4th Estate mentors pass on | VailDaily.com

4th Estate mentors pass on

Michael Cacioppo

In the past week, I have learned of the passing of two of Ye Olde Columnist’s political mentors. In Kansas City, Tom Leathers, the 77-year-old publisher of The Squire newspaper, passed away, leaving south Kansas City, Missouri and south Johnson County, Kansas, without a conservative voice. I grew up reading the Squire newspapers and thoroughly enjoyed the Fourth Estate approach that Leathers took. He was a “tell it as it was” kind of guy. Leathers often ruffled the feathers of the liberal Kansas City Star, the liberal Overland Park Sun, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and any and all governments that were overspending and getting away with whatever they could without any proper checks and balances from Leathers’ competitors. After all, it is far easier for his competitors to sell ads to those wanting tax money if a newspaper agrees with them on the editorial page and supports most of their tax increase requests. Leathers paid dearly for his mostly on-target comments about what was really going on. But he handled it fairly well. Legend has it that he lost his game tickets from one professional team for criticizing them, and that he was even prevented from going to one of his favorite coffee shops for awhile (Shades of “Should old Mike be allowed to come into the old Quattros Coffee Shop in Edwards?” By the way, as usual, old Mike outlasted the coffee shop, and many others, I might add!) At Leathers’ eulogy, the minister asked, “Who will replace Tom?” I turned to my mother and said, “Unfortunately, no one.” Liberal journalism schools rarely have even a single individual with courage willing to take on the powers that be. Frankly, that job doesn’t pay well and your colleagues will label you “gadfly,” as the Star wasted no time doing to Leathers in its front page headline. You see, if you are a conservative holding government accountable, you must be a “gadfly,” meaning a pest. If you are a liberal wanting the government to raise taxes for your benefit or, gag me with a spoon, “for the children,” you are a genuinely fine human being. Locally, concerned Vail citizens lost their champion with the passing of Frank Caroselli. Caroselli, who was 95 years old when he passed away last week in California, was around 70 when I met him. He used to hold political meetings in the old Mark Hotel, now known as the Marriott. I attended every one of them. The meetings were also regularly attended by the late Al Weiss, who once sued the town of Vail and once wrote a letter about me saying that at least I wasn’t a “boot-licker.” Former Vail Trail matriarch Ella Knox, also attended those meetings. Ella is famous for lecturing the old Vail councils by reciting Bible verses to them. Most notably, Ella often quoted an admonishment from Revelations, “Either be hot or be cold. Do not be lukewarm.” This is a good verse to instruct moderates, such as Vail Daily editor Don Rogers, to “take a position,” when wrongdoing occurs in government. Rogers appears to be getting a little better at this. Also in attendance was current Eagle resident Arthur Kittay. Kittay, like me, has never had a problem expressing himself. I probably missed someone else in attendance, but that is due to my own advancing age problems. Caroselli led the meetings by asking if we all realized that the then-town of Vail Charter (constitution) violated the then-state of Colorado Constitution. That is, the Town Charter did not allow citizens to initiate on any subject that had to do with money. Let me put this in plain English: Vail citizens did not enjoy the same right as did other state of Colorado citizens, in that they could not propose or initiate any law that dealt with money. Guess what? Just about everything any government does has to do with money – money taken in, and money spent out! So Caroselli and the gang proposed changes to the charter to put it in line with the state Constitution. And, guess what? The ignorant Vail voters voted “No” to the charter changes because their town council told them to. However, with the persistence of Caroselli and Weiss, they actually got the next council to propose the changes, and it passed. But just a few years ago, former town attorney and current District Judge Tom Moorhead advised the council that they didn’t have to honor the voter change on a particular issue that now slips my mind. The moral to this story is, you can have a constitution but you are not entitled to use it unless you continually fight for it. Caroselli is probably best known for his lawsuit against the town of Vail for violating election laws in an initially successful annexation attempt of West Vail. Frank preached to the deaf ears of the council. When they didn’t listen to him, he sued them, citing 42 allegations of wrongdoing. The court only had to find one to overturn the decision. He initially lost a political decision at the local Eagle District Court (the judge lived in West Vail). But with determination and the aid of a little of my money, he paid his attorney to overturn the wrongful decision at the Colorado Court of Appeals. The town council’s illegal actions cost the Vail taxpayers about $1.5 million. Naturally, council members would say it was Frank who cost the town until at one meeting I informed them that I would face them down every time they lied about Frank and embarrass them until they stopped. Frank Caroselli probably was a rocket scientist, having lived in Prairie Village, Kansas, as a younger man. While I visited him in California a few years back, he showed me some of his science books and science writings, trying to explain to me about Einstein’s theory of relativity and the like. After awhile, I hated to admit to him that I didn’t understand any of it, and I felt very stupid. But there was more to Frank than just having a great science mind. He was the consummate student of libertarianism and Thomas Jefferson. He wanted his government to behave properly. He wouldn’t tolerate anything less. Liberals hated him for that. And today, liberals now have a right to initiate and hold their government accountable, with the changes Frank Caroselli fought for. For that, and all his courage, we owe him our respect! And we owe him thanks for demonstrating courage, even in the face of threats on his life. Some in Vail should still be ashamed of the way they treated this great man. Michael Cacioppo, a former radio talk show host and newspaper publisher, is managing director of BookPlayaDelCarmen.com, LLC, a local travel planning consultant on vacations to Mexico. He can be reached at Cacioppo@BookPlayaDelCarmen.com. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado