« The American Dream | Home | A Gonzo Moon »

Kitchen Debate In The Rockies

Yes! The Owl Farm Kitchen Debate was a success.  Mick Ireland and Tim Semrau did have it out in Hunter’s kitchen yesterday in what turned out to be an interesting and philosophical debate.  NPR was here and is airing the story on Sunday “All Things Considered”  (link here, then click on "listen" ). Both newspapers said it was by far the most interesting debate between the two candidates to date. 

 We scheduled an hour, but it seemed to fly by, so we extended it another ½ hour. I think it was a refreshing style of debate because George Stranahan elevated it to a discussion of each candidate’s philosophy, rather than the usual campaign rhetoric. I will list George’s questions at the end of today’s blog so that you can keep them in mind if you would like to host a local political debate in your own kitchen in your own town. All you need to do is get the candidates to agree to come and call the media.  Yes, you too can have some good local politics happening in your kitchen. But most important, it’s good to think about how you would answer the questions yourself.


This morning I was struck with a weird postpartum sadness however, as I read great articles about the debate on the front page of each newspaper. In addition to these articles ran a story in the Aspen Daily news explaining that the Hotel Jerome is being re-sold to another huge resort conglomerate.  The Hotel Jerome is the oldest hotel in Aspen and served as the campaign headquarters for Hunter’s Freak Power campaign for Sheriff in 1970.  And it was also the unofficial headquarters of the Joe Edwards run for Mayor that set the tone for the politics of Aspen for the next 35 years.


In 1969, Hunter convinced Joe Edwards, a 29 year-old lawyer and bike-racer from Texas who held similar political beliefs, to run for Mayor. He promised that if he won, Hunter would run for Sheriff the following year in 1970. Both Joe and Hunter missed the mark — but only barely.  But they won in what we are learning now, in a very important way:  Their legacy is still felt today as the political dialectic still includes the freaks — the people who have dropped out of urban rat race and moved to the Aspen Valley.  It was Hunter and Joe and the host of volunteers that empowered the drop-outs and gave them a voice. 


Here is an excerpt from “Freak Power in the Rockies”

Aspen is full of freaks, heads, fun-hogs and weird night-people of every description…but most of them would prefer jail or the bastinado to the horror of actually registering to vote.  Unlike the main bulk of burghers and businessmen, the dropout has to make an effort to use his long-dormant vote.  There is not much to it, no risk and no more than ten minutes of small talk and time – but to the average dropout the idea of registering to vote is a very heavy thing.  The psychic implications, “copping back into the system,” etc., are fierce….and we learned, in Aspen, that there is no point even trying to convince people to take that step unless you can give them a very good reason. Like a very unusual candidate…or a fireball pitch of some kind.
The central problem that we grappled with last fall is the gap that separates the Head Culture from activist politics.  Somewhere in the nightmare failure that gripped America between 1965 and 1970, the old Berkeley-born notion of beating the System by fighting it gave way to a sort of numb conviction that it made more sense in the long run to Flee, or even to simply hide, than to fight the bastards on anything even vaguely resembling their own terms.

 — Hunter S. Thompson “The Great Shark Hunt”


Indeed.  The rest is history. And yesterday, here in this kitchen was a tribute to that spirit of awakening the power of local politics. 


Here are the questions George asked the candidates:

1.      What would be your mission statement as Mayor?

2.      “Government must do what the people cannot do for themselves.  How do you interpret that statement?

3.      Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and they are us.” Which of us and in what way?

4.      [What is your philosophy on city police in terms of ] drugs, recreational drugs, immigration?

5.      We’ve had a 35 year political conversation about growth and it still feels like a boa constrictor continually coiling and constricting. Growth eventually HAS to stop; either by strangling itself or by design.  Which would you choose and how would you implement?

6.      More and more Aspen affects down valley (at least to Rifle) and down valley affects Aspen.  What does the mayor of Aspen do about this?

7.      Aspen is unique and the information age is new to us.  How does this change traditional models of governance here and now?

 Then, senior Woody Creek Politician Commissioner Michael Owsley asked "Hunter ran for sheriff on Freak Power, what kind of power are you running on?"

Okay!  Enjoy your weekend and remember to tune in to NPR see if you agree with Mick and Tim’s answers – and how they compare to your own.


Until next time, your friend,

Anita Thompson


p.s.NPR’s  Ben Bergman aired the NPR national story shorter, and will send a link to the longer version which will run on Tues.


Email this to a friend

Email this entry to:
To prevent misuse of this service, only one recipient is allowed per email

Your Name* : required
Your Email* : required

* This information is used for the sole purpose of identifying you in this email you are sending. We at Owl Farm hate spam just as much as you do, and will never sell or give out any of your personal information to third parties. Ever.