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Character flaws

Kaye Ferry
Vail CO, Colorado

We’re in kind of a quiet time right now. The Lionshead parking garage decision is hanging out there. West Lionshead is unofficially attached to that decision. Whether or not to vote again on home rule is in limbo. Crossroads finally has all of its approvals, even to the chagrin of the most stubborn design review board member.

The hysteria aroused over the proposed housing requirements to be placed on all future Vail development has subsided, however temporary, while new versions wind their way through the various town boards. And the child-care issue is reaching a well-deserved fever pitch. So this seems as good a time as any to do a little catching up.

But before I start with local stuff, I’m going to depart for a moment to explore a few other issues.

Let’s start with the union threat to Gov. Bill Ritter. I said it before and I’ll say it again, kudos to the governor for having the fortitude to confront a political nightmare head on. When presented with HB-1072, which would have eased the method used to establish union shops, he vetoed it. And it’s important to note that while he agreed with the proposed legislation, he did not agree with the strong-handed tactics employed in getting it to his desk.

Well that wasn’t good enough for union officials who last week threatened to try to get the Democratic Convention moved out of Denver unless he rethinks his position and signs the bill ” easier said than done at this point, but lets don’t confuse those that the Denver Post has referred to as “bullies” and the threat itself as “blackmail” and “extortion.”

What’s ironic here is that they’re trying to blame the governor for something that is really their fault. If the unions, through their partners, the Democrats, hadn’t been so eager to flex their muscles after their new-found power base, this wouldn’t be an issue. And Ritter was right in taking offense at their manipulation and in saying “The message is this: We’re going to do things differently” because “The way we do the people’s business is as important as what we do.”

So once again, he said no. Thank you, Gov. Ritter, for showing some real leadership ” a quality severely lacking in American politics.

Yet even further off the track but irresistible are two articles I read over the weekend. And I have to admit that I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not we Americans are schizophrenic. I’ll let you decide.

The first article dealt with a particularly shocking account of behavior at the Castle Rock Middle School. It seems as though some of the female students have been taking photos of themselves and their classmates and e-mailing them to the male students.

Doesn’t sound too bad until you hear that they started out with pictures in their underwear and soon after, they were trying to out do each other and ended up taking nude photos. Remember, these kids are like 13 years old.

The common reaction from parents and teachers was “I can’t believe this is happening.”

The school, however, had been trying to educate parents. They held a session called Internet Safety. With a student enrollment of 1,400, 21 parents showed up. Go figure.

But this story’s juxtaposition to the next is what threw me.

A new Associated Press poll asked “What are the most important qualities or characteristics you look for in a candidate?” The results, when tallied, were indisputable. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a candidate. Just one-third look first to a candidates’ stances on issues; even fewer focus on leadership, experience or intelligence.

Here’s how 1,001 adults responded to the open-ended question: 41 percent said honest, trustworthy, truthful; 14 percent said integrity, good character; 10 percent said ability to make the economy stronger; 10 percent said leadership; 8 percent were concerned with a candidate’s health-care policies.

Conclusion? “People care less about issues than they do about a candidate’s character.”

But that’s what raised the schizo question in my mind. What about their kid’s character? Do parents not consider that they have a role in that arena?

I loved a comment that former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb made when addressing a group of young people. “Each of you are creating your own history now. Each of you are creating your own reputation now. And the best way to protect your reputation is before you have one.” Isn’t that a message that should be given to all children and is it not the job of parents to deliver it?

I don’t know. Maybe it was a slow day. But I was struck by the seemingly conflicting sets of values in these two stories.

I’ll also take a minute to comment on the column I did on my accident on the mountain. The ribs are healing but I’m a bit jumpier every time someone gets even remotely close to me on the hill. And I have been overwhelmed by recollections of similar stories. People have called, e-mailed and stopped me so many times that I have to think that the problem is more serious than we have thought. It seems as though most accidents go unreported for the simple reason that most of the offenders don’t stick around, which would lead to the statistics not being truly reflective of the seriousness of the situation. Something must be done.

And last, but certainly not least: Eric Windisch’s death is a loss to his family, the community and the ski industry. Eric was my first supervisor when I became a ski instructor and I will always remember his smile and encouragement.

And while he’ll be remembered for many things, his kind and gentle nature tops the list. He was both a gentleman and a gentle man.

Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.”

Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a biweekly column for the Daily.


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