The people gathered in our village square last week, and they fell silent as a plume of white smoke curled from the chimney of City Hall, signifying a new Councilor had been selected, a man who would, along with the rest of City Council, lead us deeper into poverty, despair and hopelessness.
Moments later The Chosen One appeared. The believers gasped as a single thought raced through their minds: "Wow! Our new City Councilman looks just like Wayne Newton!"
Turns out it wasn't Mr. Newton, the Las Vegas lounge lizard. It was Sean Paige, a former Gazette editorial writer who has shiny white teeth and magnificent hair. But like Newton, Paige does dance and sing.
Paige's worn-out, obscure Libertarian rant has focused largely on why he hates government. Now he is government. Logically, this means Paige will now begin to hate himself. (If I were you, I wouldn't stand in front of his house when he starts tossing out the 55-gallon drums of hair gel and all the mirrors.)
I worked alongside Paige for several years during my stint at the Gazette. We never really got along, in part because even though I routinely wrote 800-word columns without using any punctuation and was always puzzled by the use of words such as "he" and "him," most people in the newsroom still thought of Paige as the dope. That really ticked him off.
But an incident in 2002 really made one of Paige's hairs almost fall out of place. It happened when a Gazette columnist — he looked a lot like me — uncovered a dirty secret. During the worst drought in Colorado history and a city watering ban, when the village had stopped watering parks and playgrounds and kids had bloody knees from playing on hard-packed dirt soccer fields, The Broadmoor quietly, in private meetings with our city-owned Utilities, demanded more water to keep its golf courses wet and green.
Utilities boss Phil Tollefson secretly ordered engineers to open a valve and send 200,000 gallons of water a day gushing to The Broadmoor. In all, about 3 million gallons. And not that non-potable gray water normally used on golf courses. Clean, purified drinking water. Our water. During our worst drought ever.
And instead of paying the regular rate, the secret deal allowed The Broadmoor to pay just half. A real steal.
From Tollefson, when confronted: "We did furnish potable water to their holding pond for a period of time. We sold them about 200,000 gallons a day, in that range, for a few weeks, I believe."
From Broadmoor president Steve Bartolin: "Oh, we never really had a problem with the city. They did, for a week or so, give us a little extra spillover."
Three million gallons of "spillover."
So I wrote about it. It's what newspapers used to do. The villagers were outraged. Council, which also serves as the Utilities board, hadn't heard of the sweet Broadmoor deal.
The next year, after Utilities chose not to include The Broadmoor on a requested list of the city's top water users because the resort didn't want that information released, then-Councilor Jerry Heimlicher fumed: "When government decides to keep a secret, people just assume there's something wrong. I know I do."
Here's a sampling of what the appointee to Heimlicher's seat on Council wrote about the secret water deal in not one, but two scathing 900-word defenses of The Broadmoor — Gazette editorials that were, according to a later conversation with a departing Tollefson, ordered by the resort.
"In fact," Paige wrote, "there was nothing nefarious about what transpired, as implied; it had been happening for years. But changing circumstances, and the unfortunate inclination to hunt for scapegoats in a crisis, conspired to cast The Broadmoor as a villain."
Paige was even given a quote to use by Broadmoor boss Bartolin: "We weren't asking for a deal or some kind of special treatment," he said. Right.
We talked Tuesday, and Paige offered this: "I'd only been at the Gazette and in town for a few weeks, and didn't even know what The Broadmoor was. I knew it was a big hotel. There was no pressure from anyone to defend The Broadmoor. It was my initiative entirely. ... My editorials upset a lot of people."
Anyway, that's the new guy on City Council. Maybe this time, he'll become something good for our town. In the meantime, if you see Councilman Paige on the street, congratulate him. He'll probably say thanks.
Or he might even sing a few lines from "Danke Schoen."
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