Open Season

Time to give Denver the business.

Hmmm. Could it be coincidence that Hickenlooper's new economic-development head is named Huggins?

Party! Party! Rather than wring their hands over the University of Colorado's well-deserved win as the number-one party school in the nation (no studying, lots of marijuana and beer), this state's boosters should embrace this recent victory as a real marketing plus: Drunks drop a lot of cash. If John Denver could inspire a generation of immigrants to move here for a song, surely there are as many who would come to Colorado for a bong.


Willie Matthews is riding to the rescue of the Denver Police Mounted Patrol.

Make that painting to the rescue.

Matthews, a renowned artist whose William Matthews Gallery is just steps off the 16th Street Mall on Wazee Street, considers Denver's mounted police an important part of not just LoDo, but the entire city. And with the city's budget restrictions threatening to rein in the patrol, he's showing his support by turning a painting of two of the officers in front of Union Station into a poster (with an assist from Hans Teensma, art director of the late, legendary Rocky Mountain Magazine, and Communigraphics). He'll give copies away to local horse fans and businesses for no more than a promise to display the poster and let the Denver City Council and Mayor John Hickenlooper know that they want the mounted patrol to stay.

"This should be a slam dunk for John," Matthews says. "It's everything that he gets. There's no more publicity-friendly element in the city. And these guys are real gentlemen -- articulate, attractive and effective. They're incredible bearers of goodwill to policemen."

The horses aren't bad, either.

The Denver Police Department's equestrian cops have been patrolling 16th Street since 1984, two years after the mall's debut. Today the unit includes five police officers, as well as one woman who handles the horses (which are stabled at a Denver Water property for $1 a year); beyond the salaries of the officers themselves, most costs are covered by donations. If the unit is disbanded, as was threatened earlier this summer, it won't save the city anything -- although it will buy reassignments for five officers.

Probably to police cruisers. And that's something that Matthews, who made his reputation as a Western painter, can't abide. "To me, it makes absolutely no sense," he says. "There's nothing that's more effective on the mall, and in terms of crowd control, than having these mounted horsemen. There's also nothing that does more in terms of positive public relations than having the police department out there." Now that Gerald Whitman's reappointment as police chief has put renewed emphasis on community policing, Matthews hopes the DPD's budget crunchers remember that good PR has value.

So does good policing. He's watched officers on horseback handle situations on the mall that car-bound cops couldn't. And he's watched the way that more law-abiding citizens respond to the sight of a mounted patrol, too.

"We're a Western city," he says. "The tourists love it. And it's what I love about Denver."

Another thing to love about Denver: people like Willie Matthews, who don't horse around when this city is at stake.

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