Columns » Small Talk

Art Goodtimes

Poet and Politician



Art Goodtimes is a self-styled radical, liberal progressive and a poet who runs a huge annual mushroom festival in Telluride every August. Then, in the early winter, Goodtimes drives to Colorado Springs to join a group of mostly conservative, powerful and often starchy county commissioners who plot how they will get plenty of goodies when the state Legislature convenes in January.

Goodtimes used to consider himself a behind-the-scenes political player but, damn it, none of the good, smart people were stepping up to the plate. So he did.

Like U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell before him, the elected commissioner from San Miguel County on Colorado's Western Slope abandoned the Democratic Party halfway through his first term. But, unlike Campbell, Goodtimes embraced the Green Party, with its commitment to the environment, local control and sound growth planning. Last month the commish won re-election to a second term with 70 percent of the vote.

Why'd you bail the Democratic Party? I was fed up with Clinton and his national disgrace. I also was upset with [former Colorado Gov.] Roy Romer not publicly backing [his unsuccessful Dem replacement] Gail Shoettler and really destroying the Democratic Party in Colorado. I was also mad at my corrupt local party and decided I'd had enough.

What do you think about all the grumbling that the Greens spoiled the election for Gore this year? Hah! You're talking about a Dem who could not take his own state. If he can't take his own state, then I don't think he should point fingers at Nader or anyone else. On the flip side, look what happened in Colorado. Greens might have voted for Nader but they voted Dem in other local races. Now we have a Democrat-controlled Senate in Colorado for the first time in 40 years.

Why is this group of statewide county commissioners, Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) so powerful? It's been a good ol' boys -- a few good ol' girls -- but mostly good ol' boys club, that has incredibly effective lobbyists and whose members have always been incredibly conservative in fiscal matters and incredibly liberal in giving away our resources. Those Republican conservatives, I always catch them on it, that they're not conservationists at all. They want to open up areas for oil and gas development, they want to open up timber [production]. I want to make sure our children's children have some decision on the land that they want to use.

You're also the guy who stood alone with our infamous county commissioner, Betty Beedy. What did you two agree on? Two years ago she wanted CCI to support her plan to have her [Eastern El Paso County] district vote on whether they wanted planning and zoning. I supported her 'cause that's a Green thing -- that's grassroots democracy and local control. I personally think planning and zoning is great, but if [those residents] didn't want zoning we should give them the opportunity not to zone. When I cast that vote, the Republicans couldn't believe it, it was like, 'Oh my God, the Greens and Betty Beedy,' but I gained a lot of stature because I wasn't being a knee-jerk liberal.

What issues has CCI targeted for the upcoming session, particularly with regard to Gov. Bill Owens' claims that he will be knocking heads to get some consensus on growth statewide? If anything, he's telling people that the Legislature better come up with something. The governor's not going to go out publicly and fight people during his re-election year, 2002, if the Legislature hasn't come up with a better growth plan. That's the reality.

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