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Public Eye



Welcome to the lazy, hazy days of spin. This Monday, June 11, marked the first time in 38 years that the United States -- that's a nice, generalized way of saying you and me -- killed a U.S. citizen -- Timothy McVeigh, for his heinous crimes in Oklahoma City. But here in Colorado, our local and statewide public officials found an awful lot to be happy about -- and they tried to convince us lowly constituents that we should be happy, too.

McVeigh's execution spurred anti-death penalty protests all over the country, including Colorado Springs and Denver, where McVeigh was convicted of killing 168 people. His death by lethal injection also riveted a fair share of revenge-seeking revelers, as well as friends and families of victims who perished in the 1995 blast.

And so what did Colorado's political leaders have to say about the federal execution? Colorado Springs Congressman Joel Hefley, who hasn't issued a public statement to the media in months, didn't bother to weigh in this time either.

And how about Wayne Allard, one of Colorado's two U.S. senators in Washington. Where does he stand on McVeigh's execution? Who knows?

Ditto for Colorado's other U.S. senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell. But while the esteemed Republican from Ignacio didn't have squat to say about McVeigh, he made it a point to officially weigh in on Colorado's hockey team.

On Monday, Campbell faxed out a four-page statement gushing over Ray and Patrick and Steve and Dan and the boys for bringing home to the Centennial State the Stanley Cup. The statement of recognition, which Campbell read on the floor of the Senate and entered into the official Congressional Record, lauded the "total team effort" that "went after and achieved a common goal."

"Most folks know how great of a team the Avalanche proved to be in winning its second Cup in six seasons," Campbell said from his bully pulpit. "In addition, the Colorado Avalanche players and the entire organization overcame injuries to key players and pulled together to win the championship."

Now there's a courageous stance for a politician to take.


Also on Monday, the Colorado Springs City Council was treated to a routine update on how things are going at the airport. The good news is, Champion Airlines (a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines) is launching non-stop charter service from Colorado Springs to fabulous Las Vegas four days a week, a real treat for the gamblers. And, another piece of good news: The number of coyote sightings around the airport has diminished significantly.

The bad news is, boardings at the airport continue to nose-dive. The number of airplane passengers this April has dropped nearly 10 percent from the same month the year before -- from 90,939 in 2000 to 82,041 in 2001. And that's nothing compared to the good old days of the mid-'90s, when Western Pacific Airlines was headquartered in Colorado Springs. Then, the number of air travelers was soaring and the city was considering doubling its fabulous new airport.

After WestPac went belly up three years ago, city airport director Gary Green and other administrators were charged to go out and aggressively recruit other airline carriers to pick up the slack. But, apparently, Colorado Springs is now content to be a small-plane town.

"It still continues to be the best darn airport around," commented Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace after Monday's brief airport update.


Finally on Monday, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar celebrated what he called a central victory because Colorado will only (italics added) have to pay $22 million to the state of Kansas.

The settlement is part of a 1985 lawsuit, which Colorado lost, over past violations of the Arkansas River Compact between the two states. Kansas successfully argued that Colorado farmers had dug wells that reduced the amount of water flowing down the Arkansas into Kansas.

Kansas initially demanded as much as $320 million in damages, which was whittled down to $42 million. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard the case, reduced that amount by about half.

"I am pleased with the Court's ruling because the decision reduces the burden Colorado taxpayers will bear in paying damages to Kansas," Salazar said in a prepared statement.

We don't blame the attorney general for being pleased about the savings. But it's a bit of a stretch for Salazar to attempt to play up his finesse in oral arguments while downplaying the fact that taxpayers will still have to shell out $22 million to another state for mistakes that were made.

Of course, that's just politics.


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