Rob Douglas: Sweep this woman’s job away |

Rob Douglas: Sweep this woman’s job away

Tracy Barnett, director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, is Auntie Litter.

There’s no harder decision than to call for someone to be fired. There’s no harder time to fire someone than during the holidays.

But, the facts can no longer be ignored.

It’s time to publicly name a woman who needs to go.

In fact, we should sweep her away as fast as we can before our winter guests arrive and learn about the growing scandal that created her job in the first place. If we come together as a community and act quickly, we can keep this woman’s dirty job a dirty secret that will be forgotten as soon as she packs up the tools of her trade and moves on to other environs where women of her ilk are needed more.

Fortunately, most still don’t know about the reality of this woman or the squalid work she does for the city. Admittedly, I didn’t either until just this week.

Oh sure, I’d heard the rumors and been privy to reports of occasional sightings of this woman strolling our streets and alleys in the early morning hours. Still, I thought she was a legend of days gone by, like the pleasure parlors on the Brooklyn side of the Yampa River. After all, this is Steamboat Springs. Why would we tolerate – much less condone – a woman doing that kind of work?

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Unfortunately, rumor became reality when, during a chat with interim City Manager Wendy DuBord, I learned this streetwalking woman is real and in great demand. Even more troubling – like some bipolar masked matron of muck – this part-time gal of the gutters performs her dirty deeds in the shadows of dawn only to shed her cartoonish costume and re-emerge as a woman we all know and respect during the full light of day.

It was while speaking with DuBord about the increasing filth evident throughout downtown Steamboat Springs and how it could negatively impact tourists’ impression of downtown that she leaned in and asked quietly whether I knew about this woman. DuBord then let slip the true identity and the alias of Steamboat’s dirtiest lady.

Auntie Litter.

Auntie Litter – better known to most of us as Tracy Barnett, director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs – is the woman early risers sometimes spot loitering for litter on the sidewalks in front of businesses that lack the civic pride to keep their storefronts and properties clean.

Dumbstruck, I called Tracy and confronted her. To my surprise, Tracy boasted that she is Auntie Litter and invited me to walk the streets of Steamboat with her as she plies her putrid profession.

So there we were Tuesday afternoon, surveying the semi-squalid streetscape of Ski Town USA as Auntie Litter held a Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boy and a cigarette butt in one hand and an empty cigarette pack in the other – courtesy of the sidewalks of downtown Steamboat. What we saw along Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street wasn’t pretty.

Cigarette butts by the thousands. Cans and bottles – especially of the beer variety – outside restaurants and bars. Sandwich wrappers, food wrappers and you-name-it wrappers. Leaves that fell from trees months ago. Paper bags, plastic bags and baggie bags. Trash dumped in a pile right next to an overflowing metal drum of a trash can. Wet trash, dry trash and more trash.

Perhaps most notable of all is the undeniable fact that some shop proprietors and property owners take pride in keeping their storefronts and properties clean while others clearly don’t care.

That’s where Auntie Litter comes in.

Auntie Litter patrols the streets, cleaning up after the slobs who are too dimwitted to make it half a block to place their trash in a can. And, just as needlessly, Auntie Litter cleans up the sidewalks and alleys for the business and property owners too lazy to do their civic duty.

Still, it’s time to fire Auntie Litter and allow Tracy Barnett to lead a clean and wholesome life devoid of streetwalking for trash.

If every downtown shop proprietor and property owner took 10 minutes each morning to sweep up the trash and cigarette butts on their sidewalks, walkways and alleys, we’d be amazed at how much more inviting the downtown business area will be as our winter guests arrive.

If every bar and restaurant owner instructs their staff to clean up the beer bottles their patrons leave outside their establishments at night before they go home, morning visitors to downtown won’t be treated to the sights and smells of beer cans and bottles when they arrive for breakfast and shopping.

Finally, if we all do our part – including not dropping trash and cigarette butts in the first place and chastising those who do – we can banish Auntie Litter and show our visitors what it means to be proud of Steamboat Springs.

To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail

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