Off Limits

GOP of the heap

Colorado's Republicans keep insisting that Karl Rove, chief policy advisor to President George W. Bush, had nothing -- absolutely nothing! -- to do with that surprise redistricting proposal at the General Assembly, a move that conveniently tossed Mike Feeley right out of the seventh, which he almost took from Bob Beauprez last November.

No, they say, the redistricting plan was born and bred in this state.

But then, Rove knows all about wiping Colorado addresses right off the map.

Loop de Loop: John Hickenlooper and the Borofsky 
sculpture purchased by Wellington Webb's 
administration, now accessorized for the next mayor.
Photo of John Hickenlooper by Brett Amole
Loop de Loop: John Hickenlooper and the Borofsky sculpture purchased by Wellington Webb's administration, now accessorized for the next mayor.

Described as Bush's "political Svengali, Robespierre and wizard all rolled into one," Rove has come a long way for a kid who was born in Denver and spent much of his childhood in the area, as he acknowledged after making an ill-advised wisecrack about the intellectual capabilities of a New Hampshire hamlet in late 2001. "Were I ever to belittle small-town America, I would have to do a lot of explaining to my friends and neighbors in Golden, Arvada and Kokomo, Colorado," he wrote in an apology to the Berlin Daily Sun. "The places where I grew up."

Actually, he wouldn't have much to do in Kokomo. The town, founded on the west side of Fremont Pass during an 1881 silver strike, was devastated early on by fire, then enjoyed a rebirth during the boom years of the Climax Molybdenum mine. "As many as 100 to 200 persons live in the town, and a school operates through the winter," reported Perry Eberhart in his 1959 Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps. But by 1965, the Rove family had moved on (Dad was a geologist), and the town was down to just nine voters, who decided to disincorporate Kokomo.

And in the early '70s, when Rove started his climb to the top of the GOP heap as the politically savvy executive director of the College Republicans, his old home town was disappearing altogether. Today, Kokomo is buried under a pile of tailings from the Climax mine.

The hair apparent: That 'do -- it's like the hair of a sixth-grade class president captured in a 1969 yearbook picture crossed with that of a forty-year-old Cherry Creek bon vivant attempting his first comb-over. It's floppy, it's flat, it's...a Looper!

"No products," sniffs a local stylist who's gotten up close and personal with the follicles of mayoral frontrunner John Hickenlooper. But Hick, whose campaign is as lively as his hair is limp, acknowledges his coiffure's limitations: His third TV commercial shows him standing before a mirror, comb in hand, thanking "the good citizens of Denver for looking past my bad hair...I'll never be an international man of style."

But anyone can have a Looper! All it takes is the courage to toss aside all sprays, mousses and gels and make the most of a couple hanks of hair thinner than the mayoral hopes of Don Mares (who's been getting his trim from the same north Denver barber, Danny Marquez, since he was in seventh grade).

Hickenlooper's first commercial made fun of his wardrobe, showing him buying a used suit in which he'd look more mayoral. (In reality, a friend gifted him with a much nicer model.) And he's not the only candidate who's had a clothes call recently: Denver City Councilman Dennis Gallagher, he of the ubiquitous navy-blue sports coat, finally broke down and bought a new suit when he decided to run for auditor. "Even Tom Noel told me to get a new suit," Gallagher says of his pal, the equally sartorially challenged University of Colorado at Denver history professor.

So Gallagher did, a tidy brown number. But he wasn't looking for a What Not to Wear-worthy overhaul; he'd already made his major image change back in 1987, when he ran for mayor against incumbent Federico Peña. Then, even without consulting stylist-to-the-stars Jo Farrell, Gallagher decided to shave his mustache so that he'd look younger. "I was starting to look like King Lear out on the lochs," he remembers.

The arful truth: First, Hickenlooper strategists bought the bags that wrapped the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post the day before the May 6 election, reminding subscribers to vote -- and providing them with handy Hickenpooper scoopers. (The candidate himself has been spotted picking up after pooches -- anonymous ones, not just his own Rocket -- on the 16th Street Mall.) And last Sunday's Lucky Mutt Strut featured a dog wearing signs pushing the brewmeister, apparently an independent political animal who's not part of the official campaign. "He must be a creative supporter," says Hickenlooper spokeswoman Lindy Eichenbaum Lent.

Hickenlooper supports canines, she notes, as well as their canine companions. For example, he's on board with the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation's proposal for off-leash dog parks ("Straight Poop," April 3), as long as they're located in "areas where there is broad neighborhood support and strict rules and consequences regarding dog behavior."

Although Mares has been working hard to distinguish himself from Hickenlooper, his dog-park stance is remarkably similar. "I think it's long past due that Denver listen to those folks who want to have areas where dogs can run free," Mares says. "But I think we need to be very cautious about how we roll that out. The idea of having dogs totally running free in a park, that scares me. My dog is one of the most friendly dogs there is, but you don't know that when he's running up to you to give you a big lick on the face."

Whoever wins the city's top spot in the June 3 runoff won't have to worry about stepping into deep dog-park doodoo until at least next January. Earlier this month, Parks and Recreation manager James Mejia recommended to the department's advisory board that the debut of the dog parks, originally slated to start this Memorial Day weekend, be stalled until early 2004; the board agreed. Mejia also suggested removing Cheesman and Veteran's parks from the list of nine possible sites, since neighbors had yipped so loudly about being included in the one-year pilot program.

By the time they stop their yapping, Mejia will be long gone. A Wellington Webb appointee (which means he'll be out once the new mayor comes in), he's a finalist for a White House fellowship. And if he doesn't get that, Mejia plans to go to graduate school back East. Either way, he won't be here to see Denver go to the dogs.

Let's play house: Little more than a decade ago, it was illegal for unmarried people to live together in certain Denver neighborhoods. And now a long-buried controversy over changing that ordinance has been dug up in the increasingly dirty fight for Denver City Council District 10.

Back in 1984, an anonymous complaint from a neighbor prompted the city to investigate the marital status of a man and a woman sharing the same house, in potential violation of zoning codes. When Denver issued a cease-and-desist order against the couple, they sued Denver, claiming the zoning rules were discriminatory. The disputed ordinance covered areas with R-1 and R-0 zoning, which just happen to cover some of the most affluent areas in the city, including the Country Club neighborhood.

In 1989, a divided city council finally repealed the ordinance, despite strong opposition from many of the people who lived in those neighborhoods. One of them was Jeanne Robb, at that time president of the Cherry Creek Improvement Association. She spoke before city council twice, testifying that her group wanted to preserve the neighborhood "for the traditional family" and was concerned that those merely "sharing expenses" had a lack of commitment. "While there are unmarried people who I am sure are committed, the marriage license is still the best measure of commitment that we can find," Robb told city council.

Fourteen years later, Robb is campaigning to become the council representative for District 10, which in addition to Country Club includes Cheesman Park and Capitol Hill, neighborhoods with large gay and lesbian populations. Not surprisingly, Denver's gays had fought hard to have the old zoning rules overturned.

Both Robb and her opponent in the runoff, Caroline Schomp, have played up their commitment to the district's gay population. In a flier aimed at the gay community, Robb claims she worked with then-councilwoman Cathy Donohue to "craft a compromise that eliminated some of the opposition to the ordinance."

But Schomp says Robb is distorting her record on the issue: "She's putting out information that she was responsible for this compromise when she testified against the bill. It's misleading."

Robb insists that she did work behind the scenes for a compromise and says she was representing the overwhelming opinion in her neighborhood when she spoke against changing the ordinance, a stance she now regrets. "We weren't aware of the sort of thing some of my gay supporters went through," she adds.

"Have we all changed? I would hope so," Robb says. "I was willing to be out there and work on it and learn. I have strong support in the gay community, and I'm committed to equal rights."

No matter who did what in 1989, that this issue has become central to a race between two straight women shows just how important the gay vote has become in central Denver. See? Some things do change.

Study haul: Last Friday was a long day for Noelle Levitt. At 9 a.m., the student journalist was in Denver District Court, suing Metropolitan State College of Denver for closing a judicial hearing for former Student Government Assembly president Brotha Seku. At 7 p.m. she was still going, accepting the Helen Verba Award from the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists to continue her studies at Metro.

Seku had invited Levitt, the news editor of The Metropolitan, fellow reporter Lindsay Sandham and photographer Danny Holland to cover his February 28 hearing, but they were tossed out by the college's judicial officer, Elyse Yamauchi, who threatened them with arrest by the campus police if they didn't leave (Off Limits, April 10). The three backed off, but not down. They found their own attorneys, Tom Kelley and Eileen Kiernan-Johnson of Faegre & Benson, to represent them pro bono and sued the college and Yamauchi for violations of the state's open-meetings statutes.

Although the school settled out of court with Seku, who'd hired Walter Gerash to represent him (the two have since parted ways), it decided to take the student journalists' case all the way to Judge Herbert Stern III's courtroom, where John Sleeman and Nancy Wahl of the Colorado Attorney General's Office argued that disciplinary hearings for public university students are not public business and should be closed -- even if the students request that they be open.

But since they'd anticipated that Stern would accept their motion to dismiss, the state's attorneys weren't ready to take their case any further that day. So the two sides agreed that Kelley and Kiernan-Johnson would call their witnesses and the court would recess until July 18, giving the AG's office time to prepare its case. "Without deciding on [anything], he allowed us to go ahead and present our case and let them take as much time as they need," Kiernan-Johnson says. "I think it went quite well and that we will prevail."

Which is exactly what Levitt was doing not twelve hours later, accepting a $1,500 scholarship to help pay for her junior year at Metro. "It was just really exciting," she says. "It made me very proud, like my hard work is paying off and I'm accomplishing something. We want to change the policy to make sure they hold their meetings open that fall under Colorado law. I think it's important for students to know what happens when they break the student code, how it's handled and the outcome."

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