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Public Eye



Remember the stink over the Columbine license plates with their message to Respect Life? Well, thanks to Gov. Bill Owens' Republican administration, the plates are back, to stay.

Two years ago, two parents of Columbine teenagers decided they wanted specialty license plates to help raise money for injured victims at the school. In the 2000 legislative session, Rep. Don Lee, a Republican whose district included Columbine High School, introduced the license-plate bill.

It was immediately killed. Some lawmakers apparently were queasy about the concept of installing what could be construed as state-sanctioned opposition to abortion and backed away. You see, the plates were proposed to include the moniker "Respect Life," which is the slogan of the religious anti-abortion crowd.

This year, another legislator, Rep. Bill Swenson, sponsored a new bill requiring all requests for specialty license plates (Colorado currently has 87 of 'em) to be approved solely by a majority vote of the Legislature. In the past, groups who wanted their own plates could also apply for them directly through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Swenson's bill passed, and the law requiring that license plates be approved by lawmakers, not bureaucrats, goes into effect July 1.

Apparently to avoid the possibility of being shut out again at the Capitol, the Columbine folks got in just under the wire by applying for their Respect Life plates directly with DMV, which rubber stamped the plates, Respect Life and all. The new plates are among 12 others, including those honoring Colorado State University alumni, greyhound dog lovers and Vietnam vets.

The Respect Life plates are the most controversial by far, but this week Rep. Lee dismissed any would-be critics.

"Everyone should acknowledge the rights of others and have a deep respect for life, but over the years we've stopped modeling that," said Lee in a press release. "It's this message that two sick students never learned, and our whole society is poorer for it."

Then, Lee goes on to chide pro-choicers who have cried foul over the use of the Catholic Church's motto for the anti-abortion campaign. "Opponents of the words 'Respect Life' -- people who have grown cynical over years of fighting for choice -- have let politics get in the way of that message."

Remember those pearls of wisdom the next time you get cut off in traffic. And for God's sake, don't let politics get in the way.


We're happy to report that, after a couple of weeks apart, Colorado Speaker of the House Doug Dean and his galpal, lobbyist Gloria Sanak, are back in each other's arms. The Colorado Springs family values lawmaker has been laying low since he got dumped by Sanak, broke into her home with a screwdriver, hid in the dark waiting for her and then chased her down the street as she fled to a neighbor's house seeking help. Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter decided last week that criminal charges would not be filed against Dean, and this week Ed Hanks, spokesman for the House Majority office at the Capitol, confirmed the couple have reunited. It is unclear whether Dean and Sanak have resumed their prior living arrangement, or if they have merely resumed dating. Hanks was also unsure if the resumed alliance included an agreement that Dean would get rid of his screwdriver.

"I assume he's not going to try that again," Hanks said.


Which leads us naturally to Studs Terkel, arguably the country's greatest oral historian of the last century. Last Sunday, Terkel graced the stage of the Chicago Hyatt, where he offered his keen observations on the madness of our times to a group of editors and reporters assembled from 'round the country.

Among Terkel's explications: "The intelligence of the American public is under siege." As proof, he cited the phenomenon of actor Charlton Heston, Moses himself on the big screen, who has gone on to become the leading voice for the militant National Rifle Association. "The vocal chord that walks," is how Terkel described Heston. "P.T. Barnum would've made a fortune [off him]."

Terkel also weighed in on the 2000 presidential election, in which, watching the U.S. Supreme Court in action, he was thrown back to a burlesque show he saw 70 years ago.

Terkel lined 'em up in their roles: Antonin Scalia as First Banana; Clarence Thomas, in black minstrel makeup, playing Second Banana; William Rehnquist in the role of Straight Man; and Anthony Kennedy as Clay Man. Finally, the Talking Lady, Sandra Day O'Connor, was caught in bed with a man who is not her husband, exclaims, "Oh, my goodness!"

"The show had to be directed by W.C. Fields," Terkel said.


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