Off Limits

Age before duty

The after-work party at Govnr's Park Restaurant and Tavern was in full swing last Friday, the patio and bar packed with people swilling happy-hour double margaritas.

But what Off Limits fondly remembers as a great under-age-drinking joint is no longer.

Through a tequila-induced haze, we saw the governor himself get carded at the door. That's right, Bill Owens had dropped by the bar a block south of the Governor's Mansion for a little post-legislative revelry, two beautiful blondes in tow. (Calm down: One was Monica, his recently-turned-21 daughter; the other her roommate at Colorado State University.) The carding of the 53-year-old Owens got a big laugh from the crowd and a shrug from the bouncer. "Hey, I'm just doing my job," he said.

"Our youthful governor was flattered," reports Dan Hopkins, Owens's spokesman.

Although there wasn't an empty table in sight, the guv and his posse were somehow accommodated. "He always has a table," says manager Darren Minich. "I don't know if it's always the same table, but he has a table whenever he wants."

Although Owens can't boast the Govnr's Park regular status that Roy Romer attained when he was governor, this was still a warmer welcome than Owens has gotten from most Republicans since he announced he wouldn't be running for Ben Nighthorse Campbell's soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Their passion was in tents: Hmm...the Governor's Mansion has that nice patch of lawn leading down to Seventh Avenue. Just the spot to pitch a tent. Or twenty.

This past Monday, Mayor John Hickenlooper's Commission to End Homelessness -- just nine years and five months remaining in Hick's ten-year plan to end homelessness -- voted to kill the Denver Tent City Initiative's proposal to establish a tent city in this town. But that doesn't mean that DTCI activists are folding their tents and disappearing under city viaducts. No, after they meet with Hickenlooper himself on May 13, they intend to set up camp across from Denver's City and County Building -- right outside the governor's office door.

Bill Owens may have something to say about that. But surprisingly few Denver politicians had anything to say at Monday's meeting. Even outspoken city councilman Charlie Brown was silent. The homeless activists spoke their piece about the need for tents of their own, and then a few commissioners got up and made statements. A prime example: "It's not as bad as living on the streets, perhaps. Perhaps not. I don't know," said councilman Doug Linkhart. "I think a tent city brings the problems that a shelter doesn't."

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

In any case, Denver officials will get up-close and personal with the concept once the DTCI pitches its tents in protest. And should the group find the western lawn of the Capitol not tilted in its favor, there are a few other choice locations to consider.

For starters, Hickenlooper could make nice with the homeless by offering them Cableland, the swinging bachelor pad of cable magnate Bill Daniels that Daniels willed to the city for an official mayoral residence. Since Hickenlooper chose to stay in his LoDo loft, the 20,000-square-foot house in Hilltop sits empty except for the occasional party, completely wasting the thirteen bathrooms, four kitchens, 88 television sets, one sunken bar and two-story waterfall. Hell, even the squirrels have treetop condos, and the birdbaths are heated. And it's located on Shangri-La Drive. What could be more serendipitous?

Or the DTCI could camp out at the old Elitch's, on the site of a proposed Wal-Mart. Wally World already serves the 65-and-over crowd by allowing overnight RV parking in its lots -- much to the consternation of Ray Defa and other northwest Denver neighbors fighting developer Chuck Perry's bait-and-switch effort to put the megastore, instead of mom-and-pop shops, in Highlands Garden Village. But pitching a tent city here could be a win-win situation: The homeless would get a place to live, and the neighbors could pay them to be a round-the-clock protest force.

And then there's Skyline Park. The city demolished Lawrence Halprin's internationally recognized below-grade park last spring, claiming it drew too many vagrants and teenagers. (Bad for business, you know.) The new Thomas Balsley Associates-designed park, which will look like any other city esplanade, is scheduled to open on June 21 -- a perfect day for the DTCI to be out in force (and tents). After all, just this month, the Downtown Denver Partnership debuts its Safety Ambassadors program, sending a half-dozen do-gooders out on the 16th Street Mall, ostensibly to guide tourists and provide assistance to the homeless.

And thanks to the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, which cut its travel budget by $54,000 and donated that amount to the Downtown Denver Partnership, the mall will have four more ambassadors than originally planned. "The city provided an additional $54,000 for four months of the program, which basically covers the summer, our biggest tourism season," Anne Warhover, Partnership president, told the homeless commission in announcing the good news. "Our number-one job is to make visitors feel comfortable. And now we'll have Safety Ambassadors on the mall seven days a week."

John Parvensky, director of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, pointed out that helping the homeless seemed to be an afterthought and wondered aloud whether the ambassadors would harass street people. Not to worry, Warhover responded: Starting on May 20, downtown workers will be given cards for their wallets that explain "how to get a hold of an outreach worker if you see someone in need."

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