Cat’s got the media’s tongues
I guess, as headlines and alliteration go, “Panthers in paradise” or “Wildcats in wonderland” plays better than “Robber ransacks rural resort.”At least Denver TV types feel that way. As we pointed out last week, a short press release issued by the Vail Police Department warning of a mountain lion in and around Red Sandstone Elementary School garnered more metro media coverage than a string of recent armed robberies in the Vail Valley.Someone wearing a ski mask in Vail apparently is not statewide news, even if they are brandishing a shotgun, but lion tracks near a grade school? That’s good stuff. So what if they later turned out to be dog tracks. Why let the facts get in the way of a sensational story like that?So far, no media outlet other than The Vail Trail has bothered to correct the misinformation that led to a school shutdown. Nor have the Vail cops seen fit to issue a clarification based on the findings of a wildlife officer who examined the alleged cougar prints. In fact, the contact listed on the release still hasn’t even bothered to return my call.Oh well, if nothing else the episode woke a lot of recent suburban transplants up to the fact that we’re surrounded by wilderness areas and wildlife and that they need to use common sense when interacting with the local fauna.Now if we could just convince the bank robbers to leave their city-style crime behind when they move up here.The kiss of deathApparently two-time Vail Town Council candidate Mark Gordon is still mildly peeved that The Vail Trail didn’t endorse him in the general election in November.I told him at the time that such an endorsement might actually have cost him votes. For the Jan. 27 special election, I spared any of the three candidates, including Gordon, from the so-called Vail Trail “kiss of death,” mainly because I hadn’t done enough homework at the time to properly pick a replacement for term-limited council member Ludwig Kurz.I can tell you, though, that I would have stuck to my guns and refused to endorse Gordon the second time around for the same reason I gave in November: he’s an employee of Vail Resorts, which is planning $500 million in redevelopment projects in Vail.How can anyone who works for or has a significant business relationship with a company properly watchdog it in the public approval process? Even if they recuse themselves from votes to avoid the appearance of impropriety, then they’re not doing to the job they were elected to do.A friend of mine who’s an editor of a suburban Seattle paper was in town skiing recently and I told him that the mayor of Vail, Rod Slifer, is part owner of a real estate company that’s 50-percent owned by Vail Resorts.”In other places,” my friend commented, “the public worries that developers have too much access to local government. Here, the developers are local government.”Good point.I understand this is a company town and that virtually everyone has some sort of financial relationship with Vail Resorts direct or indirect but it seems to me that makes it even more imperative that we find elected officials who are as pure as possible.In the end, Gordon got his endorsement, in this case from the Vail Daily, which remains relatively untroubled by matters of conflict.After all, this is the same paper that ran a spread Jan. 28 touting its publisher, Steve Pope, as the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau’s Business Person of the Year. The article, authored by his wife, failed to mention he’s a member of the chamber board. Isn’t that cozy.I’m likely in the minority in being bothered by such things, but even after 12 years of living here I never cease to be amazed at how matters that would raise eyebrows in other communities barely make the radar screen here.After only four years in town, Gordon has already figured that out. After losing in Tuesday’s special election, he’s likely also figured out how worthless newspaper endorsements are.David O. Williams, managing editor of The Vail Trail, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.