Off Limits

Brother, can you spare a dime?

While all of Denver (and a few suburb-dwellers who haven't been discouraged completely from heading to LoDo for an evening's entertainment) eagerly awaits Mayor John Hickenlooper's long-anticipated fixes to downtown's parking debacle, help is already at hand in certain areas just a few steps away from the core city. Back in 2001 -- right around the time that then-parking czar John Oglesby revealed his new plan upping parking prices and expanding meter hours to reflect Denver's status as a "world-class city" (a plan that subsequently resulted in Oglesby's getting the boot) -- the city identified several dozen "Value Meters" and flagged them with green stickers for price-conscious parkers.

According to the Denver Department of Public Works, which oversees all things parking-related, you can still find these bargain meters in three areas:

At Fifth and Walnut streets, near the Auraria campus, where you can park up to five hours for 50 cents an hour.

Ballot initiative: There were no hanging chads in this 
election -- but that doesn't mean the instructions were 
Ballot initiative: There were no hanging chads in this election -- but that doesn't mean the instructions were clear.

At 12th Avenue between Broadway and Acoma, near the Denver Public Library, where you can park up to eight hours for 50 cents an hour.

And at 15th Street and Little Raven, near Six Flags Elitch Gardens, where you can park up to four hours for $1 an hour.

But on Monday night, an intrepid Off Limits correspondent -- off to see exactly which city boosters might be imbibing what at the Diamond Cabaret -- found a fourth Value Meter location, just south of Colfax on Fox Street. Across the street, in front of the Diamond, the Emily Griffith Opportunity School or the Denver Athletic Club, those demanding downtown meters still gobble down $1.50 an hour until 10 p.m. -- with a two-hour limit per spot per car. But in this stretch of clearly labeled Value Meters, one thin dime will buy you twelve minutes -- and the meter readers stop ticketing at 6 p.m.! Talk about value! Say, maybe that's why Eugene Dilbeck's staffers from the Denver Metro Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau headed over to the Diamond after work a few weeks ago: They wanted to check out the Value Meters' marketing potential.

Conventioneers, take note: Any cash you save parking at one of the green-flagged meters can be deposited in the G-strings of the Diamond dancers. But dollars work much better than dimes.

Ballot boxed: Hickenlooper didn't stay still long enough to require meter-feeding when he dropped off his ballot at the Denver Election Commission early Tuesday morning. That's because he had a pressing appointment back at City Hall -- although not in the mayor's office. No, he'd been called for jury duty.

Which was too bad, because the election commissioners could have used another set of hands -- and lungs -- to deal with voters befuddled by this city's first all-mail election. By then, it was almost too late to help the clueless types who hadn't realized the vote was by mail-in (or delivered) ballots until they showed up at their typical polling places. But even those who had paid attention to the rules found some of the ballot instructions baffling. For example, the "official instructions" sheet sent with the ballot to a voter's home advised you to "use a #2 pencil or black ink pen." But on the ballot itself, the "ballot marking instructions" warned you not to use a "pen," among other forbidden writing implements. What gives?

"Well, someone made an error," replies election spokesman Alan McBeth.

And that's not all. As the "official instructions" sheet noted, the "official return envelope" could be hand-delivered on Election Day to the Election Commission Office at "200 W. 14th Ave." But wait! Just below, the sheet listed "200 W. Colfax Ave., suite 100" as the office address (and did so in both English and Spanish).

Some confusion over the commission's address is understandable -- after all, the agency had been slated to make the move to the sumptuous new Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building last fall until, for some still- murky reason, it was determined that there wasn't room for it after all. Instead, the commission was moved to temporary quarters at 200 West 14th Avenue while its old home at 303 West Colfax is being renovated. The commission should be back in that space by March. But don't look for it -- ever -- at 200 West Colfax, a spot that's currently covered in plywood. And bureaucratic bungling.

On a short leash: There's certainly been some bureaucracy happening over at the Department of Parks and Recreation. While Public Works is still without a director, Hickenlooper hurried to appoint new leader Kim Bailey to replace James Mejia, the parks department's interim head ever since a scandal spirited off Wellington Webb appointee and scofflaw game-day parker B.J. Brooks. But even with Bailey in place, the off-leash dog park initiative is mired in group-think.

Just don't blame Britta Herwig, one of two parks planners heading up the effort to let dogs roam free.

This summer, the dog-park project was put on hold after residents across the city began barking at their councilmembers. Up until that point, the parks department's attempt to create a one-year pilot program had been going smoothly -- and relatively silently -- as a roundtable of representatives from parks, animal control, each of the council districts and community groups worked to outline criteria for selecting potential sites and managing the program (The Straight Poop," April 3). But once Cheesman Park neighbors started baring their teeth, Mejia and other out-going officials started running scared, postponing the pilot's start date from summer 2003 to January 2004.

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