A Tale of Two Cities

From a royal mess to a people's playground, Denver's parks grounded the Webb years.

"Take pride in your skatepark," the sign reminds users.

Two schoolbuses pull up and disgorge still more kids, dozens of summer campers carrying skateboards, helmets and backpacks. They scatter, finding spots of shade -- an inconceivable luxury back in Versailles, which doesn't even boast a bench -- where they can eat their lunch and plot their course. For the day, for Denver's next decade.

The plants at Centennial Park, its sign promises, should be "fully established by 2004" -- at least, as established as any fussy royal import can ever be in this egalitarian, freewheeling city. But the skate park is already an intrinisic part of the Denver landscape. It's a place where the people make their own rules. Where they rule.

Let the good times -- the best times -- roll


Stress for Success

On Monday night, the current Denver City Council vanished in a puff of smoke.

Peace never had a chance.

Jeff Peckman first tried to sell Denver on his concept of "Safety Through Peace" in the spring of 2002 when, concerned over the Bush administration's failure to establish a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace, he started circulating a petition for a city ordinance that would push "proven, preventive, peace-creating technologies."

Specifically, "Super Radiance," otherwise known as Transcendental Meditation•.

Distracted by another campaign in Oregon, though, Peckman gave up far short of the 2,458 signatures that would have been needed to put his proposal on the November 2002 ballot.

He plunged back into his Denver campaign this spring, bringing his fliers to candidates' debates, talking to anyone who'd listen. But he didn't think he'd get a chance to talk about his peace proposal at the July 14 council meeting. He assumed the proposal would simply be introduced, assigned to a committee and scheduled for a hearing at some later date. So after watching the departing councilmembers toast each other and look at photo albums and play with their "pet rocks" -- pieces of old tarmac from Stapleton Airport -- he decided to leave during a break.

And then his proposal did come up, and councilmembers shot it down without a word from its proponent -- after a few choice comments of their own. But Peckman shouldn't feel bad: His concept got as much consideration as did the anti-smoking proposal into which the city's own health department had poured hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars of tobacco-settlement money. In the same week that Lexington, Kentucky -- in the heart of tobacco country -- followed the lead of Boston, New York and yes, Boulder, in extinguishing smoking in restaurants, outgoing council president Cathy Reynolds snuffed out any discussion of a Denver equivalent not once, but twice.

That proposal isn't extinguished forever, of course. And Peckman already has what he needs to resurrect his concept: 2,462 guaranteed valid signatures ("four more than required") that his "Safety Through Peace" petitioners' group had collected by June 6. That's enough to put the measure before Denver voters this fall.

And until then, well, he can try to convince the ten new Denver City Council members to give peace a chance.

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