Off Limits

Either way, with Gittens apparently out of the picture, the latest party line from Webb is that it doesn't make any sense to hire a new aviation boss until after the May 1999 mayoral election--which seems to mean that Baumgartner and the mayor's handpicked crisis team of Stephanie Foote, Lee Marable and Wayne Cauthen will manage by consensus for the next fourteen months. The team's first order of business likely will be to polish DIA's reputation, which DeLong has already tried to salvage by noting that the airport's underground train works 99.7 percent of the time--sort of like touting a pacemaker by noting that it almost always works.

Already there are reports--vigorously denied by Hudson--that Webb administration bigwigs are sweating bullets over whether Sunday's snafu will queer the city's bid for the Democratic National Convention in the year 2000. The administration will also have to explain the decision to save money by building the train tunnels without a back-up method of getting passengers from the terminal to the concourses--while ignoring warnings from skeptics and simultaneously spending $600 million on a lemon of an automated baggage system. "To try and make us believe that from the beginning they knew the train would be sufficient is insulting," says Boyd. "People in the business knew that was a bad design not to have an alternative to that passenger artery."

One group of frequent flyers who might be hard to sell on DIA's efficiency are the civic leaders from Nashville who flew into Denver last weekend for a red-carpet tour, only to be marooned on Concourse B along with thousands of other travelers when the trains went kerblooey. Among the chamber-of-commerce types who got stranded: General William Moore, a former World War II bomber pilot who now runs the Nashville Airport Authority. Witnesses say Moore and the other Nashvillians took the snafu in stride, in part because they were being shepherded by a local tour guide who buzzed around with a clipboard, running interference for them with DIA officials and apparently managing to get them on board an early bus out of the airport. No word on what was said when the Tennessee contingent met later that night with Mayor Webb as the official kickoff to their tour of Denver--or what horror stories they may pass along to their fellow civic poobahs across the country.

What is known: the interim solution proposed by airport bosses in Tuesday's airport-committee meeting at the city council. That brilliant plan? To make an emergency purchase of bullhorns and orange vests so that in future DIA crises, crowds will at least be able to identify authority figures--and be able to hear what they're saying. "I guess it would be better to have people that can be easily identified by an angry crowd," muses Councilman Hackworth. "Of course, they might get hung.

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