Twenty Years of Denver

1997: Douglas County's increasing water shortages are blamed on overdevelopment. County commissioners decide to try just saying no to developers, or at least downzoning. Permits for new home construction in the metro area are at their highest level since 1984.

Colorado is the nation's fifth-fastest-growing state, adding more than 76,000 residents since last year, 63,000 of them in the metro area.

US West is the nation's third-largest cable company, but with most homes in the metro area wired for multiple lines, another number shortage looms. Plans are afoot for a new area code to join the three already in place; through a quirk in the federal regulations, all calls between 303 and 970 are routed through US West, not the long-distance carriers that have had thirteen years to build their customer base. Local phone competition is, not surprisingly, moving more slowly than Congress expected.

Colorado unemployment is at 3 percent, 1.5 percent lower than the national average and its lowest in 24 years.

Law and order, Denver style:
Peter Schmitz is acquitted on vehicular homicide charges in the death of Rocky Mountain News columnist Greg Lopez, since the owner of the car, Spicer Breeden, has committed suicide and no one can prove who was actually driving at the time.

Timothy McVeigh gets the death sentence for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building; Terry Nichols gets a split decision but no sentence from the jury. Victims' families need to get on with their lives.

JonBenet Ramsey is still dead, and her parents still ain't talking.
Ground is broken for Colorado's Ocean Journey, the Central Platte Valley's aquarium, after it receives a $1 million contribution from the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, headed by Tim Gill, founder of Quark, Inc.

Carbon monoxide levels have not exceeded federal standards once in the past two years.

Although he'd be proud of the taming of the Brown Cloud, the shade of recently departed Mayor McNichols has a cosmic hoot at the plight of Wellington Webb, up to his hubris in an early blizzard that closes Pena Boulevard and, for all practical purposes, DIA just two days after Webb says it'll never happen. Reports that the Broncos received a special escort behind the city's Hum-V don't sit well with those who spent the night stranded between the airport and civilization. Luckily, the election isn't until 1999.

Some of the other big names in the last two decades of Denver history who call it quits are James Michener, John Denver, Allan Phipps and Gary Davis. Yeah, and that defrocked princess who skied Vail with her kids once, too.

Roads throughout the state are a shambles, and state troopers are spread too thin to provide adequate service along great stretches of highway. School districts throughout the state remain underfunded, and standardized tests confirm that children in poor school districts get less education, regardless of race. The state, faced with a tax surplus for the first time in decades, wrangles over how to return the money to the citizens. The likely amount for each person is about the same as a round-trip cab ride between Denver and DIA. Thank you, Douglas Bruce, wherever you are.

In the first year after the end of DPS busing, the student population of 66,000 is 26 percent white, 21 percent African-American, 5 percent Asian and Native American, and 47 percent Hispanic.

Construction of the long-awaited Pavilions project on the upper end of the 16th Street Mall and bagged meters in LoDo make downtown parking well nigh impossible. Voters reject RTD's Guide the Ride plan.

Western Pacific Airlines, which had been doing enough business out of Colorado Springs to prompt the city to plan to expand the airport, moves to DIA. Not only does this leave the Springs holding the bag, but after an announced merger with Frontier falls through, WestPac promptly goes bankrupt, although its planes stay in the air. Both the Springs and Frontier breathe sighs of relief, air fares at DIA fall 21 percent, and Frontier continues to fly to fourteen cities.

British Airways gets permission to fly out of DIA.
After the ValuJet disaster, Pena is transferred to secretary of energy, some suspect to keep the cabinet "looking like America."

The Summit of the Eight, a get-together of the good ol' boys who run the world, showcases the city in all its schizophrenic maybe-we-are-a-cowtown-what's-it-to-ya? glory, including dinner at the venerable Fort restaurant in Morrison and Sharon Magness prancing around on a big white horse. The downtown library is closed to taxpayers for the duration; U.S. 285 is closed during the banquet at The Fort. We are proud, especially once Mayor Webb makes sure the feds are going to pay their bills in full.

Plans are finalized to convert the once-proud but now abandoned Cinderella City--yes, it's a mall!--to public use. Plans are nearly finalized for redevelopment of the old Elitch Gardens site. Plans are nearly finalized to redevelop St. Luke's. Stapleton redevelopment is moving slowly.

The palatial office building constructed near the Denver Tech Center to house Meyer Blinder and his ego before their unfortunate incarceration is now occupied by PacifiCare, the health maintenance organization that is the direct descendant of Comprecare.

Red meat, martinis and cigars make a big comeback on the dining scene.
The Avalanche finally introduce their mascot, Howler. Allegedly a yeti, the big furry guy bears an uncanny resemblance to a mythical bogeyman said to inhabit the swamps and barrens of southern New Jersey.

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