All the dirt that’s fit to print

Posted 4/26/09

Ever since I started writing this column, I’ve been getting nice feedback, for which I am very appreciative. However, one reader told me she …

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All the dirt that’s fit to print


Ever since I started writing this column, I’ve been getting nice feedback, for which I am very appreciative. However, one reader told me she wasn’t happy with my choice of subjects.

“What would you like me to write about?” I asked.

“I want to read about all the DIRT in Littleton,” she said.

I pride myself on being a good gardener, so I know a lot about dirt. Since spring is the season when we gardeners start digging it up, it seems appropriate to tackle this subject now.

My 13 years in city politics, plus the time I spent covering city hall as a reporter, have given me lots of exposure to this topic as well.

They don’t call it “dirty politics” for nothing.

Politics revels in mud-slinging. Think muck-raking. Think smear campaigns.

Even though Littleton prides itself on being a civilized, clean-living place, when election time rolls around, some of the ingredients of dirty politics start to show up.

Take manure.

We’ve experienced our share of manure and manure-spreaders. Remember when a former mayor held up campaign literature that falsely accused the city council of throwing a lavish Christmas party for itself? She called it “manure.” (She could have called it a more graphic name, but the mayor I’m referencing was always lady-like.)

“Folks, this is manure,” she said, holding up certain individuals’ campaign literature during a public, televised council meeting, which made the “manure-spreaders” rather angry. We are still living with the consequences of those individuals’ anger.

Then there’s compost. Compost is just garbage that’s started to decompose. I’d say most campaign literature would fit nicely into this category. Whenever election time comes around, the mailboxes all over Littleton overflow with those extra “newsmagazines” and fliers that are really nothing but compost.

You can’t be in politics without having some mud slung on you; I’ve received my share. Once I became so angry about the distortions being written about myself and my fellow council members that I went to see the city attorney. Words like “libel” and “slander” and “lawsuit” were flashing through my head.

That’s when I learned the real “dirty secret” about politics. The city attorney told me that as a public figure I didn’t have the same rights as others. People could pretty much say or even print whatever lies or outrageous stories they wanted about me as a public official and there was absolutely nothing I could do.

At first that news demoralized me. Then I got smart. As a gardener I know there’s a big difference between dirt and soil. Sometimes it takes years, but you can turn the former into the latter.

Take manure. Too fresh, it turns your stomach and burns plants, but well-aged and mixed in, manure enriches the soil.

Compost is also quite beneficial to soil, but use it judiciously.

Cultivate that soil a lot. Turn it over. Fluff it up. Let the air in. Don’t work soil when it’s wet. Don’t step on it and compact it. And don’t kill the worms and bugs. They have their place.

If you know your dirt, treat it carefully, and plant the right kind of crops, you will reap a beautiful harvest.

Remember that when the city election rolls around this fall.

Rebecca Kast is a former Littleton city council member who write monthly on local politics and history. She can be reached for comment at


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