Off Limits

Turf rebirth

What a difference a year makes. Last summer, as Mayor Wellington Webb pondered joining the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate in 2002, he seemed to take issue with a Denver appearance by the Republican who currently holds the job, Wayne Allard. Webb apparently didn't appreciate the Loveland veterinarian invading his home territory -- specifically, the annual Juneteenth parade in Five Points.

"It's a predictable kind of political deal when, if you haven't been to a particular place, you go to your opponent's base and make a statement that you are here," Webb told the Denver Post. "It doesn't do much other than to energize my base. People around here are probably saying they've never seen him before." For his part, Allard pointed out that he'd participated in the parade not once but three times, and had also held an affordable-housing meeting in the neighborhood.

And Allard was back in the area on January 21 this year for the Martin Luther King Day Marade. But it now seems that Webb -- who, by the way, is no longer a possible Senate candidate, let alone a real one, having abandoned those plans last year -- has learned to share. He and Allard not only marched side by side through town, they later appeared together on stage.

"To my knowledge, there were no repeats of last June," says Allard spokesman Sean Conway. He'd been "stunned" by Webb's comments, Conway adds, but was happy to see the two marching together this year. "The mayor couldn't have been more gracious and accommodating. It was a wonderful event. Senator Allard feels that there is no part of Colorado that is off limits to anyone. If Mayor Webb had entered the race and decided to come up to the Greeley Stampede, Wayne would have welcomed him there." According to Conway, this was Allard's third appearance at the Marade -- even though back in 1984, when he was a Colorado legislator, he voted against making MLK Day a state holiday because he felt it was unfair to private-sector employees whose employers wouldn't grant them the extra day off.

Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson insists that the mayor never had a problem with Allard's Juneteenth appearance. "He wasn't irked," Hudson says, explaining that it was the Post that chose to characterize Webb's comments in a negative way. As for the Marade, Hudson says, "It's common that when the Martin Luther King Jr. event occurs, a lot of people come, and there is also a lot of posturing to get next to the mayor. Tom Strickland was on the other side of the mayor. It's a fun march that is in honor of a very significant person in the history of the world. It's very appropriate that elected officials be at that event. It brings out everyone of every different political background."

Of course, a Webb/Allard kiss-and-make-up session probably wasn't what Strickland was hoping for. The front-runner for the Democratic nomination since Webb backed out, Strickland -- who already lost to Allard once before, back in 1996 -- can use all the support he can get. Nevertheless, Strickland landed on the mayor's prodigious bad side last summer by needling him during Webb's tortured, on-again, off-again decision- making process. At first Strickland offered to stand aside if the mayor chose to run for the Senate. But after waiting...and waiting...and waiting for Webb to make up his mind, Strickland began pressuring him, then finally reneged on his offer to get out of the way.

Strickland spokeswoman Chris Watney suggests that bygones are bygones. "Tom and the mayor have been friends for years, and the mayor has been very supportive of him," she says. "The mayor and his wife asked Tom to join them at the parade."

Can't you just feel the love?

Speaking of love: Although the life-sized bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. (standing with fellow civil-rights martyr Emmett Till) that stood in City Park for three decades (and marked the Marade's starting point until recently) is gone, it hasn't been entirely forgotten. While the area has been cleared to make way for local sculptor (and onetime astronaut-in-training) Ed Dwight's million-dollar replacement MLK project, complete with a three-layer pedestal supported by bronze representations of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Gandhi and Rosa Parks, the city still possesses the original statue, unlike other much-mocked public works -- such as Larry Bell's "Solar Fountain" -- that were simply destroyed.

And even though the MLK piece, too, has taken its share of criticism over the years (among other things, people complained that the statute was "disproportionate" and that MLK looked like an ape), Mayor Webb has come to recognize that the work has value. In fact, the city plans to donate the statue to one of the 35 schools in the Denver Public Schools' northeast quadrant and has sent a letter to those schools asking if they're interested in receiving the "beautiful sculpture that has graced the city for so many years." First come, first served, the city says, anticipating a glut of interest in the much-maligned work -- and Webb has even promised to help find a private donor to cover the $20,000 in moving and installation costs.

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