Best of Teller County and the Ute Pass


by Rick Langenberg:



In the spirit of our annual Best Of contest, here are the annual Missing Links awards for the best and worst of life, culture and politics in our local abode over the last 12 months.

Best Controversy: Gun control. No question about this one, as local leaders made it clear that residents will part ways with their guns over their dead bodies. Despite the national media’s recent obsession with turning Colorado into the world’s renowned pot haven, proposed gun restrictions in Colorado, which even prompted a major article in the New Yorker magazine, became the most talked about subject throughout 2013.

Best Dumb Decisions: The decision to force the Green Mountain Falls Marshal to resign. Most GMF leaders ended a 100-plus-year tradition due to the personal hang-ups of a few people. Bad, bad move as the majority trustees are hedging their hopes on verbal promises made by El Paso sheriff authorities. In recent weeks, the sight of a patrol car, monitoring activity inside our residential areas has become a mirage. Law enforcement in GMF will take a beating.

A close second: The move to ban recreational marijuana businesses in local communities. Our local government officials can no longer complain about a lack of money, as they have blown the prospects of receiving their share of a guaranteed gold mine in tax revenue. (Some of the initial conservative projections statewide call for $400 million in recreational marijuana sales). Dumb, dumb and then dumb.
Hopefully, some of our governmental bodies, where close pot ban votes occurred in 2013, will change their tallies for the sake of good common sense and fiscal accountability. Otherwise, the repeated official talk of tough times won’t receive too much sympathy, no matter how many violin songs our local officials play. It would be much better just to develop regulations governing this new industry.

Best Intergovernmental Feud: Woodland Park versus Teller County. Whether it dealt with the furor over building services or showdowns over infrastructure improvements and annexation bids by Teller County Waste, key authorities from the two main governments in our area just didn’t get along when it really mattered.

Best Overrated Fight: Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger versus the former owners of Smokin’ Q and Teller Talks. This turned into one of the more bizarre sign displays and lawsuit threats. Hopefully, the forthcoming county election will finally put all of the pro and anti-sheriff rhetoric to rest.

Best Fiasco to Raise Money: The decision to install parking meters on the main business strip in Manitou Springs. The timing couldn’t have been worse with the floods, road closures and the most rigorous Nazi-parking system in the nation. And then came a parking meter system that no one could really figure out.

Best Ill-advised State Campaign: The bid to raise state income taxes for public school funds. Once again, Colorado voters, and especially the people of Teller County, made it quite clear that a blanket tax hike in the name of education just doesn’t cut it. Why Governor John Hickendoper got behind this effort is still a mystery.

Best Entertainment: Just about any meeting in Green Mountain Falls. If the marshal only had to visit the trustees table twice in an evening to avoid a fist fight, it was considered a peaceful forum. A reality TV show is definitely in order for Green Mountain Falls.

Best Art Exhibit: Cloud City. While Green Mountain Falls struggled politically, on the cultural landscape the community hit a giant home run with the Cloud City exhibit, the central focus of the Green Box Arts Festival. In fact, Cloud City, which attracted thousands, put Green Box on the map. Prior to last summer, many viewed the festival as something devised by a few modern art fanatics. But not anymore, as everyone is already quite enthused about the 2014 Green Box proposed “12-Swing” sensation, which combines a child’s favorite pastime with synchronized music and special effects. (A larger version of this $500,000-plus attraction was featured in downtown Montreal).

Best Economic Comeback: Woodland Station. In past years, the former Saddle Club site was bombarded with nicknames and jokes due to the lack of activity. Also, previous grandiose $60 million-plus ski resort visions of past years that collected dust and resulted in a questionable loan from the city didn’t help matters. But the big surprise in 2013 was actual ground-breaking on an actual project and more realistic plans for the future.

Best Parties in Woodland Park: The monthly art and wine walks. What happens at a Woodland Park wine and art walk stays inside the confines of a Woodland wine walk. They serve the best watermelon ever crafted in Woodland Park. Enough said, or I might be put to death.

Best Chamber Revival: The Ute Pass Triangle Chamber of Commerce. The Bronc Day and other festivals in the Ute Pass were surprise successes, adding more ammunition to the theory that although the local trustees don’t know how to behave in public, the Ute Pass area is turning into a real happening place.

Best Elected Official Who Needs to Take Up Golf: Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley. If it will keep him off his motorcycles, then someone hand Mayor Dave an old five-iron from Tiger Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams. No more rides to the Tarryall Reservoir, Dave.

Best Mayor Who Needs a Helmet: Green Mountain Falls Mayor Lorrie Worthey. In a town absolutely infatuated with social media, just about any of her posts turned into quite a furor.

Best Mayor Who Needs a Controversy: Cripple Creek Mayor Bruce Brown. Forums in Cripple Creek have transpired from the good old days when certain leaders threatened to blow up the building department and council members left executive sessions in tears, to dullsville when meetings are conducted within 10 minutes and elections are cancelled. Maybe they need another heritage center.

Best Government Manager Forced to Wear a Bunch of Hats: Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker. With the prospects of dealing with virtually a brand new board of commissioners, constant fights with Woodland Park, complaints from residents over future trash problems, outbursts from the anti-sheriff folks and frequent budget woes, flexibility was a key.

Best Thin-skinned Promoter: Jim Wear of Pro-Promotions. Once again, the mere suggestion of possible concerns over the annual Veterans and motorcycle rally in Cripple Creek sparked a bizarre on-line assault against the TMJ and other local businesses. Welcome to Give Me Shelter, Part Two. (Just ask our main TMJ photographer for details.)