Former Aucklander Kimberly Dellaca-Badgett upset her home town after the ‘breakthrough’ in the JonBenet murder case in August.
I was prepared for the onslaught of traffic, noise and people. When I took my dog out for a walk yesterday afternoon, trucks from NBC and Fox were camped on concrete in front of the Boulder County Justice Center. Silence betrayed the courthouse employees who stood stoic when I asked them what the hullabaloo was about. If they weren't speaking, it was because there had been a break in the Ramsey case.
The killing of JonBenet Ramsey is the only event to bring national and international attention to Boulder in a decade. I live half a block from the Boulder County Justice Center, so I told my husband we needed to brace ourselves for mayhem. We took it in stride when helicopters started hovering over our home at 5:30 Thursday morning. Neither of us complained about the fact that we didn't get to sleep until after midnight because flood lights kept the parking lot of the courthouse lit up like heaven.
But when I took my dog out for his morning walk and reporters from NBC, ABC, the Associated Press and a local television station in Oklahoma wanted to interview me about Boulder's attitude toward the Ramsey case, I was surprised by my own criticism of a city that people often refer to as paradise.
First some facts: Boulder is one of the five richest counties in the United States, but it has the lowest rate of charitable giving in Colorado. A decade ago, Tajikistan donated an ornately hand carved Russian Tea House to the city. It cost Tajikistan millions of dollars. In return, Boulder promised to give a cyber cafe to Tajikistan because this Third World city's inhabitants do not have Internet access. More
than a decade later, Tajikistan still waits for Boulder to fulfill its promise.
Inhabitants of this city take pride in the image of Boulder as utopia. Boulderites joke with a sly wink that Boulder is 20 square miles surrounded by reality. There is a meditation room on the third floor of the downtown Shambala Center which is open to anyone who would like to practise lunchtime reflection. Boulder has the second-highest grossing organic food market in the country. Trails run from back yards to serene mountain ranges. Boulder is one of only three counties in Colorado that did not vote for George Bush.
But scratch the surface of the utopian bubble and you'll witness people punching each other in the organic market's parking lot over the last available space and you'll find yourself questioning why people who claim to be against the "oil war" didn't bring their bike anyway.
The Boulder City Council voted in July to allow dogs off-leash on open space despite the fact that dogs regularly take down deer and other wildlife in the area. Boulderites fight like mad to protect the prairie dogs -- unless they want to build a mansion with a view on a prairie dog habitat. And when houses routinely start at more than a million dollars, the only hippies that can afford housing in Boulder are of the soft-palmed-check-of-the-month-trust-fund variety.
Boulder is all about doing the right thing, as long as the right thing doesn't require making a sacrifice or a contribution. The "Free to Be You and Me" adage from 1967 prevails in Boulder and translates in 2006 to "I do what I want without any responsibility or consideration toward anyone else because you get to do the same." Other facts to add to the list. It's said that Boulder has the tallest average people in America with the second-highest average IQs. Boulder is a magnet for the "beautiful people."
But despite the city's collective brains and good looks, Boulder didn't hire a district attorney or a police force that had the ability to root out the killer of JonBenet Ramsey. Boulder likes its government to run a little loose. It wouldn't be politically correct to give the impression that the rule of law prevailed here.
Even the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr looks pretty shaky right now because of what seem to be inconsistencies between his story and the facts. Boulder authorities knew about Karr earlier, but let him go on his way.
Ten years ago, the Boulder County district attorney's office seemed focused on the Ramseys as suspects, and an investigation once labelled as 'thorough' did not include looking at all the sex offenders in the Boulder area.
Conformity to nonconformity is required to get along in Boulder. Patsy Ramsey, with her coifed hair and couture leather shoes, ignored that Boulder is about dreadlocks and Crocs (the plastic banana boat shoes that are made in the city). Patsy was a full-time, stay-at-home mom and former beauty queen. John was a rich computer company executive. The Ramseys were the wrong kind of people in Boulder. It's only OK to be rich here if you wear patchouli and pretend you live in a tent. The Ramseys didn't.
Inhabitants of Boulder are so convinced that a non-Boulder lifestyle is wrong that when JonBenet was killed, few people in town offered sympathy to the Ramseys. The killing was seen as a by-product of the Ramsey existence, of the conservative life. Violence is what you should expect when you aren't a feminist vegan who eschews leather shoes and practices bikram yoga.
Boulder has always carried the suspicion that if the Ramseys had behaved properly, JonBenet's life would have been saved. When you put your 6-year-old daughter in makeup and parade her around on stage, you've made a choice to live on the dark side and you get what comes to you. Boulder was smug when JonBenet was murdered. If the Ramseys' life went to hell, it was proof that the conservative life was the wrong one. The Ramseys never stood a chance in this town.
So when reporters asked me Thursday morning how the city feels now that a suspect has been arrested in the Ramsey case, I answer that we should feel ashamed and sad but probably don't because Boulder isn't the kind of place where self-examination results in anything more than a trip down the road for a shot of wheat grass.
Because of Boulder norms, innocent parents were judged to be murderers. The world would do well to judge Boulder as something far less than a utopia.
CNN reported in October that prosecutors had abandoned their case against schoolteacher John Mark Karr on Monday, saying that DNA tests failed to link Karr to the killing of child beauty contestant JonBenet Ramsey.
(First published in the San Francisco Chronicle).