DOUBLE WHAMMY … As a newspaper columnist in Telluride since 1982 (30 years!), it was hard having to give up my freelance gig, at the same time my main job was in jeopardy. But I think the folks at the Watch wanted to be sure that my weekly opinions weren’t an unfair advantage in the election, and that was reasonable … Instead of a column, I did write letters to the editor (both paid and unpaid). But a lot of issues that I would have liked to have seen in print locally didn’t see the light of day. So, I’m grateful, now that the elections are behind us, that I’m able to resume Up Bear Creek.
BACK IN THE SADDLE … First of all, thanks to the citizens of San Miguel County for returning me to local elected office for a fifth time. With special thanks to those who worked on and contributed to my campaign, and those who voted Green locally this time around … Campaigning is tough in small communities. So many of the folks we call friends are not on the same political page as we are. And yet having real choices and going to the ballot box to reaffirm or oust elected officials is an important part of the democratic process in our country. I’ve long been an advocate for making the ballot box our term limits (a position this county has adopted). Elections become report card time … Greens have long pushed for Instant Runoff Voting – but Colorado statute doesn’t allow counties to use that system. With IRV (as the Town of Telluride has adopted as a home rule municipality), you vote your candidate choices in order of preference. Basically, it’s like having a run-off vote simultaneous with your first vote, instead of afterwards. The calculations can get a little daunting, but the winner is always elected with the majority support of the citizens … As it was, once again I won office without gaining a majority vote, since in a three-way for commissioner in Colorado the one with the largest plurality wins. This time I got 42 percent of the votes cast countywide – down 6 percent from four years ago when I received 48 percent … Actually, checking comparisons from 2008 it was interesting that only 29 more people voted this time from four years ago in the District 3 Commissioner race (4,118 versus 4,089). Republican Kevin Kell scored the biggest increase by garnering 1000 votes this time (24 percent versus Bill Wenger’s 813 votes (20 percent) in 2008. Democrat Dan Chancellor got 63 more votes (1375 / 33 percent) than Oak Smith did last time (1312 / 32 percent). And my numbers dropped from 1,964 to 1,743 (48 percent to 42 percent).
GETTING BLUER … Our local election results were only a small part of a larger picture in Colorado that saw our purple status moving into a deeper shade of blue. And nationally, it was a delight to see Obama win (and great to see the President take Colorado, where Gabe Lifton-Zoline, a local boy I got to mentor in politics back when he attended the Telluride School, managed Obama’s state campaign) … As the Watch has reported, the amazing Lynn Padgett won re-election in Ouray County against a concerted Republican push to unseat her. Lynn won Colorado Counties’ Commissioner of the Year award in 2011, and is one of the Western Slope’s brightest political lights. Let’s hope she aims even higher up the political chain next time … Montrose County remained its arch-conservative self, although Dems gave both White and Henderson a run for their money (the two incumbents were architects of an unsuccessful water grab that saw Montrose County try to claim water rights and build a reservoir on Zadra and Skalla ranches in San Miguel County) … However, things were different in San Juan and La Plata counties … San Juan has been a rock red county for decades, in spite of the efforts of Dem Pete McKay (my buddy and one third of what Gov. Ritter termed “the ponytail caucus”). Yet, Pete ran unopposed for a third term this year, and long-time colleague Terry Rhoades lost to Dem challenger Scott Fetchinheir (239 to 274) – giving San Juan County a Dem majority for the first time in recent memory … In another blue upset, Dem challenger and long-time oil & gas enviro activist Gwen Lachelt appears to have beaten incumbent Republican Kellie Hotter. Dem Julie Westendorff took the seat vacated by term-limited Dem Wally White (the other third of the “ponytail caucus”). That means, finally, La Plata County will have a majority of Dems in control. And Dem Mike McLachlan beat incumbent Repub J. Paul Brown for the 59th State House seat – a district Telluride would be in, except for a state Supreme Court nix … Viva la Blue! … However, it wasn’t a blue landslide, as Dem Sal Pace lost to Repub Scott Tipton in the U.S. 3rd Congressional District, and Joe Miklosi lost to Mike Coffman in the 6th.
CANNABIS LEGALIZED … When I was a Haight-Ashbury hippie, I thought legalization was right around the corner. And yet it took 30 more years before Colorado and Washington led the nation in turning around the archaic and unscientific prohibition of cannabis (“marijuana” is a racist nickname as popularized by the Hearst newspapers and now commonly adopted in the U.S. for a kind of plant that has been used medicinally and recreationally for thousands of years under dozens of names – I personally refuse to perpetuate the racist term, and prefer its scientific name) … Imagine what Telluride would be like as a resort town if alcohol was still outlawed? How wonderful that we’ve begun to dig ourselves out of the expensive and socially disastrous pit that cannabis prohibition has been.
FREE SPEECH SCANDAL … Without question, the Dems and Repubs ought to be ashamed that the Commission on Presidential Debates prevented Green presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala from even entering Hofstra University for the second national presidential debate back in October, let alone participating. Stein and Honkala were arrested and handcuffed to a metal chair in a police warehouse in Long Island for eight hours, while Obama and Romney debated … It’s clear that a lot of foreign nations think our “free speech” laws are a joke, when the two major political parties are afraid to hold an open debate with all legitimate candidates and even have opponents arrested and handcuffed to keep them from speaking to a national audience … If you’re one of those that think our system of government is the best and most democratic in the world, think again … Gore wins the popular vote, and loses the presidency. The Supremes allow big money to pour unlimited funds into political campaigns. Stein tries to run as a Green, and is handcuffed to prevent her from debating with Dems and Repubs … Until America gets electoral reform, our version of democracy is truly a flawed system.
THE TALKING GOURD
San Miguel Election
in streaked cacophony
against a deaf & dumb blue
all of it tinged orange
above the Abajos