OFF LIMITS

What's in a name? Rather than carry heavy tomes through the rest of Denver's mayoral campaign, clip and save this handy guide: In Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary, a "crony" is simply a friend. Webster's New World Dictionary turns up the heat, defining "cronyism" as "favoritism shown to close friends, esp. in political appointments to office." And for its Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Webster's really fans the flames, defining "cronyism" as "partiality to cronies esp. as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications." Interestingly, in all three dictionaries the next entry is for the word "crook."

Cronyism--or lack thereof--was much on Mayor Wellington Webb's mind during Sunday's Channel 7 Crossroads interview. The incumbent took challenger Mary DeGroot to task for sullying the names of such prominent Denverites as Larry Atler and his wife, former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Atler. There was just one problem with Webb's jab: Those two are among the few people in town who don't rank a mention on DeGroot's "Taste of Old Chicago" list of 64 alleged instances of cronyism and questionable ethics in the Webb administration. However, Atler's law firm, Gelt Fleishman & Sterling, does make DeGroot's list, for giving a $3,000 contribution to Webb and getting about $100,000 in legal contracts from the city to conduct negotiations with BAE over a backup baggage system.

Nice work if you can get it.
Webb also used Crossroads to start his "big lie" strategy, accusing DeGroot of using a tactic made popular in Nazi Germany to push her cronyism platform. In Monday's Rocky Mountain News, Rabbi Steven Foster denied that Webb had shown survivors of the Holocaust any disrespect, and went on record defending hizzoner. No big surprise there: His wife is Councilwoman Joyce Foster, who has not only endorsed Webb but last week called on Denver's legislators to encourage them to do the same.

The hazards of Duke: On the last day of the General Assembly's 1995 session, a group of schoolchildren from El Paso County were visiting when in came "their senator," Charles Duke. The alleged Republican volunteered all sorts of useful tidbits for the kiddies--how one whiff of crack can hook you for life, why drinking alcohol is "like putting acid in the blood," even how to get a bill through the legislature--when one astute young lad piped up and asked why a black toy helicopter was hanging right in front of them. It was a practical joke, their senator replied. "Some people brought it into my campaign," he said. "And some practical jokes aren't funny."

Speaker of the louse: Forget black helicopters. Unmarked vans invading the city pose a far greater threat. In a scam resurrected from a few years back, van drivers are parking at local shopping centers, then offering passersby an incredible deal on stereo speakers. The pitch goes something like this: The driver was on his way to deliver speakers to a customer (Hooters is a popular destination) when he discovered the loading dock had given him too many units. Rather than return the expensive speakers, the driver is willing to part with them for an amazing $200--down from the $795 (each!) they list for on a promo piece he is only too willing to show you.

But this pitch fell on deaf ears when a fellow tried it on South Broadway last week. His target was none other than Walt Stinson, president of ListenUp, who quickly pegged the speakers' value at about $50.

You've been warned.

 
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