The Outsider 

In case you didn't notice, last week was more than wonderful for at least one obscure subculture: political junkies. Super Tuesday! Joanne! Bill Owens vs. Doug Dean! Bush vs. Gore! Robertson/Falwell vs. McCain! Bill Bradley cut during preseason! The mind boggles, the head spins; it's like having the Super Bowl and the seventh game of the World Series on the same day.

As Joanne Colt learned the hard way, being a public figure can carry a heavy price. Most of us never have to endure anything worse than an election loss or scorn from the daily rag. But when the public perceives you, rightly or wrongly, as an unrepentant crook, you'll find out what it is to be summarily rejected.

There is, however, a subtext that's worth considering. If the Colts spent half a million dollars on legal fees, it wasn't to keep Joanne on council. They did it to give their son a second chance. That's understandable; many parents would do the same thing. But it does make you think about hundreds of thousands of young men in this country who are currently doing time for petty offenses, whose parents didn't have the resources to fight the system, and lay down the get-out-of-jail-free card.

When Governor Bill and his trusty sidekick Dickie Wadhams persuaded Colorado voters to cough up a couple of billion big ones for light rail and highways, I predicted that the legislature would roll over obediently for their superstar Republican.

How wrong I was! Since the governor's office has little real power, the right-wing, know-nothings running the legislature don't much care what Owens wants. They care passionately about their campaign contributors, and about the folks who can deliver the Republican nomination to them; Governor Bill, despite his stratospheric approval ratings, is simply irrelevant.

If our very own state Rep. Doug Dean becomes Speaker of the House, the Governor's initiatives will be treated just as respectfully as that famous potted palm in a Denver hotel lobby, which the Speaker-to-be reputedly mistook for a urinal.

And moving right up to presidential politics, get ready for eight months of nonstop negative campaigning, as Messrs. Gore and Bush each try to prove that the other is Satan's spawn. Couldn't we have a statewide initiative, which would restrict campaign commercials to the hours between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.?

Such a law, simple, fair and equitable, would immeasurably improve the quality of our lives, protect our children and end big money's malign influence over our political system.

Meanwhile, who will Council appoint to fill Joanne's seat for the next year? Not me; I'm not applying. And if Sallie Clark's as smart as I know she is, she won't apply either.

After all, if you're appointed, you'll have to run for the seat in a year, and, if elected, you'll have to run again in 2003. At-large Council elections can be fiercely competitive, and extraordinarily expensive, as many defeated incumbents have learned. By contrast, if Sallie waits for a year, and runs in her district, which the term-limited Leon Young has represented for a generation, she should cruise right in to a four-year term.

But if Sallie really wants to be Machiavellian, she could apply and, if appointed, run for the district seat and quietly encourage one of her allies to run for the short seat.

Possible result: the short seat is uncontested, as is the district seat.

Result: Sallie rules.

Fantasies aside, Council will most likely look for someone reasonably similar to Joanne: i.e., a woman with strong links to the business community but without the liabilities. Given the clout of the 'Good Ol' Girl' network, I suspect that a designated candidate will emerge in due time and waltz right through the appointment process.

And finally, let's talk about power. For the last couple of decades, Bill Hybl has been the most powerful person in southern Colorado, largely because of his position as head of the El Pomar Foundation. That may be about to change. Denver cable magnate Bill Daniels, who died a few days ago, left the bulk of his assets to a newly created charitable foundation.

That foundation will dwarf El Pomar, with assets of well over a billion dollars. Daniels, a crusty, quirky, opinionated and thoroughly delightful guy, was very close to a Springs resident who has many of the same qualities: developer Steve Schuck. It'll be interesting to see whether Steve takes an active role in the Daniels Foundation; if he does, look for some tectonic power shifts. Once a candidate for governor, Steve might find himself more powerful than any governor or house speaker.

And besides, he's housebroken.

-- letters@csindy.com


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