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A final few words about City Council, and then let's consign them to the ash heap of history for the next month or two.

I watched the six finalists vying for the open spot vacated by Joanne Colt (remember her?) as they were interviewed on the city's cable channel. The TV show, of course, mercifully allowed viewers to avoid actually going to City Hall and sitting through the whole stultifying process.

Council asked the predictable questions: What do you think about TABOR? What are our city's most pressing problems? In response, clichs of an equally predictable sort cascaded from the candidates' lips. There were self-described "facilitators," there were candidates who know how to make "data-driven decisions," who are motivated by their shared love and concern for this wonderful city.

And in the end, Council chose Judy Noyes, whose selection, may I gracefully admit, was predicted by every member of the Indy's editorial staff except me.

By choosing Judy, a thoroughly admirable person, Council further consolidated Mary Lou's death grip on that timid and self-effacing group. Judy has supported the Mayor for a decade and a half, and she'll probably be far more likely to follow Mary Lou's lead than was Joanne Colt.

Are there any negatives for Council? Only this: by adding Judy, who would be a progressive even in Boulder, Council moves farther to the left. If they hope to pass a tax increase next April, they'll need a legitimately conservative voice on Council to endorse and campaign for such a measure.

Sallie Clark would have been such a voice; on the other hand, she might not have supported the proposed tax. But isn't it pretty amazing that, right here in the land of Doug Dean and the home of the Dobson, we have a City Council that is just slightly to the left of the late Hubert Horatio Humphrey? Such are the joys of nonpartisan elections.

But enough about Council, let's talk about guns for a while. Down at Ross Auction, they've got a couple of cabinets full of vintage firearms that will be sold in a few weeks. Bill and Tad, the amiable proprietors, recently let me look over the merchandise.

I hadn't handled any kind of firearm for years, and I had forgotten how sweetly seductive they are. A well-designed rifle is a joy to hold and, mixing beauty and danger, a tool like no other.

I fantasized about moving to the Western slope, and living in a place where I could once again usefully own firearms, and use them whenever I pleased; for target practice, for bird shooting, whatever. And then I realized that I was dreaming about the empty Colorado of my youth, not today's densely populated rural counties, where a stray bullet is more likely to hit a house than a tree.

I don't particularly want to own wallhangers. And -- remember my vows to forsake firearms after last year's Columbine? -- I don't want to own weapons that I can't, in my judgment, safely use.

We all live in our own invented West. And it's interesting to see how political processes try to reconcile our conflicting fantasies.

Take, for example, the continuing fight over proposed changes in the management of the White River National Forest, which, because it includes several ski areas within its boundaries, is afflicted by very heavy recreational use.

The changes proposed by the Forest Service seem eminently reasonable and aimed at protecting the resource for future generations. Yet the so-called "interested parties" -- the resort operators, the mountain bikers, the snowmobilers, the condo builders, etc., etc. -- are all howling bloody murder. Snowmobilers and bikers don't want any restriction on their activities, while ski moguls and developers want to be able to profit from their access to public lands.

None of that is unreasonable; you expect people to pursue their own narrow interests. What you don't expect is that both of our U.S. Senators and several of our congressmen have sided with the user groups.

Our elected representatives appear to have forgotten that public lands belong to all of us. You have an equal and undivided share in all federal landholdings, as do I, as does Bill Gates, and as does the poorest child in Mississippi.

Proximity doesn't confer special rights; just because you're lucky enough to live in Vail, you don't have the right to screw up the back country to the detriment of your fellow owners.

Of course, you could always go down to Ross Auction, buy a gun or two, move to a ranchette outside of Grand Junction, and see if anybody dares to screw up your own private Colorado.

-- johnhazlehurst@aol.com

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