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OFF LIMITS

Of human bondage: "No airport bonds are paid by these taxes"--that's the word (offered in capital letters and underlined to make sure you get the point) from the Denver Department of Revenue in its form letter that accompanied tax bills sent to property owners last month. But the city's butt-covering didn't end there: The letter also noted that 58 percent of all property-tax dollars go to the Denver Public Schools, and "for 1996, the mill levies set by the City and County of Denver are identical to those which were in place in 1995. However, the mill levy set by the Denver Public Schools was increased for this year, to recover tax revenues which were not collected by the School District last year, due to tax abatements and refunds." Clear?

As dirt. And the fact that taxpayers specifically voted against DPS's $30 million tax hike last election further muddies the picture. Fortunately, the city thoughtfully provided a number for confused taxpayers to call: that of the Denver Public Schools board, which operates independent of City Hall.

At the DPS board, a harried receptionist reads off the district's canned explanation, which notes that 1988 legislation allows DPS to adjust the mill levy in order to collect the money it lost through property-assessment appeals--in this case, $2.8 million.

"It has nothing to do with November," adds DPS's Mark Stevens, who, as the former Denver Post education reporter, used to ask such questions rather than field them. Much of the confusion over the mill change resulted because it was enacted so quickly, he explains--and that's because DPS got the revised property figures from the city just three days before the December 15 deadline to make the adjustment.

Trust-busters: Results of the second annual "Mind of Colorado" survey were released late last month, and surprise, surprise. Pharmacists and clergy rank high for "honesty and integrity," while the bottom-feeders are politicians, lawyers, professional athletes and, yes, journalists.

And now maybe pollsters should be added to the list. The survey was conducted by the Norwest Public Policy Research Program at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver, which, according to its own press release, "endeavors to provide a reliable, legitimate and objective resource...and is founded on the premise that public opinion research is essential to an enlightened society." (After all, institutions of higher education came in for a high vote of confidence, with a 55 percent "trust" rating.) But in the interest of complete enlightenment, it should be noted that the program's co-director is Buie Seawell, former chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, former candidate for U.S. Senate--and current, non-objective contributor ($500, according to the January 31 disclosure forms) to the senatorial campaign of Tom Strickland.

The recent Rocky Mountain News series on Strickland and his partners at the Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Strickland law firm took a beating in the Denver Post editorial pages last week from Jim Monaghan, identified merely as a "longtime participant in Democratic politics." Boy howdy. Monaghan makes Buie Seawell (his former partner) look like an amateur; Monaghan & Associates' client list includes such heavy hitters as Wellington Webb--both as a candidate and as a mayor--and none other than Brownstein, et al. But then, Mike Stratton, another longtime participant in Democratic politics (among other things, he ran Roy Romer's 1994 re-election campaign), is labeled merely a "real-estate investor" on the list of Strickland contributors (he gave $1,000).

 
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