Best and Worst Moments of 2014
by Rick Langenberg
As we toast another new year, it’s time to celebrate some of the best and worst moments of 2014 in the Teller/Ute Pass high country, depending on your point of view. Without further delays, the drums are beating loudly in announcing the big winners and losers.
Best Political Campaign: Woodland Aquatic Project group. No question about this one. Moreover, who can argue with success? This dedicated group resurrected a failing campaign for a top-rate $15 million aquatic center project in WP from a near death-row status a year ago to an amazing level of grassroots popularity, capped by an overwhelming 70 percent voter mandate during the Nov. 4 election. This followed two previous staunch defeats.
Best Candidate Who Beat the Status-quo: Teller County Assessor Betty Clark-Wine. Teller Republicans are not noted for picking those who fall outside the choices of their leaders. But in this case, Betty beat the odds and took her re-election campaign to the people after getting snubbed by the good ol’ boy and girls club at the Teller GOP Assembly. She garnered nearly 1,000 signatures in less than two weeks and snagged a spot on the primary ballot and then won the election, leaving certain Teller commissioners and employees in the dust.
Best Local Republican Victory: The Convincing Re-election Triumph of Incumbent Sheriff Mike Ensminger. Despite facing a staunch challenge from familiar foe Mark Manriquez, who ran as an unaffiliated contender, the current sheriff proved that Teller County is GOP Country. He rode the wave of the Colorado anti-gun control fervor and stood on his record, without wavering on message. In the process, he received some help from a few friends, including local marketing guru Mike Perini.
Best Failed Effort of a Challenger: Teller County Sheriff Candidate Mark Manriquez. The sheriff challenger definitely earned an A-plus for effort. He embarked on probably the most aggressive campaign orchestrated by an unaffiliated candidate in recent history in Teller, with billboards, signs, media ads, a bevy of letter to the editor articles, barbecues, community forums and an engaging web site. But in the end, the numbers just didn’t add up for an Independent taking on one of the well-known figures of the local GOP establishment The Republicans are a tough act to beat in Teller County, a trend that solidifies itself every year. Just think, 25 years ago, this area featured a veteran Democratic sheriff and virtually every county race was heavily split between the two parties. On the upside, this race provided great fodder for debate and discussion. We are currently lobbying for a continuation of the Ensminger/Manriguez debates on just about any subject. These two good friends could even develop their own traveling media show.
Best Entertainment: Green Mountain Falls Meetings at Joyland Church. This locale served as the temporary site for the always lively Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees gatherings. These forums rarely disappointed audience members with a wide range of bizarre controversies, ranging from Marshal and Goose-gate to an all-out employee mutiny and frequent showdowns over money. Even with a new board that gets along quite well, GMF meetings are filled with the unexpected.
Best Event: USA Pro Challenge. Whether you are a cycling fan or not, this 11-minute launch of the Stage Five competition between Woodland Park and Breckenridge (referred to as the seventh inning of the week-long competition) turned into quite a spectacle, with downtown Woodland resembling a mini-sports village, at least for one day. The pros and cons of this event will probably be debated for some time, but it gave our little village at least a couple of minutes of fame. The highlights were the pre-race ceremonies and the festive autograph sessions by the top cyclists. The downers were definitely the weather and a ridiculous parking scenario.
Best Unexpected Jolt: The Arrest of Former Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley. Enough has been written already on the case surrounding the former mayor’s arrest for sexual assault on a child by a one in a position in trust, with a jury trial pending in February. But the situation definitely created one of the more awkward press conferences in the city council chambers, just prior to Memorial Day weekend. Luckily for Woodland Park, veteran former City Clerk Cindy Morse came to WP’s rescue and handled the situation admirably.
Best Sell-out: The City of Woodland Park’s Continual Love affair with Big Box and Chain Outlets. Officials didn’t hesitate in throwing down the welcome mat for a new Arby’s restaurant at a difficult location at the old Tabequache Steakhouse, despite some serious concerns by nearby residents. This is another example of bending the rules for the big boys. Unfortunately, it led to the death of a good unique restaurant.
Best Neighborhood Feud: The Central WP Business Parking Wars. The fight between Curves and the Summit Beauty College lives on and has emerged as Woodland’s version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. City Manager David Buttery had to use six referee whistles in dealing with this wild soap opera.
Best Case for Looking Stupid: The selection of a new Woodland Park Mayor. Yes, even though much competition mounted for the race for an all-important mayoral appointment by the city council, the final verdict was decided by pulling a name out of a hat. At least the two finalists could have played a hand of poker.
Best Case Against Progress: The Downtown Revival of Cripple Creek. The new $4.5 million facelift of Bennett Avenue in the Creek was strongly lauded by community leaders in the preliminary planning stages, but once the reality of a summer-long construction ordeal hit home, many started singing a different tune. Many business operators complained that the town couldn’t have picked a worst time to do the work. And according to some reports, the project even led to a sudden change in the head city manager job.
Best Bizarre Controversy: Goose-gate in Green Mountain Falls. GMF had some turbulent times, such a complete employee walk-out following the municipal election of 2014, but the favorite topic of many locals in the Pikes Peak area focused on the fate of the town’s growing army of geese and domestic ducks. It got so bad that GMF leaders performed the ultimate cop-out by opting to form a goose committee to evaluate the situation.
Best Drawn-Out Controversy: Teller County Waste Approval. Can’t we just get along? With this fight, certain officials from Woodland Park and Teller County proved they don’t like each other too much. This feud over a TCW expansion and annexation pursuit in Woodland Park and a proposed recycling center, involved a lengthy year and a half showdown, delayed by lawsuits and various legal maneuvers between the Teller and Woodland governments. Finally, a verdict was reached near the end of 2014, with TCW winning the war, but being placed on the time clock for making major improvements.
Best Projects Done on Time: Charis Bible College and the Green Mountain Falls Town Hall. The high country is known for big delays in the completion of big dollar development and municipal ventures. These two mentioned above have become the exception to the always fluctuating Teller County/Ute Pass construction time. The time table they pursued, especially for the Charis Bible College, the first stage of the ambitious $50 million-plus Andrew Wommack Ministries project, was actually amazing. The latter town hall opening culminated with a hefty local celebration, but the realization that the town was still lacking money to facilitate certain key aspects of the facility. Still, it opened on time, even with a complete changing of the guard in GMF.
Best Place that Benefitted from a Wet Summer: Shining Mountain Golf Club. The course could have rivaled the Broadmoor. with stellar playing conditions that lasted well into November. SM golfers and firefighters definitely enjoyed last summer’s wet weather.
Best Ambassador for a Local Agency: Deputy Renee Bunting of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department. Her attendance record at local meetings, community forums and charity galas was downright impressive. Mike Ensminger owes her much gratitude for his re-election victory.
Best Person to Own a Media Outlet: Teller County Commission Chairman Dave Paul. His love for bashing The Mountain Jackpot, The Gazette, local television stations and more has become infamous. Yes, there may be a media article or two or television interview dealing with Teller County that Dave liked in 2014, but it was a rare occasion. This has prompted speculation that Dave may start the Paul “Always Right” Times, with another unnamed Teller elected official serving as editor-in-chief.
Best Rodney Dangerfield Champ: Woodland Park Councilman Gary Brovetto. Despite making some darn good pitches for the WP downtown, Main Street and a future creative art district, Gary just can’t earn any respect from his peers.
Best Hank Haney Project Candidate: Charles Chambers of CR Chambers Studio and TMJ. Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’ former coach, who does a popular television show aimed at revitalizing the golf swings of celebrities, such as Charles Barkley and Rush Limbaugh, and even everyday people, may take on his toughest assignment yet: fixing the complex golf swing of Charles Chambers. Good luck Hank, as CR last fall shattered a new record for lost balls and errant shots during the Tiffany Lambert Fundraiser at Shining Mountain.
Best Group that Needs to Speed Up Their Meetings. The Woodland Park City Council. Rumors has it that the Guinness World Record for the lengthiest council session was in peril in late 2014, under the helm of new mayor Neil Levy, and a new policy of allowing EVERYONE to ramble on forever to the dismay of the local media.
Best Group that Needs to Slow Down the Process: Cripple Creek City Council. They came close to completing a meeting within five minutes. The race to get to Ralf’s for after-meeting sessions and good times still dominates local politics in the Creek.