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Parting words from the Sage

City Sage

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GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell

Between 1989 and 1997 I ran for office four times. My so-called career in politics began inauspiciously enough with a failed run for the District 20 school board, gained momentum with successful runs for City Council in 1991 and 1995 and ended with defeat in the 1997 mayoral race.

Stunned, I sat at home, sulked, read books and tried to figure out what to do next.

A month after the election, Independent publisher John Weiss called. He suggested that I write an anonymous column for the Indy, to be called "the Insider." It seemed like a fun idea, and I'd always wanted to write a newspaper column.

Twenty years later I'm still writing a column for the Indy. This is the last one. It's been interesting, infuriating, amazing and wonderful. I'll still be a full-time reporter and columnist for the Colorado Springs Business Journal, but the Indy gig is finished. I've loved it and it's time to go.

Growing up in Colorado Springs, I was a newspaper boy in the 1950s. Every afternoon, a Gazette truck delivered bundles of newspapers to our front door, which I rolled up, secured with rubber bands and delivered on my bike. I fell in love with newspapers, and eventually became a fan of Rocky Mountain News columnist Pasquale "Pocky" Marranzino.

Pocky wrote a column every day. I didn't know anything about Denver, but Pocky defined the city for me, as would Gene Amole 30 years later. I never aspired to be a small-town politician, but I wanted to be like Pocky, San Francisco's Herb Caen or Chicago's George Ade.

Those long-departed giants lived in and for their cities. They fought without rancor, celebrated without envy and wrote with wit, joy and a playful spirit. I've tried to do the same.

Newly divorced a dozen years ago, my then-girlfriend asked me to help her pick up a table she'd bought at a North End yard sale. We parked in front, and walked around to the backyard, as instructed, where a kegger was underway. While Patsy looked for the seller, I stood around uncomfortably and suddenly heard a familiar voice.

"Dad, what are you doing here?" said my angry daughter, then in her early 20s. "These are my friends — this is too weird. You need to go."

We loaded the table and fled. In that spirit, a few parting words.

About our president and the second- and third-raters he has chosen to surround himself with: Don't allow him to disrupt your life. He's a fool, not a fiend. The Republic will survive. As one who has been a sort-of investment banker, a real estate broker, a politician and a journalist, I've learned that stupidity, incompetence and miscalculation eventually bring down the powerful. Meanwhile, let's work on our own city.

Dark times like these are best for sowing the seeds of progressivism. In 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, which prohibited the state from allowing "homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships" to provide the basis for claiming "any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination."

Amendment 2 received overwhelming support in Colorado Springs. Within a year, Amy Divine and Doug Triggs started Citizens Project while John Weiss and Kathryn Eastburn launched the Independent. The Supreme Court threw out Amendment 2 and the community slowly changed, stepping away from homophobia and institutionalized prejudice.

As Trump's election proved, we still have a long way to go. It's time for the Electra Johnsons and Jill Gaeblers of our city to lean us into the future and build a national model for cooperation between liberals and conservatives.

Even though I can't quite suppress my mean geezer persona, I'm optimistic about our city. My spouse and I could move to Tahiti, where my son, six grandchildren and a great-granddaughter live, build a cottage on their land in Afaahiti, and spend my days surfing, dancing and gloating on Facebook. The problems of Colorado Springs would fade from memory, and I'd be a merry old man.

Sounds pretty good, but for one thing.

I'd be sooooo bored.

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