Eek! Are ‘Boulder values’ polluting Colorado? |

Eek! Are ‘Boulder values’ polluting Colorado?

Like it or not, many Colorado locales have images, and when an event belies the image, it makes news. Thus Jason Salzman, writing in the Rocky Mountain News on March 17, took the Denver dailies to task over their treatment of Boulder.Whether Boulder deserves it or not, the city does have a reputation for tie-dyed tolerance, and when there’s a crime that disturbs the image – such as an assault on a homosexual person – then it becomes a “Man bites dog” story that gets plenty of play.But geographic imagery goes beyond that. Last fall, Republicans warned us that if they lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives, then Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California would become speaker, and she carried pernicious “San Francisco values” that might be inflicted on the rest of us.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Francisco has a high per-capita income ($49,276 compared to $31,991 in Colorado Springs and $40,939 in Denver). It has low unemployment and excellent public transportation. These facts must disturb those Republicans who like high unemployment (keeps wages down) and hate public transportation (allows Americans to escape their duty to support the petroleum industry), but are these “San Francisco values” really that abhorrent to the rest of us?Similarly, in the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry was assailed as a bearer of “liberal Massachusetts values.” But when it comes to family values, the Bay State has the lowest divorce rate in the Union. Our own state Republican chairman, Dick Wadhams, was busy last year in Virginia promoting the re-election of incumbent Republican George Felix Allen to the U.S. Senate. He attacked Democratic challenger James Webb, who had helped produce a movie made from one of his novels, as a representative of “Hollywood values.”Given the continuing popularity of Ronald Reagan and the political success of Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom made their pre-political careers in Hollywood, that seems like a strange attack line for a Republican to use. Even so, the geography card will likely be played in the next Colorado election. Rep. Mark Udall is the favored Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Wayne Allard. Udall used to live in Boulder, although he now lists nearby Eldorado Springs as his address. I can already imagine the GOP attack machine in high gear: “He says he’s from Eldorado Springs, a place you’ve probably never heard of. You might well imagine that it’s some wholesome rural spot like Peetz or Dove Creek where his sturdy pioneer ancestors homesteaded six generations ago. But Eldorado Springs has actually been a resort town, just like Aspen or Telluride. And it’s only a few miles from granola-chomping tree-hugging latte-swilling bike-pedaling Boulder, where Ward Churchill made his name. Don’t let Colorado succumb to those Boulder values .”It’s hard to say whether the geography card still plays in Colorado. In 2006, I thought the Republicans might go after Bill Ritter for being from Denver, which is more liberal than the rest of the state, but they didn’t, perhaps because their candidate, Bob Beauprez, was also from the metro area.In the contest for the local state senate seat, incumbent Republican Lew Entz, who lives near Hooper in the San Luis Valley, did suggest that someone from Snowmass Village near Aspen, like his successful Democratic opponent Gail Schwartz, might not be all that representative of a largely rural area. But it wasn’t a major issue.Years ago, I got mail from people who insisted that by living in a swank resort town, I’d lost touch with the “real world.” Salida at the time was a dilapidated railroad town where the train no longer stopped. Unemployment was high, cheap houses stayed on the market for years, and we had about all the “reality” we could handle.Nowadays those critics might be onto something, since we have many art galleries and fine restaurants, along with hiking and biking trails, theater groups, community radio and the like. When my friend and neighbor Deric Pamp was on KOA radio recently, talk-show host Mike Rosen referred to our town as “Boulder west.”Actually, some of us might prefer “Santa Fe del Norte” if we must be defined by other places, but say what you will about Boulder, it certainly has the most powerful municipal image in Colorado.Ed Quillen is a writer in Salida, Colo., where he produces regular op-ed columns for the Denver Post and publishes Colorado Central, a small regional monthly magazine.

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