Quixote or visionary?
VAIL ” At 80, Stuart “Boot” Gordon, a former Vail resident who now lives in Silverthorne, is on a quest that’s definitely out of the ordinary.
For the last 40 years Gordon has been looking for participants and investors to create a series of utopian villages around the globe.
When he describes his quest his blue eyes sparkle, he laughs frequently and genuinely, and his angular frame becomes animated as his hands cut through the air, punctuating his speech.
“I’m more or less of a dreamer,” he says. “It’s important to go ahead and build this town because we have so many problems facing us.”
If he lived in Aspen, as he once did, and had more money, people would readily deem him eccentric. He’s got the background to fit that moniker.
He’s a former fighter pilot who saw action in World War II and Korea and he has been a contractor, headmaster of a private school he created, an author, an inventor, designer, salesman and a ski instructor.
He lives in a free-foam domed house of his own design along the banks of the Blue River.
He’s not afraid to push the spiritual envelope, either. He’s been done meditation for the last 50 years and has engaged in a number of activities aimed at discovering the power of spirituality and the human mind.
In promotional sheets for his concept he writes: “If you don’t believe in guides or Divine Guidance, quit reading right now.”
He got his nickname after bailing out of an airplane and losing his flight boots in the process. He still wears his leather flight jacket emblazoned with the White Knights insignia.
Gotta be a better way
Gordon’s Quixotic quest to build a utopian city-state, or his “City of Light” as he calls it, is being driven by his belief that humanity has to find a better way to do what it does.
He has found a location in Canada that would fit the communities’ needs, but doesn’t want to disclose where it is until his plan is closer to being implemented, he says.
“We don’t like people who are negative,” he says. “Progress is only made when you realize something is wrong.”
What’s driving Gordon’s quest to improve mankind’s lot?
In his 1980 book, “Gordonstown: A New Design for America,” he sees a country besotted by an array of problems ranging from pollution, a disparity between rich and poor, trade imbalances, businesses that are too big, huge credit-card debt, high health cost, an ineffective system of governance, and more.
“Nothing causes more problems than debt,” he says.
His solution to solving the other problems facing mankind relies heavily on some unique concepts that most people would brush aside as impractical.
Gordon’s ideal City of Light would be a town of about 9,000 residents on 1,500 acres designed around pedestrian corridors and alternative transportation systems aimed at eliminating the automobile.
This utopian village would be wholly owned by a corporation that was in turn owned by the residents.
It also would be self-supporting through what Gordon calls “synergistic capitalism.” Entrepreneurial endeavors would be encouraged by using the ability of the town to fund endeavors with municipal bonding.
That would create a number of public/private businesses that would provide goods and services to people in the town.
He envisions residents being able to benefit financially from the dynamic of pooling their resources and leveraging the town’s bonding potential, he says.
The town would even develop its own currency, “Ithaca Dollars,” a script similar to what some towns used instead of money during World War II, he says.
“You’ll have a town as a corporation owned by everyone in town,” he says “If you move out of town, you sell your shares.”
Gordon predicts a “new renaissance” will result as residents are able to grow and fully develop their spiritual, educational and artistic potential.
“It will be like a Disney World,” he says. “It will be so unusual everyone would come to see it.”
Turning the lights on
Gordon has always relied on listening to what he calls “that little voice” inside his head.
He first heard it when he bailed out of a spinning airplane and the ripcord on his parachute didn’t work. The voice told him to pull it again and the chute deployed, he says.
Another time when he was in a steep dive in his twin engine P-38 fighter over the Pacific he found he could not control the aircraft because he was moving faster than the speed of sound, he says.
The little voice told him to use the trim system, not the stick and rudder to control the craft. It worked.
He heard that same little voice when he began to dream about his City of Light.
“I believe a town can be designed which will lead the world in per-capita cultural and recreational benefits without taxing the people,” he wrote in his book. “I further believe a unique marketing and distribution plan coupled with a ‘new’ capitalistic system will enable each permanent resident to become a capitalist.”
Previous utopian communities ” such as New Harmony, Ind. founded by a British social theorist in 1842 ” failed, Gordon said, because the communities were too small and lacked the critical mass to generate sustainability.
“They were like a business that was too small,” he says.
The first step he wants to take in developing a City of Light is to gather a team of marketing experts and up to 2,200 ambassador-residents who will pay $10 a year. That seed money will be leveraged by the marketing team to build the city. He envisions 200 Cities of Light by 2014.
“Money is not the problem,” he says, adding that finding people has been the problem. “If we can get on Oprah we’d have 20,000 people.”
Once the first town is built the concept will spread. Gordon said the first will be built in Canada, the second community in Costa Rica and the third in the Middle East.
“I know it will work,” he says. “I’m an optimist. It can be done. It should be done and it would help the world.”
Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The parcel where workforce housing is being proposed was listed for decades as belonging to the Colorado Department of Transportation.