Off Limits

De train, boss, de train!: It must have come as a relief to departing Denver aviation director Jim DeLong that the latest malfunction of the underground railroad at Denver International Airport occurred off his watch. This past Monday, as thousands of travelers streamed home from the Memorial Day weekend, one of the airport's four trains went kaput for roughly six minutes, a piddling little screwup that was a far cry from the system-wide disaster that crippled DIA a few weeks back, when DeLong was still on the job. While DeLong endured a firestorm of criticism for that massive snafu, acting aviation boss Bruce Baumgartner, bumped up from his job as the city's director of public works, gets to deal with the flak this time around.

And that's not all that DeLong has to be happy about. Because he resigned from DIA to take the top job in the aviation hub of Louisville, Kentucky, precisely five years and two months after arriving on the Denver payroll, DeLong is now eligible to begin drawing a pension from the city. Retirement benefits for Denver employees--including mayoral appointees such as DeLong--kick in after five years of service. (Those who fail to make it five years get zilch.) So even as DeLong begins drawing a six-figure annual salary in Kentucky, where he's slated to start work June 15, the 58-year-old flyboy can start collecting approximately $750 per month from the Denver Employees Retirement Plan. That represents a reduced benefit, since DeLong, who earned $138,000 per year at DIA, isn't yet 62. But it still should make for a first-class exit, especially when you consider that he's already eligible for two other pensions: one from the Air Force and one from Houston's municipal airport, where he toiled in the Texas sun prior to taking the reins in Denver.

So what does DeLong have to say about all this? He bemoans the negativity of the media and has one last request: "I want you to report something good," he says. "Report about something decent at the airport. There are some plumbers out there, some electricians and clerks...The morale out there is just beat, and it's because of Westword."

Fair enough.
We like the plumbers at DIA. They do a really good job of plumbing. By all means, visit a bathroom while you're at the airport.

Especially if you plan to ride one of those trains.

Have gun, will run: Wondering if last weekend's concealed-weapon bust will shoot to hell the city council campaign of self-styled Graffiti Avenger Mike Quintana, reported in these pages just two weeks ago? Don't bet on it, says Iron Mike. Reached by phone earlier this week, the tagger-bagger insists his arrest by Denver police for allegedly brandishing a weapon during a confrontation with a local juvenile at a Globeville gymnasium will do nothing to slow his political career. "There's no doubt about that," says Quintana, who, by the way, says his dad, not he, had the gun in question. "Nothing's going to stop me. I have to do what I have to do."

Of course, the first thing Quintana will have to do if he wants to be elected in Denver is actually live here. The would-be candidate, who runs his own local boxing gym, is officially an Arvada resident, but apparently Iron Mike has been too busy face-painting teenage taggers and staking out local businesses in search of graffiti offenders to shlep his punching bags across the border.

Meanwhile, the thousands of voters itching to cast their ballots for the Avenger will be glad to know that, even if Quintana is convicted on the weapons charge--or on the misdemeanor assault count he faces for his bold spray-painting last February of three handcuffed juvenile taggers--he'll still be eligible to hold public office in Denver. The city charter's only apparent reference to criminal conduct states that "no person who has been convicted of willful evasion of city or state taxes or who has been convicted of malfeasance in office, bribery or other corrupt practice shall be qualified for membership in the council." But there's nothing in there that says you can't give a wiseass teenager a little Krylon in his kisser--or even pack some heat if you feel the urge.

In fact, one sitting councilmember has already been convicted of a felony. That would be former Vietnam War protester Hiawatha Davis Jr., who actually did time for refusing to serve in the military during that controversial conflict.

(Meanwhile, if Mike's looking for a place to call home within the Denver city limits, current councilwoman-at-large Susan Barnes-Gelt's place is on the market--at a paltry $700,000-plus. But she's not leaving town--she's just moving to a smaller place in central Denver.)

The bus stops here: "You are the voice," crowed the radio campaign for the Denver Post's late-but-not-lamented Snapshots of Colorado campaign. "We are the pen."

Notice they said "voice," singular.
The paper's five-week Snapshots tour ground to a dismal halt at a final meeting last Thursday in Denver. The gathering at the Tivoli wasn't mentioned in early Snapshot ads--instead, special invitations had gone out to local VIPs. But as it became clear that few of those Very Impatient People had any intention of being caught dead at the Post's little wingding, the paper began touting its last roundup to the general public. The soiree still drew fewer than fifty people, and that's including all the Post employees and friends who were cajoled into attending. But at least there were more than ten warm bodies--the number of lost souls (including one undercover Westword reporter) who showed up at the previous week's confab in Colorado Springs.

Much to the chagrin of Post management, the Denver count included a dozen representatives from the five unions currently in negotiation with Dean "Dinky" Singleton's flagship paper. According to the Denver Newspaper Guild's Tony Mulligan, the five unions (including the engravers, who've been in contract negotiations for almost three years) plan to escalate anti-Post activities this week. Those will include distributing leaflets urging advertisers to quit the paper and asking readers to cancel their subscriptions. Post bigwigs got a sneak preview of the labor woes to come when reporter and Guild member Jeffrey Leib rose at the Denver meeting to make an impassioned speech about what a lousy company the Post is to work for. Publisher Ryan McKibben thanked him for his comments. (Luckily for Leib, editor Dennis Britton was nowhere in sight.)

The real highlight of the evening, though, was an appearance by the ex-wife of state editor (and Snapshot stalwart) Christopher Lopez--ostensibly there to complain about the Post's lousy coverage of Aurora (she now does public relations for that city), but also doing a good job of making her ex-hubby squirm. You may recall that that divorce was so unfriendly that at one point Lopez, who was then covering City Hall, took a couple of the mayor's bodyguards over to his former home so he could pick up a few things--raising conflict-of-interest questions in the process.

You are the voice. They are just the empty pen.

Ted alert: Spotted in the mountains over the weekend was former Colorado senator Tim Wirth, now known worldwide as the designated spender for media mogul Ted Turner's $1 billion donation to the United Nations. Wirth, who's owned a cabin near Crested Butte for years, may have needed the trip back home for a little rest and relaxation. After all, he's under all sorts of pressure as Turner's moneyman. So what projects will Wirth pursue on behalf of the man who made an honest woman out of Hanoi Jane? According to the current issue of Forbes magazine, Wirth wants to "tackle population control, empower women and protect the environment and children's health." And since there apparently will be plenty of money left over after solving those issues, he and Turner also want to eradicate the illegal drug trade and send a care package to every person in need of emergency relief.

Finally, Wirth plans to spend a few million bucks on public relations, even though the U.N. already has 700 public-information specialists on staff. That, Wirth tells the magazine, will enable him to "tell the U.N. story"--that and the 35 staff members he's hiring to help him spend all the money.


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