Tower Failure

Community groups and broadcasters widen their battle over proposed tower construction.

Like Lambiotte, Channel 6's Morgese is confident that existing RF standards are safe. But he's just as certain that further tower delays aren't feasible. "We're starting to run out of time," he allows. "I take the federal deadline seriously -- and if you gamble on that and lose, you lose your license, too."

For that reason, Morgese is sticking with the Lake Cedar Group but hedging his bet with the Mount Morrison plan. A co-venture between PIC and Bear Creek Development, which owns the Mount Morrison site, the proposal aims to let commissioners choose between a 260-foot vertical tower that's slightly smaller than one it would replace, and the horizontal model, which wouldn't need to be lighted and painted to specifications dictated for towers by the Federal Aviation Administration because of its squat design. "They've got the option," says Leo Bradley, Bear Creek Development's president. "They can go with whichever one they like best."

Neither notion thrills Mike Ballard, a spokesman for the Friends of Red Rocks who's afraid the towers may become eyesores for visitors to the amphitheater and the park in which it's located. "We're more interested in being proactive about finding solutions rather than just being obstructionist," he says. "But we are concerned."

Considerably more revved up is Paul Dempsey, a law professor at the University of Denver who serves as board president of the Genessee Foundation Home Owners Association. In October, Dempsey mailed a letter to 800 Genessee households asking residents to "join us in a boycott of future financial contributions to Rocky Mountain PBS [Channel 6], Colorado Public Radio and KUVO-FM. During their next fund drives, call them and tell them why." Dempsey says he didn't do so lightly, having previously thought of the members of PIC "as being dedicated to the highest principles of public interest. But they seem instead to be as money-hungry as any private-enterprise entity."

To Bear Creek Development's Bradley, this contention doesn't justify Dempsey's actions. "I was absolutely appalled when I saw his approach," he growls. "The very thought that a law professor who's probably teaching future lawyers would try to get his point across by boycotting public radio and TV stations is appalling to me."

As this comment indicates, the broadcasters embroiled in this seemingly endless war are beginning to lose their patience. In the past, Channel 6's Morgese has avoided public criticism of community groups, but now he declares, "I've been doing this for ten years, and I haven't seen a willingness for those who are crying out against the proposals to accept anything but clearing Lookout Mountain of every tower. You can't negotiate with folks like that."

Likewise, the neighborhood activists can find little nice to say about the TV and radio executives. "We're facing three zoning hearings," says CARE's Carney, "and each of them is a bad business decision. Because the science is eventually going to establish that the emissions are harmful, and they'll all have to get out of here."

Race to the finish line: Prior to October 26, columnist Gene Amole, who's worked for the Rocky Mountain News since the late '70s, was appearing in print infrequently. But after that day, when Amole dramatically revealed that he intended to document his own looming death in diary fashion, far more prose than anyone expected has flooded out of him. Recently, pieces by gossip columnist Penny Parker had to be moved to the back of the paper to make room for his latest update.

At this point, some of Amole's columns are more typing than writing: January 15's heartrending "Pain Becomes Ugly Companion" was followed a day later by a compendium of random observations that concluded with the news that his wife had picked up copies of Planet of the Apes and Moulin Rouge at Blockbuster. But the knowledge that Amole won't be around much longer adds resonance to even his slightest efforts, as does the disclosure of how the diary is helping him come to grips with his fate.

"Yes, I am writing more," Amole conceded in an e-mail sent last week. "For years, my assignment was writing three columns a week, but as I began this diary project, I found myself writing more. For some strange reason I don't understand, this project seems to be energizing me. It is so strange. The weaker I get, the more columns I am able to crank out. Right now, for example, I am exhausted and about to bed down for the day. I shall probably wake up later and write another column. I know I'll probably be able to file it sometime tonight.

"I think, though, that I won't be able to keep up this pace much longer," he continued. "I have about six columns in the pipeline now. I told [News editor] John Temple yesterday that I won't be able to keep up this pace much longer, and he understands how I shall probably be back to three a week and then dribble to fewer. I am going to keep writing until I am no longer able to write. This has become my raison d'être, or something like that."

One more thing: "Yes, I have written a final column to be published when I die. I have filed it with John, and he and I are the only ones who will see it until the end."

Which will come too soon.

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