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THE $1 MILLION MAN

MAYOR WEBB'S SAFE CITY SUMMIT WAS SUPPOSED TO MAKE THE SUMMER SAFER. BUT IT HASN'T BOUGHT POLITICAL PEACE.

Some members of city council have been supportive of Webb's efforts: then-council president Dave Doering appeared alongside the mayor at the press conference to laud the process. But other councilmembers say they felt left out. "I don't know anybody on council who was involved in the whole process," says councilwoman Ramona Martinez, one of the original brainstormers of the Safe City idea. "I certainly wasn't."

That process was an excruciatingly fair one, insists Jack Hawkins of the Denver Area Labor Federation, who served on Webb's allocation panel. "We would discuss it, and discuss it and rediscuss it and then tear it apart and rediscuss it some more," Hawkins says. "But the whole idea was to reach consensus." Adds the labor leader, "For as much as I bitched about the process, it couldn't have been done any better."

Hawkins says he never felt political pressure from the mayor or council. But some groups that were turned down say they now believe they never had a chance.

"We felt people were selected before we even submitted a proposal," says Pete Roybal, whose Yes, Incorporated, puts youth, many of whom have been in trouble with the law, to work mowing lawns on HUD properties at $6 an hour. "We believe that instead of giving people money or a handout, you give them a job," he adds. Although Roybal says he endorses some Safe City grants, he questions whether, for instance, a $40,000 allotment to the Denver Public Library's after-school reading program will do much to decrease youth violence.

Such dissension doesn't bother administration officials, who are now mulling the prospect of turning the Safe City Summit into a semipermanent political bureaucracy. Though the city has continued to cite the $1 million figure when referring to the program, the actual amount being spent on services is $950,000. The other $50,000 has been set aside to pay the independent consulting firm of John Prior Associates to help the city decide which projects work and which ones don't--and, says McCann, to "provide guidance" should the city opt to repeat the program next year.

Why the city needs to pay an outside firm to evaluate one of its own programs puzzles Jimenez. "Why did we need a Safe City coordinator anyway?" he asks, accusing the administration of allowing politics to sidetrack the program's original goal of reducing crime. If the Summit process is retained, notes Hackworth, it would provide work for McCann, whose $82,000-a-year job didn't exist until Webb created it last year, after moving TV newsman Butch Montoya into McCann's old job as manager of public safety. The total budget allocation for Safe City staff salaries is now $104,100.

Webb is still weighing whether to ask council for additional funding when he submits his new budget on September 15, Gamblin says, denying that political considerations will play a part in the mayor's decision. But Webb may find it hard to resist the idea of having an annual source of cash for political fence-mending in the minority community.

Whether or not the program returns next year, critics say pressure to spread the money around has led Safe City to reinvent the social services wheel, creating another circle of grant writers and selection committees likely to merely replicate services that are already being provided. "Why not target money to stuff that's already working?" asks councilwoman Mary DeGroot.

The Denver area doesn't lack for youth programs, notes DeGroot. A recent study conducted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments identified 99 youth programs in the area dealing with jobs, intervention and recreational opportunities. McBride's commission keeps on hand at its office a free directory of Denver-based programs that deal with youth violence; at last count there were 60. And this year the City of Denver provided 1,700 summer jobs to youth, mainly through the Mayor's Office of Training and Employment.

Current council president Debbie Ortega had hoped the Safe City process would reward innovative neighborhood-level efforts. Instead, many city agencies and long-established nonprofits were rewarded with grant money. The city's use of a six-page application favored large organizations skilled at the art of grant-writing, Ortega says. When the state recently handed out $3.6 million in similar grants made possible by Senate Bill 94, it got by with a three-page form. Notes the councilwoman, "It basically said, `Tell us who you are and what you're planning to do.'"

And the 37 grant recipients that aren't either city agencies or employees of the Denver Public Schools (those groups get an exemption) still face a daunting stack of paperwork. Regulations require that they get workers' compensation coverage, liability insurance and, per an executive order issued by Webb, provide detailed information on the racial and sexual "demography" of their organizations.

More than 250 organizations or individuals applied for Safe City grants. Among the 47 finalists selected for funding, four are sponsored by city agencies such as the library and the Denver Fire Department. One $2,940 grant will go directly through McBride's office to help fund the mayor's monthly newsletter for the city's Neighborhood Watch block captains--an expenditure Martinez labels "a waste of money." Responds McBride, "Some council people have parochial neighborhood strategies. The mayor has a citywide strategy."

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