Kobe goes home, county turns blue,new flag flies
EAGLE COUNTY – The stories of 2004 were a glorious mixture of our best and basest, of dismissals, Democrats and die-hard flag fanatics – a political and personal polyglot.A media circus fell quiet, water got boiled. So did the emotional temperature of the Body Politic as the November election drew near.When it was all over, we took stock of ourselves and our lives, and realized – again – that we still have each other. We are lucky to be alive in an amazing time – better fed, better educated, richer, healthier – than anyone anywhere at any time in history. And we live in a seriously cool place.Kobe kronicles koncludeA 13-year-old girl summed up the case perfectly when she raised the question, “Do you mean to tell me that Kobe Bryant got out of a rape accusation because he wrote a sorry note?!?”Cirque de Kobe ended at the 11th hour when Bryant acquiesced and signed a note written by his alleged victim’s attorneys, 14 months after the original accusation. Basically, Bryant said that after some serious soul searching, he could understand how the young woman might think she’d been raped and that he was sorry.About 5:30 p.m. on the day it ended, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert asked the case be dropped. Judge Terry Ruckriegle granted the motion after a lengthy dissertation. At 6:35 p.m. Hurlbert spoke to the media, gathered breathlessly outside the Eagle County Crossbar Hotel. He went for about 15 minutes, to about 6:50 p.m.By 7:10 p.m. the place was a ghost town. The media-circus train had pulled out of the station in Eagle and headed for The Next Big Thing, whatever it was. Most made their way to the Scott Peterson murder trial, which didn’t go well for Peterson’s celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, but much worse for Peterson. A few went to follow the Michael Jackson follies.As for Bryant, it could be worse. His fortunes took a decidedly downward turn, along with the Lakers, who are struggling through the early stages of a El-Lay being officially dubbed Kobeland West. The El-Lay media has had a dandy time drilling him like a tent stake. Shaq is gone, former coach Phil Jackson sold a million or so books based on slicing him to ribbons, and Karl Malone stands ready to light Bryant’s funeral pyre.With all that, the probable civil suit to be filed in Orange County won’t make much of a dent in their radar.On the legal front, our spies, who are everywhere, say Bryant still insists he didn’t do it – his sorry note notwithstanding – and that they’ll fight to the bitter end, or until he starts landing some of the endorsements that dropped him at the courthouse door like a fat boy on prom night.
Ironically, after dozens of court appearances, Bryant wasn’t there when the criminal cased was dropped. He’d already winged his way back to El-Lay. He immediately turned around and jetted back to Eagle, where a celebration ensued that we’re told rivaled Mardi Gras.We could go on and on:• The prospective jurors we talked to said a not-guilty verdict was no slam dunk. At the 11th hour when the criminal case was called off, both sides flinched. The alleged victim said she didn’t want to go on with the criminal case. Faced with the choice between possible life in prison and swallowing his pride and signing his sorry note, Bryant finally said, “OK.” The deal had been in the works for weeks.• Young Mr. Bryant would have been much better off to trade his body guards for a couple babysitters and a nanny to be named later, and brought his wife and daughter to Vail. You can bet his wife would have kept the teen-age girls out of his room, and save him from his silly-headed, hormonal self.• At that July 2003 press conference in El-Lay, how much did Aquafina pay to have four bottles of their bottled water all facing TV cameras and an international audience. One thing is likely: Bryant reportedly spent upwards of $14 million on his criminal case (the civil case is still pending). Aquafina’s share didn’t make much of a dent in it.• Is it just us, or do those TV talking heads sound like Dan Aykroyd doing a bad imitation of Julia Child describing Jell-O molded into erotic shapes when they repeat that Mr. Bryant insisted the encounter was “conSENsual!”• What’s hangmantees.com going to do with those 76 T-shirts the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices ordered?• And when they ordered those T-shirts, it raised two questions: 1. Were they eaten up with silliness? 2. Or what?• The afternoon after the Day It Was Over, Bryant’s pilot pointed the plane into the sunset and hit the gas. The weather, by the way, was overcast. On his way to the plane, he was applauded by some airport employees, to whom he gave autographed basketballs and with whom he posed for photographs.For the local media, the Kobe Kronicles didn’t end until late September when a plain, brown envelope walked in our door. It contained a transcript and compact disc of Bryant’s interview with Eagle County sheriff’s deputies that fateful night, July 2, 2003, when they showed up at Cordillera with a couple questions, which sounded something like:”Did you kiss that girl?”Nooooooo!””Did you touch that girl?””Nooooooo!””Did you have sexual intercourse with that girl?”
“Nooooooo! … well, yes.”So began the Kobe Kronicles.His sorry note ends Eagle County’s chapter. Good riddance.Silly seasonFor those Eagle Countians still whining that the nation did not follow their blue lead on the presidential ballot, you live in a Red State. Shut up and deal with it.As Americans, we don’t truly care about politics any more than the Super Bowl, except in the Super Bowl the commercials are better.John “Is This My Final Decision, Theresa?” Kerry won Eagle County, but lost the state and the nation in the only majority vote in 16 years. That means we have a few more years of President Dubya “inventalizing new languagizations” before we get to the Rudy/Hillary 2008 tag team cage death match.In Eagle County, Bush’s Democratic opponents lacked certain thoughtful, insightful and eloquent attributes – to the point that they set fire to and chainsawed Bush and Pete Coors signs.Locally, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert barely managed to avoid getting KoBeaned in his first election. So far, Hurlbert is having a better season than Bryant.County commissioner candidate A.J. Johnson got Buzzed, as incumbent Arn Menconi buzzed into another term. He brought fellow Dem Peter Runyon with him onto the board of county commissioners. County voters decided flavor magnate Richard De Clark wasn’t their taste.Avon voters Bucked a trend and elected three women to run their town, installing a feminine majority, and said so long to the council’s most colorful Buckaroo. With the county now singing the blues more than the reds, one local liberal columnist, our own Matt Zalaznick, is taking credit for blue-balling Eagle County.Flag Viagra
The sun still shines in Avon. It has not been blocked out by the giant purple flagpole, which is home to a massive American flag. Despite all the caterwauling by area residents – “Ask how many flags Magnus Lindholm has in his (massive) backyard” – it was dedicated July 4th. Included in the bunches of folks who showed up to demonstrate their patriotic fervor by devouring free hot dogs and soda pop, were big bunches of American veterans who helped hoist the flag, and three protesters whom, in another American tradition, a police officer invited to find someplace else to insist this most giant of Old Glories was a giant billboard for two most giant retailers.Bashers of the flag were called unpatriotic. The adoring were called fascists. Both sides spent lots of money at Wal-Mart and The Home Depot. We’re all consumers. And certain persons were heard to conjecture that because the flagpole was to be dedicated before the period of national mourning for Ronald Reagan, the flag would have to fly at half mast. Would that mean the flag would be having difficulty performing at full staff? And would that require a dose of flag Viagra?Dark Side of the MoonThe Berry Creek/Miller Ranch affordable housing project is almost sold out, which is a good thing for middle-income folks who managed to buy in, but a bad thing for those still searching for a place to buy in the Happy Valley, preferably indoors.As you drive by you’re struck by the project’s consistency – they found a house design they liked and they stuck with it, dozens of times.In the finest tradition of Vail Valley residents, a few Miller Ranchers got their undies in a bunch when their subsidized housing didn’t include standard granite countertops.In a related matter of taste, the new Miller Ranch Bridge boasts brilliant blue lights you can see from the dark side of the moon. It’ll get you in and out of Berry Creek and Miller Ranch, or remind you of those Pink Floyd laser light shows that freaked you out in high school.And if you’re less under the influence than you were in high school, no giant spiders are going to chase you across. Tomorrowland Vail
After years of proclaiming, like Little Orphan Annie, that the sun would come up tomorrow, the multi-pronged, multi-year construction project known as “Vail’s New Dawn” has finally broken.Whether or not we’ll hear a gruff howl of “Willl-maaa!” after sunset remains to be seen.The party started, with, of all things, a parking garage built by Vail Resorts between Gore Creek Drive and Hanson Ranch Road. The 100-plus underground parking spaces, priced at more than $100,000 each, were mostly sold out in a matter of weeks.Ditto for Gore Creek Place, a 16-unit complex of multi-million-dollar townhomes along, you guessed it, Gore Creek, near the Marriott hotel in Lionshead. Last we heard, 11 of the 16 units, which will be built next year, were under contract.Some non-Vail Resorts projects began in 2004, too. Longtime Vail innkeeper Bob Lazier tore down the old Tivoli Lodge. The original plan was to be open by Christmas. We hear the new Tivoli should be open some time this ski season.The old Sonnenalp Swiss House fell to the wrecking ball, too, to be replaced by a new “fractional fee” condo project. The biggest boom was made when the old Vail Village Inn finally came down after a couple of years of litigation and other delays.Not all the banging and crashing was due to private sector investment. The town of Vail started its two-year Vail Village streetscape project, a $6 million face-lift for the streets, plazas and public areas of the village, including a snowmelt system for the streets that still gets a certain managing editor to make “I just ate a bug” looks whenever the subject comes up.With all the starting, one thing actually got finished, albeit a few weeks later than expected. In the spring, Mike Coughlin, the developer of the Middle Creek apartment complex, vowed, on the record, that the first tenants would move in the first week of November.As well all know, though, men plan and God laughs. The first tenants didn’t actually get their keys until late November. But Middle Creek looks like a great place for local worker bees. Imagine being able to actually rent an apartment within easy walking distance of the village and the Vista Bahn chairlift. Pretty cool … until they try to cross I-70 to get to Vail Village and Lionshead, into which they are supposed to inject a little more life.Get FlintstonedThe biggest news, though, remains the Vail conference center. While still assailed by critics as expensive and unnecessary, town officials have made progress this year, including picking a design from among three choices.One of those options was dubbed “modern,” which actually looked something like a prison with a lot of glass area but no machine-gun towers.Another, which some folks wish the council had picked, looked like Vail Village that had gone to Barry Bonds’ trainer. The “traditional” design, nicknamed “Bavailian” on the architects’ PowerPoint presentation, was criticized by some as being too much like Bachelor Gulch or Beaver Creek.
Not that Bachelor Gulch is bad or anything, but at least one person proclaimed, “Let Vail be Vail.” Whatever that means.The winner in this beauty contest was dubbed the “natural” option, a structure with a curved roof designed to create snow cornices in the winter and attract the drooling lust of skateboarders in the summer. The design also featured something that looks either like an upside-down ice cream cone or a pine tree or maybe even the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, depending on whose billable hours you’re using.Supporters have said the design could do for Vail what the Sydney Opera House did for that Australian city, mainly create a new top-seller for the local post card industry. Critics, and there have been plenty, have said the design looks kind of like a mushroom. One critic said “It looks like Fred Flintstone’s house.”Having been to Flintstones Bedrock City near Custer, S.D., we’re pretty sure the mushroomy thing will be much nicer, especially if there’s a walk-up ice cream stand at the base of the tree thing.If the conference center project starts to get too expensive, Vail should seriously consider selling the naming rights. We suggest approaching Hanna-Barbera.Ready, fire, aimWest Vail fire station. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was named the best album of all time, again, and Vail stole an idea from it. Twenty years ago today, more or less, Vail started talking about building a fire station in West Vail.Like The Beatles, Vail’s warring factions finally agreed to a pact of non-aggression. The town will pony up the money to build the facility on some land it already owns, Eagle County will kick in a half million bucks, and the West Vail Wendy’s, behind which the fire station will be built, is already budgeting for increased sales of double cheeseburgers to hungry firefighters.Jumping Jacks and JillsVail gymnasts jump for joy when the town decides to spend $1.53 million to build a new gymnastics center. At the other end of the recreational spectrum, Vail voted to deflate the ice bubble forever. When asked for some support, much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard from hockey parents, but nary a sound of ballpoint pen scratching on a checkbook. It cost the town about a zillion dollars a year to inflate, deflate and maintain. The town said they’d do the deal again if someone helped pay for it. No spenders means no ice.
Towering infernalEagle County’s airport will get its radar system. For years, the county’s Powers That Be have been committing at least six of the Seven Deadly Sins when they salivate over the radar system. Now, at long last, the aeronautical electro leash will help pilots and air traffic controllers keep track of each other. It will allow more planes to run in and out of the airport, which is great for Vail and Beaver Creek, but not much fun for Eagle and Gypsum, which are under the flight path.RVs break down”Arrvees? We don’t need no stinkin’ Arrvees!”A developer wanted to build a recreational vehicle park at the edge of Minturn, creating actual economic stimulation in a community that desperately needs it. In an election day vote, Minturn’s Body Politic hung out the “No Parking” sign.Life-long Minturn resident Bill Burnett was recovering from some infirmity and decided to write a book about Minturn’s history, since he’d seen most of it. It’s a dandy work, and doesn’t include an arrvee park.High heatSummer travelers, known to the Happy Valley’s marketing mavens as “rubber-tire tourists” because they generally drive, flew to town last summer. It helped if they were from Texas, or didn’t mind a quick stop in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The American Airlines flights pop a turnaround from the Big D every day. It was such a big success that they’re adding more flights next summer, which makes everyone in Aspen absolutely nuts – another added bonus.Small wonders
The county is building a childcare facility, as are some other municipalities and entities around the county, which leads us to this conclusion: Eagle Countians are now spending millions of dollars to take care of other people’s kids.Vail, a place to die forVail is sort of the Pamela Anderson of resorts. You know none of it’s real, but you can’t help looking at it. It’s supposed to be one of those places upon which reality does not encroach.But it is real. Reality looks like this: People are born here, they carve our lives and relationships here, raise families here, and die here.Finally, after a couple decades of wrangling, Vail opened an 11-acre memorial park, a place for folks to scatter ashes. You’re not supposed to scatter ashes on Vail Mountain because it’s Forest Service property, and they frown on things like death in nature, unless it’s inflicted by lions and tigers and bears.You’re firedVail’s Raj Bahkta appeared, then disappeared from the reality TV series “The Apprentice.” The show features Donald Trump and a bunch of ambitious young people who want to be him, or at least as rich as him.It’s the second straight year a Vailite has been featured on the tube. In 2003’s “The Bachelorette,” Vail firefighter Ryan Sutter had the good sense to pursue the fair Trista Rehn, who deemed him worthy of her affections. They’re in the process of living happily ever after. They sealed their union during a televised marriage, then posed for the Vail Undressed calendar. So far, Raj has not graced the calendar’s pages. Still, it’s pretty cool to be trumped by Trump.Admit it, you’ve been fired by a few people, but no one as cool as The Donald.Red Cliff still drinking redThe good citizens of Red Cliff have been boiling mad for years about their water. Colorado’s state health department High Sheriffs put a water pistol to Red Cliff’s collective head and ordered them to get their ducks in a huddle and to make sure the puddle was clean.
Of course, the health high sheriffs offered no money and little support, beyond issuing imperial edicts and threats of fines, which is the kind of stuff that Red Cliffians take so seriously that they laughed and snorted milk out their collective nose (or was that tequila?)If you’ve seen their municipal budget, you know Billy Preston must have been writing about the threatened fines when he penned the song, “Nothin’ From Nothin’ Means Nothin.'”As for the other municipalities and the county, they haven’t exactly rallied ’round the flag,’ either. But the local water district and local fire crews did pitch in to get the bugs out of the system.Vail is busy heating its streets, so it doesn’t have to see those unsightly human snow shovelers. The county is preoccupied with incoming county commission chairman Arn Menconi’s All-The-World’s-A-Snowboard political agenda and human be-in. It seems to center on something of a harmonic convergence – all the world will be beautiful if we assume the Lotus position, sit in a circle, hold hands and hum. It could work out pretty well, since snowboarding leaves your hands free for holding and humming. Pretty enlightened stuff for a Chicago kid.Meanwhile, Red Cliffians have marched for their own aquatic cause and have managed to filter out most of the floaties.Cha-ching!Christmas came early for employees of the Eagle County School District, and, in good First Amendment fashion, it was the Colorado Supreme Court playing Santa Claus, and in June, no less.After two years of litigation, hard feelings, litigation and more litigation, the state’s high court ruled in favor of the local school district regarding a 2001 ballot issue. That issue, known as 3-D on that fall’s ballot, asked county voters for a tax increase to fund better pay for teachers.The measure passed with about 59 percent of the vote (and begat the controversial Teacher Advancement Program, by the way), but was challenged by valley resident and persistent school district critic Michael Cacioppo a few months later on grounds it violated the provisions of the state’s tax- and spending-limitation law.In the end, the state’s top court didn’t decide the case on its merits, but instead agreed with a lower court ruling that Cacioppo had missed a crucial deadline before filing suit.Great rejoicing followed, especially by teachers and other employees, some of whom received checks for several thousand dollars because the school district had put its tax collections in an escrow fund until the suit was resolved one way or the other.Meanwhile, the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, continued to confound and confuse teachers and the parents they whined to about it. Get used to it, folks. The program, or something like it, is a fact of life in American education now.Testing and its results also drew quite a bit of attention, as they always do.
In general, the county’s Anglo kids did as well as any in the state, but the district discovered it has a lot of hard work to do to improve the way it teaches foreign language students (and yes, we’re talking about kids primarily from Mexico and Central America).School officials say it was the “English learners” who brought down the district’s scores enough to rate a failing grade in the national No Child Left Behind Act ratings.Doing a better job with the foreign language students has quickly become a Very Big Deal at the administration office in Eagle in order to keep state and federal officials from sending down new policies from on high.But before those school district workers have spent their TAP raises, they should consider the Kick Cacioppo Out of Dodge Foundation.Cacioppo cruiseMichael Cacioppo has become one with “some beach.” Eagle County’s most prolific gadfly and liberal detector is taking a sabbatical to lie on the beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mex., where he’ll be running a travel and tour booking agency. That leaves political watch-dogging to those who those more apt to need a seeing eye dog than a watchdog.Go on, admit it. Even you liberals will miss disagreeing with him. Bloodied but unbowed, Cacioppo had to go back to speaking in school board meetings to agonize any school district employee within earshot.You can stay in contact with the Eagle County Truth Detector through his Web site, which you can find with a little Googling. Roundaboutus interruptusNot too long ago, the end of the sentence, “Watch Gypsum grow …” would have been “weeds.” In 2004, the valley’s most-western town took a couple of significant steps toward a major make-over.Yes, Chatfield Corners, the Horse Pasture and other neighborhoods are quite nice in their own right. But people just passing through first saw the Interstate 70 interchange, a less-than-inviting front door. It was cruddy-looking enough that one town council member said the interchange looked like a “border town.”That changed in 2004 when the town built a shiny, modern roundabout, then began landscaping the heck out of it, including a Jim-dandy batch of Christmas lights. By the time the greenery takes hold, little old Gypsum should look a lot more welcoming.
Gypsumites gave themselves a nice present as well in 2004, when voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for a new recreation center near town hall. When finished in the middle of 2005 or so, the town will have, among other recreational niceties, a year ’round indoor swimming pool.Throw in a new amphitheater at the town hall park, and Gypsum is starting to shine up pretty well. Now if some of that vacant commercial space would just fill up…The sporting lifeIn the world where scores are kept, where winners and losers are clearly defined, it was another big year.U.S. skiers Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves went first and second in the men’s downhill when the World Cup came to town. It seems only right that two guys from the country that invented drag racing would dominate the downhill.U.S. skiers Lindsey Kildow, Toby Dawson, Sarah Schlepper, locals all, have been regularly taking their places on the podiums when the medals are passed out at World Cup events. Ali Levy was the first local female freestyle skier to make the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.Before we leave skiing, Vail did not land the 2009 skiing trifecta. The alpine Powers That Be wanted the 2009 World Alpine Championships, the world freestyle championships and the world snowboarding championships. They didn’t get any.Mike Kloser, the Little Engine That Could, still can. He won another fistful of medals in ultra marathon events. Josiah Middaugh won the Xterra games. Vail’s Ryan Sutter, of Trista and Ryan fame, took on and finished the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.In the prep world, Eagle Valley’s boys won the Colorado state track title. Battle Mountain’s hockey team did not, falling in the semifinals to Kent Denver. But already this season they knocked off Kent Denver with a late goal. Battle Mountain’s Erika Ghent was fourth in the state in cross country, while the Battle Mountain girls rose to fifth overall. Vail Mountain School’s Taylor Roach won Colorado’s Ski Meister Award, and is now skiing for the U.S. Air Force Academy. Battle Mountain’s boys soccer team won their first league title since 1992. On the links, the open was closed, and didn’t come back. The event folded last year, and did not reappear this year. Phil Mickelson appeared at Cordillera just after winning The Masters. He was not wearing the green jacket, but he still had the look of a champion.But most importantly, Austin Richardson nailed a hole in one, No. 5 at Eagle-Vail.That’s it. If we missed a few stories, feel free to turn to the person next to you and think up your own.