Columns » Public Eye

Like wine, the words grow finer


It's been just more than a year since the normally docile Doug Lamborn snapped to attention during a candidates debate, angrily jabbed his finger at a man who had interrupted him and sputtered, "Excuse me, sir, why don't you just shut up?"

In the spirit of our annual Independent "Best Of" awards starting in this issue, shouldn't our congressman get an honor for that? Best Imitation of a Third-Grader Whose Schoolmate Just Insulted His Mama on the Playground, perhaps?

Oh yes, over the past year, our public officials have done what George W. Bush might call a heckuva job making themselves memorable. Can anyone say, "Eric Christen"? The former District 11 school board member deserves the distinction of Most Bitter and Bombastic Elected Official (Douglas Bruce couldn't win every year) after threatening to resign at least four times before a special election last December threw him out (along with Sandy Shakes).

Christen held a unique perspective helping oversee a public-school district, in that he doesn't believe government should be involved in education. And the mouth on that man! In three years, Christen, a fashion model whose last-known day job was as a union-buster in California, alienated just about everyone. He called people irrational, petty, shameless, out-of-control, pathological liars.

He stopped long enough, on the way out the door, for a parting shot at recall organizers: "They need to look into their hearts and find some decency and shame and leave me and my kids alone."

Of course, that couldn't be the end of that. Three months later, Democratic state Rep. Michael Merrifield landed in a vat of boiling water when an e-mail surfaced that he had written to another lawmaker. Merrifield, a retired teacher and chairman of the House Education Committee, was specifically referencing Christen and Shakes and the recall election, and this is what he wrote: "There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charerizers [sic] and Voucherizers. They deserve it!"

The media had a field day brazenly extending the lawmaker's comments to include anyone who supports charter schools or school vouchers. Ultimately, Merrifield, at the time undergoing chemotherapy treatments for throat cancer, stepped down as education committee chairman for the remainder of the session. He still gets the honor for Most Misunderstood E-mail That Never Should've Been Sent.

And let's not forget Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Margaret Radford's stink bomb. In April, a group of influential business and community leaders were planning a diversity festival, in part to help offset Colorado Springs' nagging reputation as a hub of intolerance. The festival was designed to make sure everybody was welcome: Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, white people, rich people, poor people, gay people ...

The sponsors included groups like the Economic Development Council, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado. They went to City Council and asked to have the fees waived for routine police and security and the use of city facilities.

Radford's initial reaction, the Most Irrational Response of the Year: "When a large portion of this community does not support gay and lesbian viewpoints, I don't see us putting tax dollars into supporting that direction."

Which elicited the Best Rational Response of the Year: "This is just nonsense," says City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher. "Margaret was saying, in effect, "How dare we spend tax money on gays and lesbians?' Well, we don't have a policy that when people call 911 we ask them, "Are you gay? Because if you are, we won't come out.' ... It's time we come out of the Stone Age."

Finally, we can't overlook this year's absolute Best Communist Under Every Bed Moment, which goes to El Paso County GOP Chairman Greg Garcia. Elected to that post in January, six months later Garcia had the honor of hosting a Lincoln Day dinner at The Broadmoor with presidential candidate Mitt Romney as featured speaker. Before Romney took the stage, Garcia addressed the crowd of 700 or so, bemoaning the fact Republicans lost the majority last year.

Out of Garcia's mouth, for no seemingly apparent reason, popped this nugget: "The socialistic media is preventing us from getting a word in edgewise."

Really, we're not. Just keep talking.

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