 billion glow, offering everything from plastic Jesuses to board games and video series
"We are not Anti-Catholic, Anti-Jew, Anti-Negro, or Anti-Anything, but are PRO-AMERICAN."
-- From a Ku Klux Klan letter presented at a Pueblo church service on April 29, 1923.
"Right now our civilization is under attack and White people are threatened with extinction from Third World invasion and race-mixing propaganda."
-- From racist propaganda that has been distributed throughout the city by the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based organization that has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as the most dangerous hate group in the United States. In August, the City Council passed a resolution condemning racism, but stopped short of criticizing the National Alliance by name.
"The destruction of our civil liberties will not come with a thunderclap."
-- City Councilman Randy Purvis, arguing passionately against a policy that required all persons entering City Hall to show identification -- and citing his belief that the rule represents a gradual erosion of individual liberties. In June, the City Council unanimously voted to eliminate the ID program.
"[It was] almost like they massacred them again."
-- Gayleen Fatur, after vandals desecrated monuments to honor striking miners and their wives and children who were slaughtered in the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 in southern Colorado.
"The Federal Marriage Amendment is the only sure way to protect the institution of marriage from being dismantled by gay activists and radical deconstructionist judges."
-- Focus on the Family Vice President Bill Maier, supporting a law that would restrict the courts from defining marriage as anything other than between a man and woman. The proposed law, introduced by Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, came on the heels of the United States Supreme Court's 6-3 decision striking down anti-sodomy laws.
"We're going to take money out of the budget and buy every member of Council a .38 to keep in front of them on the dais."
Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, joking after Don Ortega brought a shotgun to a City Council meeting in July after the state legislature dumped local gun regulations. The city later banned guns from City Hall.
"I spent six months of my life in a desert because I believed in this country. And we can't even take care of our own people."
Kim Guericke, an uninsured Gulf War veteran, after President Bush announced the United States would provide universal healthcare to Iraqis.
"Colorado Springs has influence in what's happening in Israel in ways that most people in our community don't realize."
-- Butch Maltby, CEO of TouchPoint solutions, on the powerful influence of local Christian Zionists, who believe that the restoration of the Jewish people to Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Christ.
"It looks like I had been shot 200 times with a BB gun."
-- Eaton resident Josh Watson, the first person in Colorado to contract the West Nile virus in Colorado. Watson was describing to the Denver Post the "reddish-purple blotches that were all over his body." With 2,790, Colorado led the nation in the number of cases this year, and 54 people died from complications from the virus.
"Happy 10th to my favorite junkyard dog."
-- Dan Njegomir, the former editorial page editor of the Gazette, congratulating the Independent on its 10th anniversary, and noting that communities are better served by two watchdogs.
"In a city where social and fiscal conservatism rule, where self-censorship and pandering are common, the Indy has the guts to tell it like it is, no matter whom they piss off in the process."
-- Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, who helped cook up the Independent 10 years ago, and has been the beneficiary of critical coverage in its pages.
"It's as though a family member has gotten hooked on some weird, dangerous new drug, with all kinds of bad side effects, and won't acknowledge there's a problem and refuses to enter rehab."
-- Best-selling author Eric Schlosser, expressing his feelings of "enormous love mixed with anger, outrage and disbelief" at the state of local and national affairs, and congratulating the Independent for offering a weekly dose of tough love to a town that really needs it.
"Everyone in the Republican Party can break the rules except me."
-- Former City Councilman Charles Wingate, who resigned this year after he was charged with 16 felonies and two misdemeanors related to misuse of a city credit card and illegally pawning city equipment.
"Everyone knows that the First Amendment guarantees you the right to free speech, but what it also guarantees is the right not to speak."
-- Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, after challenging a new state law mandating public schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
"This is a frivolous and gratuitous attempt by the ACLU to demean a law that is clearly constitutional."
-- Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, appearing on FOX News' nationally syndicated O'Reilly Factor, accusing the ACLU of seeking publicity with its challenge of the state law that mandates the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance every day in public schools. Three days after his appearance, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in the ACLU's favor, and, after initially vowing to fight the ruling in court, Republican lawmakers agreed to rewrite the bill next year.
"We hope to be able to work through this soon, but in the meantime we ask for the indulgence of our many friends and the media, giving our family the opportunity to cope with this outside the public arena."
-- Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, announcing that he and Frances, his wife of 28 years, are separating.
"People really need media and they need food. And they really need food more than they need media."
-- Media mogul Ted Turner, in Colorado Springs to plug his new chain restaurant, Ted's Montana Grill.
"It's a sad day in Tennessee, but a great day in heaven. The Man in Black' is now wearing white as he joins his wife June in the angel band."
-- Merle Kilgore, who was best man at Johnny and June Carter Cash's wedding. Johnny Cash died in September of complications from diabetes. June Carter Cash passed away in May.
"I would remind our elected officials that when Colorado Springs was founded, we had incredibly benevolent people giving their time and energy and most of all money to make sure Colorado Springs was beautiful. What are we going to remember our leaders by 100 years from now?"
-- Colorado Springs Historical Alliance president Joyce Stivers, after the city's secret negotiations to sell the nationally designated historical City Auditorium to a private developer were exposed.
"It's an anti-building ordinance."
-- Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, one of seven who rejected in September a proposed view ordinance that would have preserved the view of Pikes Peak from the Pioneers Museum downtown. The ordinance had been supported by numerous citizen groups, the city's planning staff and planning commission, and several other advisory boards, but it was opposed by the city's development lobby and the Chamber of Commerce.
"Sometimes keeping your job isn't worth disregarding the moral and ethical commitment we owe future generations."
-- Colorado Springs city planner Alece Otero, in a letter of resignation submitted on Sept. 26, in which she credited her decision to leave a city government that has enabled developers to control City Hall at the detriment of sound growth planning.
"I believe this is wrong, very very wrong."
-- City planner James Mayerl, in September, after the cash-strapped government gave wealthy Nor'Wood Development Company $16,000 worth of breaks on fees owed to the city.
"I don't see that anybody sold their soul."
-- City Councilman Tom Gallagher, rejecting the idea that "money buys votes." An Independent analysis found that the seven winning council members from this April's election collected more than half of their campaign donations -- and in two cases 83 percent -- from real-estate and construction interests. Since the election, the council has made several significant decisions favoring developers and builders.
"When all is said and done, there is still no heavy lifting involved; there are no wild animals biting. It's good work."
-- Rich Tosches, whose popular Gazette column was canceled when he was moved to the lifestyle section of the newspaper to cover seniors and local authors.
"If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."
-- Talk show host Rush Limbaugh, in a 1995 on-air diatribe. In October, Limbaugh, a vocal supporter of the war on drugs, checked into rehab after it was revealed that he was involved in a black-market drug ring and was being investigated for illegally buying and using OxyContin, a strong painkiller.
"Many disabilities occur at birth as a result of the mother's bad conduct or habits, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or sometimes even due to the mother having the child beyond the age of natural childbirth. By funding programs to care for these children, we are encouraging irresponsibility."
-- One of several angry and cynical comments that were published in this year's tax-paid voter guides in opposition of a tax to benefit The Resource Exchange, a local nonprofit that provides services to people with developmental disabilities. The anonymous comments were filed by local attorney and political operative Bob Gardner, who was actually being paid to get the measure passed. Voters rejected the tax 60 to 40 percent.
"I want people to rediscover the magic of libraries."
-- Former librarian and first lady Laura Bush, in a glossy flyer mailed out to El Paso County voters, urging them to approve bonds for new libraries. Despite promises to name a library after the first lady, voters rejected the proposal 57 to 43 percent
"Hi there. You've reached the home phone of Jim Bensberg. If you are a friend, please leave your name and number at the sound of the tone. If you're from the Independent, what part of no comment' don't you understand?"
-- The message on El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg's answering machine. Since he ran for and won the $63,000-a-year tax-paid office last November, Bensberg has refused interview requests by the newspaper and has also refused to explain why he has no comment on county-related issues. The message has since been changed.
"When you look and see 350 kids coming in at the ninth-grade level and only 200 graduating four years later, you're not doing enough."
-- Sierra High School Principal Bryan Wright, on the widespread dropout problem, in a story detailing his school's efforts to reverse the tide.
"It's against the law to abandon your children."
-- Fort Carson Spc. Simone Holcomb, who reported AWOL after she followed a local judges order -- and not the Army's -- when she, after a series of events, remained in Colorado Springs to take care of her seven children while her husband fought in Iraq.
"A secret democracy' is an oxymoron, sort of like jumbo shrimp' or athletic scholarship."
-- Bill Hochman, chairman of the local chapter of the ACLU, during a November panel discussion for journalists designed to discuss the ramifications of the USA PATRIOT Act.
"I and seven others were able to spend 55 minutes with the president in the Oval Office discussing any issue we liked. It was incredible."
-- New Life Church Pastor Ted Haggard, who is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, after he was invited to watch the president sign into law the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 on Nov. 5.
"Isn't it a sad day when a group of private citizens has to sue the government to get it to follow the law?"
-- Gary Schinderle, spokesman for the Friends of the Black Forest. The group spent between $130,000 and $140,000 in legal fees battling El Paso County and its efforts to build a road through the middle of the county parks department's "crown jewel" -- the Black Forest Regional Park. In December, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the county.
"He was just caught like a rat."
-- Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, after U.S. troops found former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hiding in a "spider hole" outside his hometown of Tikrit on Dec. 14.
"Notifications were made to School District 11 to keep children in the schools in the surrounding area until the buffalo were rounded up."
-- From a press release issued by the Colorado Springs Police Department after a herd of 46 bison escaped the G&C meatpacking plant on the city's West Side in early December. Homeowners shot two of the wandering bison, which were then killed by police officers. A third bison was also shot and killed by police near Coronado High School.
"Everyone in this town is insane, and I can prove it."
-- Colorado Springs artist Bill Cummins, 74, whose work has recently been "discovered," in a lively Independent interview on Dec. 4.