Calamity Jane

Colorado's once and future governor wins points with bullets, not ballots.

And then, of course, there's lame-duck Lieutenant Governor Joe Rogers, who blamed accounting problems in his office on the need to stock candy for visiting schoolchildren. Another law passed during Owens's first term allows gubernatorial candidates to pick their own running mates -- and Owens, who's getting good at postponing sticky situations, waited until after the August primary to tap the better-behaved Norton. In the meantime, Rogers announced that he was staying up for four days straight in his bid for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District, then placed dead last. After that, the sleep-deprived lite guv disappeared.

It could be time for the lieutenant governor-elect to do the same. The NRA can show itself out.

The Hard Cell

While Colorado officials were looking anywhere but at the state budget, last week Denver finalized its own $769 million budget for 2003, with the bad news from dwindling tax revenues already factored in and the unkindest cuts made.

Then the city started throwing around money -- or at least the promise of money -- like the proverbial drunken sailor. And you'd have to be half in the bagman for some of these deals to look good.

On October 30, the city agreed to hand over $23 million for the block of land that once held the Denver Post, a parcel that developer Bruce Berger had purchased from the Post's former owner for a measly $3.3 million in 1998, back when Denver was actually booming -- and which now appears to be the only place the city can build that convention-center hotel it swears is critical if the $285 million convention-center expansion approved by voters three years ago is to be a success.

Berger had bought, and subsequently demolished, the former home of the Post -- Temple Buell's 1950 art-moderne-style building -- in the hopes of building that hotel himself. With a healthy public subsidy, naturally, one even healthier than the $25 million Fred Kummer had collected from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to expand his nearby Adam's Mark Hotel when that expansion -- and the destruction of I.M. Pei's hyperbolic paraboloid -- had earlier been touted as the solution for the Colorado Convention Center's needs. But when Berger kept missing deadlines, Mayor Wellington Webb decided that the city should form a nonprofit corporation, sell bonds and get in the hotel business itself.

If the convention business continues to shrink nationally and the city fails to fill its $162-a-night beds, however, Denver could find itself coming up short-sheeted.

Occupants won't be a problem at the city's other proposed business venture. That's because Denver plans to build a jail/justice center on the land currently occupied by the Rocky Mountain News, a building expanded in 1984 and considered so permanent a part of the city's landscape that at the start of this year, Webb renamed Elati Street to Gene Amole Way so that the News's address would commemorate the name of its beloved columnist.

Now, though, the city has agreed to purchase that property for $16 million from the Denver Newspaper Agency, which acquired it in the deal that created a joint operating agreement between the News and the Post. At some point, the DNA will move the News and the Post, which has been renting space at 1560 Broadway, into combined quarters.

In the meantime, the city will be in the unique position of serving as the News's landlord -- not that the paper or the DNA, which also occupies offices in the building, will be paying Denver any rent through at least April 1, 2004. No joke.

Does the city's hand on the heating controls constitute a conflict? "I just wish their editorial pages were for sale," sighs Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson.

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