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OFF LIMITS

It's a date! "In February we will open Denver International Airport," said Mayor Wellington Webb in a fundraising letter mailed earlier this month. That assertion, tucked into the usual campaign laundry list of good deeds, started tongues wagging that the mayor had, at long last, unofficially announced an official date for the opening. Since early August, when the city revealed its plans for a back-up baggage system, Webb has been firm in his insistence that February 28 is no more than a "target." And as late as last week, Webb's staffers were repeating his vow that he won't publicly announce another opening date--the airport's fifth--until Webb knows for sure that the baggage systems are up and running.

Perhaps they've forgotten a certain section of the September 1 "Official Statement" that accompanied the sale of $257 million in airport bonds: "The City and United agree that the New Airport shall be opened on or before, but not later than February 28, 1995." Sounds like an official announcement to us: In certain quarters--particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission--bond reports are considered very public, not to mention official, documents. In fact, the city is already paying up to $1.5 million on outside attorneys to counter an SEC probe into allegations that Denver's earlier bond disclosures weren't as forthcoming as they should have been.

Given how tough it was keeping track of all that DIA activity--and inactivity--last August, you'd think DIA's PR people would have had more pressing tasks than tuning into local talk radio.

But think again. On August 22 aviation director Jim DeLong sent this memo to Webb: "I have instructed the staff to address the need of monitoring various radio talk shows. We will use Airport Public Affairs for the monitoring staff who will either respond directly to the talk show or, when needed, verify the information with the expert individual. Preferably, the expert will then either immediately respond directly to the show or verify the information with the staff monitor, enabling them to go on air."

Accompanying pages listed experts for "talk show responses" and assigned DIA staffers responsibility for monitoring shows: Peter Boyles, who's made a practice of updating DIA's delay--in both days and costs--on his KTLK morning show; KTLK's Dan Caplis, who first suggested back in April that the city's bond reports might have violated SEC regulations by failing to report problems with the baggage system (and was later investigated by city-hired attorneys for his efforts); and Mike Rosen and Greg Dobbs.

Although the tuning in reportedly has been toned down, the city's still all ears: In late December it paid $75 to a New York-based broadcast-monitoring company after Webb press secretary Briggs Gamblin ordered a copy of Boyles's October 18 show, unofficially titled "Where Will the Money Come From?"

Good question. Although $75 is a drop in the bucket, Boyles says he would have given the tape to the city for free--if someone had simply asked.

Are you listening?

Around town: Another radio blabber, Ken Hamblin, is back in the Denver Post after a suspension for plagiarism; he's running a hypothetical campaign for mayor in that paper. Hamblin's rhetoric might have more bite if he hadn't forsaken Capitol Hill last year for a home in deepest, whitest southern suburbia...What was it that TCI honcho John Malone said about wanting to lower his profile in a recent Rocky Mountain News series that had more installments than TCI has channels? Here's how not to do it: Sit profile-to-profile with Ted "My Deal With NBC Is Off" Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda, at cable's Ace Awards Sunday night.

 
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