By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
If fighting crime was the chief goal of the Safe City Summit, public relations was always a close second. Following last summer's wave of high-profile shootings, says McBride, "folks were scared and didn't know what kinds of things to do." The Summit process allowed Webb and his subcommittees to go into neighborhoods where they "got everybody's input," he notes. "The mayor should be applauded for that."
Perhaps not surprisingly, in-house public relations efforts also appear as a key component in several Safe City grants. The nonprofit group Denver Partners intends to use most of its $15,000 grant to pay the salary of a half-time "volunteer recruitment specialist." That person, says spokeswoman Mary Ann Burdick, will prepare public-service announcements looking for adults willing to volunteer for its youth-mentoring program. The job would include contacting media outlets and then following up to see that the spots receive play, she says. The organization hopes the publicity campaign will reduce a waiting list of eighty children who have yet to be paired with a partner.
Another PR campaign is planned by the Southwest Improvement Council, which plans to use the majority of its $20,435 grant to pay the salary of a staffer who will create an informational brochure and then go door to door "promoting programs" at the Westwood Community Center. One neighborhood resident who asked not to be identified says the project is ludicrous, since people who live near the center on South Lowell Boulevard "already know what's there." Project director Jan Belle, who applied for the grant, was unavailable for comment last week.
Belle's group isn't the only one that intends to use taxpayer money to publicize existing services. One grant that draws fire from Councilwoman Martinez is an $8,000 allotment to the Center for the People of Capitol Hill, a nonprofit family resource center funded by grants from the state. The money will go to help pay for a neighborhood "resource directory"--in essence, a phone book listing the location and phone numbers of public and private schools, child-care facilities, health-care providers and services for the elderly. According to spokeswoman Jane Hartman, the guide also will include a foldout map showing bus routes and bike trails, along with directions to and descriptions of cultural facilities such as the Denver Zoo and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Martinez says she understands why the Capitol Hill project was funded: among the numerous recommendations made by citizens during the city's series of community meetings was that youth be provided with information about available services. But she fails to see a direct "youth component" in the Capitol Hill guide--which will cost far more than a $2,000 directory Martinez put together for her own council district last November. Hartman, however, notes that the guide will include information about "infant and toddler services," along with traditional services for teenagers.
Hartman adds that her group's effort will help make Capitol Hill a "family-friendly environment," in part by sponsoring a children's drawing contest to illustrate the directory's cover.
One grant that nearly everybody appears to approve of is also one of the smallest: a $3,000 stipend to Norman J. Martin, a Littleton man who wants to take fatherless boys on camping trips. "I think that's great," says Martinez, who thinks Martin is a perfect example of the grassroots efforts she'd hoped to see more of. Simple programs with low overhead are always preferable to institutions because they "don't get caught up in bureaucracy," notes Councilman Sandos. "They remove all the bullshit and go after how they can help the kid."
The 52-year-old Martin is looking forward to helping more boys--from both Denver and Littleton, he says, adding that he's surprised that the city selected an out-of-town applicant for funding. But before he can get started, he'll have to complete his city paperwork. And when he finally gets the grant, he already knows what he'll do first with the money: buy the liability insurance and workers' compensation coverage required by the city's contracting process.
Meanwhile, back in the budget office, Flahive says he's working as fast as he can to help grant applicants find shortcuts through the red tape. Gamblin says the administration didn't expect the bureaucratic delays and hopes to avoid them if the program returns next year.
But as the summer continues to slip past, the Safe City process remains anything but streamlined. As of last week, the administration was still refusing to provide Westword with copies of the Safe City grant applications, which among other things detail precisely where the money will be spent. According to Beth McCann, the city couldn't release proposals from such agencies as the YWCA and the Denver Victims Service Center without first subjecting them to an extensive legal review by lawyers inside the city attorney's office. After all, they might contain "trade secrets.