Borom says HRCR's travel budget is insignificant compared to that of other city departments. "Our office doesn't fly a lot of people to conferences," he says. "There really isn't much travel in this department."
And not all of the trips have exactly qualified as pleasure cruises. Last July, Women's Commission director Chaer Robert traveled at public expense to the annual meeting of the National Association of Commissions on Women in Topeka, Kansas. Topics on the agenda included "Women and Depression--It's Not an Equal Opportunity Illness" and "Media--How to Get Their Attention and What They Want From Us." Robert says she hates to travel, anyway, and that Topeka is no Shangri-la. Besides, she says, she made the daylong journey to Kansas by bus to save the city money. "I will never, ever take a twelve-hour bus ride again," Robert says.
Robert acknowledges that the Women's Commission provides Denver taxpayers with a less tangible service than fire protection or garbage pickup. But she says it's valuable nonetheless. "As hard as I work," says Robert, who earns $48,700 per year, "the city gets a bargain for its money."
Lance Allrunner, the man the city sent to the Cheyenne reservations in Oklahoma and Montana earlier this year, says the value of his own HRCR-funded travel was demonstrated by what happened afterward.
Allrunner says that during his travels, he asked tribal representatives in both states to come to DIA to bless the new airport and calm any spirits disturbed during construction. The Oklahoma Cheyenne, still angry about the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, refused, Allrunner says, but leaders of the Montana Cheyenne agreed.
(Allrunner says it would have violated Native American sensibilities to call the tribes and make the request by phone. "It's not proper," he says. "It's not our way." Etiquette, he says, required that the request be made in person and be accompanied with a gift of cloth or tobacco.)
One night in April, Allrunner says, representatives of the Montana tribe quietly went out to the airport and performed a secret ceremony. (A DIA spokeswoman says the Indian leaders' trip was also financed by taxpayers, though with money from the airport budget, not HRCR.) Allrunner won't say exactly what the group did or saw, but he says it became clear that the ritual was absolutely necessary. "There were certain things that happened that let [the tribal leaders] know that whatever they did had to be done," Allrunner says. "I don't want to go too far into detail about it."
And Allrunner says he is much more at peace now that the ceremony has taken place. "I might be coming in and out of the airport one of these times," he says. "I don't want anything bad to happen.