Go Figure

Denver's last dance for the '90s.

A hotel built by the city, just like the hotel slated for the expanded convention center. The hotel that's billed as the only way to make the convention-center expansion work -- just as the Adam's Mark deal that gave us the ballerinas was billed as the way to make the circa-1990 convention center work. That center was finished on the cheap, and already the Tinkertoy embellishments have been pulled off in anticipation of a sleek shell that will give the city a distinctive new skyline, a silhouette as significant as that of the Sydney Opera House, architect Curt Fentress promised last year.

Even if its significance is now far overshadowed by the anticipated Denver Art Museum expansion, a commission that went to Daniel Libeskind not long before he was tapped to design the World Trade Center replacement.

But there's still $2.2 million remaining in the art budget for the convention-center project. That will pay for such adornments as a giant bear peering inside -- no doubt wondering what happened to this city's bull market.

Denver danced through the '90s, propelled by a sweet prosperity that seemed like our just deserts after the depressed '80s.

The decade left its mark, including a sculpture park that will soon be graced by two dancing aliens. "It will truly be a one-of-a-kind art experience," promises Roberts. "Whether you love it or you hate it, it's clearly going to make an impact."

Right before it falls flatter than Denver's economy.

Another Landmark

It was a sight no one had ever expected to see: Mayor Wellington Webb and Denver City Councilman Ted Hackworth sharing a platform. And they were agreeing on something no one had ever expected to hear: how the city could save money by changing personnel policies.

Back in February, after the mayor/council charter-revision committee abandoned the idea of pushing through any real reforms before the May 6 election -- gave up on making changes to the Career Service Authority that oversees thousands of city workers and somehow manages to give 70 percent of those workers merit raises for being "above average" each year, and surrendered to the sad reality that elected officials would simply have to take those whopping big raises because the City Charter left them no choice -- some members of the Webb administration promised that they wouldn't give up, that they wouldn't leave all the dirty work for the next mayor ("The Smile High City," February 20). But the same people who never expected to see Webb and Hackworth now smiling together hadn't believed them.

Still, here were Webb and Hackworth, announcing that they were pushing a plan to help balance out Denver's $50 million budget deficit, a plan that would be proposed that day to city employees. And the fact that it was May 1, International Workers Day, was just a coincidence.

"It's a real temptation to say 'Seventy more days and I'm out of here,'" admitted Hackworth, the longtime council curmudgeon who will be gone in July, as will Webb. So why had they bothered? "I guess because I'm old," said Denver's mayor of the past twelve years.

They acknowledged that their proposal was just a start, since even if all nine points are adopted -- and that's unlikely, given that one calls for the police, fire and sheriff's departments to "forgo planned 2004 wage increases, and/or to a reduction in paid time off" -- it will only save the city $33 million. And while they were discussing the finer points of the plan publicly, behind-the-scenes power plays were already under way. Among other things, there's a move to make the director of the Career Service Authority -- the head of the city's personnel system, a slot currently occupied by the controversial Jim Yearby -- an appointed position that answers to the Career Service board rather than a part of the personnel system it oversees. And Webb didn't resist the opportunity to take a shot at procedures at the city auditor's office, a spot he once held that's now filled by Don Mares, a mayoral nemesis.

But still, it's a start. And better late than never.

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