Into Thin Air In The High Country


by Rick Langenberg:



Many TMJ readers may recall Jon Krakauer’s great Into Thin Air masterpiece, a real-life story surrounding the tragic Mount Everest disaster in 1996, resulting in the death of five people and many injuries and guilt trips, following one of the worst sudden storms to strike the mighty mountain. Worst of all, it led to a romanticizing of one of the more grueling treks known to mankind. The best-selling book was later converted into a movie with one overriding theme: Don’t rely on experts when challenging the wrath of Mother Nature. The stupidity and irresponsibility of many of these climbers (a group of about 20) was a little incredible.

But apparently we are starting to experience our own version of Into Thin Air adventures, with one basic lesson: It’s time for some politicians and would-be experts to come down from the mountain.
Here are a few examples of this trend:

Law enforcement expert craze –We are lucky to have so many experts in the realm of law and order in our fine abode. In Green Mountain Falls we have some illustrious leaders who want to eliminate a long-standing agency and equip the town with private security guards. What a great idea. On a scale of one to ten, this one would have to earn scores of minus-three, with one question. Did certain city leaders already open up their own marijuana dispensary shop and indulge in a few too many cannabis brownies? This idea is beyond bad.

The list of private contractor demands in the town’s preliminary RFP exploratory request (for less than $100,000 a year) is so ridiculous that it should include an extra suggestion: stand on water for free and then perform a successful rain dance. Even past local history can reveal a familiar disaster. When the Teller County government tried to run their prison through a private contractor, a convicted murderer walked out of the facility without anyone noticing and may have gotten away and killed a few more people, except the fine young man collapsed outside a local residence from an apparent asthma attack and called for help. The jail controversy, which also involved several suicide hangings and all kinds of fights, practically led to the primary election defeat of one of Teller’s more popular sheriffs in recent years, Frank Fehn, who passed away several months ago. Fehn promptly gave the Massachusetts jail contractors their walking papers, following the escape disaster, and had his department assume control of the jail. But the scars of privatization regarding law enforcement still rank high in the region. Are we repeating fated history in GMF?

If some of our trustees really want to explore consolidating law enforcement, a more practical solution may be to craft a deal with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. But even here, leaders have to realize that the costs associated with doing such a task are anything but cheap. Just ask officials from Victor, who did a similar deal with Teller County last year. That is why all this talk about de-incorporating Green Mountain Falls is just that, talk. And when it comes to law enforcement in Teller County, so-called experts are still rambling all kinds of nonsense about the Teller Emergency Response Team, known as the SWAT unit. Many complaints can be registered against the fiscal responsibility of Teller County, such as why did the county ever decide to build a Taj Mahal jail in a place with no infrastructure in the first place. Teller is still feeling the financial punch from some extremely bad decisions of previous leaders. But when it comes to the volunteer Teller SWAT team, the training and conditioning is top-notch and they pay their own way, or raise money through various events.

Years ago, some controversy definitely existed regarding the county’s SWAT mission. I even volunteered once to play the role of a drug fugitive for one of their early training missions and discovered seven high caliber machine guns lingering next to my head, when trying to avoid capture. Needless to say, I wasn’t successful in my escape plot and didn’t put up much of an argument. However, the SWAT controversy de-railed the election prospects of a then undersheriff in the mid 1990s.

Over the last 15 years, the training and professionalism associated with this group has markedly improved. SWAT teams now are fairly common and their training is more accessible to the public. And the crew in Teller has received stellar marks, finishing in the top 10 in the national championship. So why argue with success?

This is one sheriff’s department program that makes a lot of fiscal sense.

Military Tribute Controversy—What is the deal with military and defense department officials canning ceremonies for civilian patriotic events because of mandates associated with the sequestration action?

Have they been in the high altitude too long, or maybe they joined one of Krakauer’s latest mountain journeys? Although some Salute to American Veterans Rally supporters enjoy making us the bad buys again, the real villain in this story is the federal government officials and the Obama administration staffers. The “see and feel” cuts outlined by Veterans Rally promoter Jim Wear at a recent Cripple Creek council meeting are just outright stupid.

Congressman Doug Lamborn needs to get more involved more in rectifying this situation or at least giving them Hell. As a moderate Democrat, I am very disappointed with Obama’s handling of the sequestration action, since he supported the process of trying to achieve a compromise with Congress over the budget, which eventually led to sequestration. But why are these cuts being engineered to impact public patriotic tributes like the Creek veterans rally? Bad craziness.

I am sure we will get some answers during the next election, although no one will believe the reasoning behind these actions.

Overriding the Vote of the People—Proponents of Amendment 64 (the pro-recreational marijuana law) have now discovered a new enemy, namely local and regional politicians that are sniffing too much mountain air. What is the point of having a state-wide vote on a ballot amendment if local officials want to override the majority decision of the people? Or, should we just do away with these elections altogether?

It seems that the new bizarre system under creation will create more problems. Now, many residential homes in Colorado will permeate with the smell of reefer from an assortment of home-grown plants. From a control standpoint, it would make much more sense to have designated places where people could purchase legal weed. But apparently, our elected officials in the region know best. However, one of the main fallacies of the whole pot deal is the, “You’re either in or out” reality. That does pose burdens on local governments with so many unknown questions. Still, it seems many local government leaders are jumping the gun.

Don’t mess with Lefties—And now onto a more fun subject. I, like many southpaw golfers, was quite impressed with Phil Mickelson’s latest triumph in the British Open and his success in silencing arrogant and snobby super star Tiger Woods. This was a tribute to team work and the antics of a good guy. More notably, it occurred at probably the toughest tests of all the British Open golf sites: Muirfield, not a place for the faint-hearted. (Some of the caddies there are still counting the strokes I had when playing there 20 years ago. Brutal, brutal place).

Unlike Tiger, Phil (who plays left-handed) has stuck with the same caddie and wife, and has reaped the benefits of one of the great swing coaches in the game, Butch Harmon. Ironically, Butch was Tiger’s former coach before Tiger in one of his arrogant fits fired him because he didn’t like the fact that Butch got too much publicity. Bad move as under Butch Tiger had probably the best golf swing ever crafted in the Universe. Now, it looks somewhat awkward (even a bit like that of Charlie Chambers of TMJ). There have been way too many swing changes for a player of Tiger’s talent.) Many who frequented the former International tournament near Castle Rock can recall Phil, who was constantly spotted with his friendly and personable wife Amy, patiently signing reams of autographs and talking to kids. Phil won’t rival Tiger when it comes to majors, but he is way ahead of Woods regarding fan courtesy and even in dealing with the media.

Moreover, Phil also conveys a good, solid message: Don’t mess with Lefties when it comes to golf.