Off Limits

Personal foul!: Last year, longtime local architect Stuart Ohlson was making headlines with his innovative plans for remodeling Mile High Stadium, plans that would not only upgrade the facility to meet NFL specifications but also save taxpayers millions.

But that was before "The Great Patsby" Pat Bowlen insisted that it was his way or the highway for the Broncos, before the metro stadium board agreed that a thoroughly modern Mile High just wouldn't do. These days, Ohlson has been bumped from the front pages to the letters section, where a go-team-go message from him ran in the August 11 Rocky Mountain News. It looked as if the new stadium's most erudite critic had been converted.

Time out! Ohlson's letter, a response to a July 26 Bronco-boosting message from Bill Artist, the campaign coordinator of Citizens for a New Stadium who just happens to be a high-paid Broncos lobbyist, was heavily--and wrongly--edited in play. "It was more than embarrassing," says Ohlson. "It was as though everything that I thought was important had suddenly evaporated."

As printed, Ohlson's letter ended: "Maybe it's time to praise the victors and provide the feast. Their performance has been compelling. They are proven champions and can carry us to another and another and yet another championship if only we citizens do our part." As originally written, however, Ohlson followed that bit of parody with this: "Maybe it's the same thing you would do for your neighbor if he wanted a better life. Maybe you would buy him a new car so he would have enough money to hire a lawn man. Maybe that's the point. If you won't, who will? It's like buying friendship. So honor the champs and rejoice in your duty to pay for the new stadium. The reward is in the giving. It will make you feel good--maybe!"

Ohlson, for one, isn't feeling very good--not about the CFANS campaign and not about his treatment by the News. (When he called to complain, an editor stood by the letter's editing.) Still, Ohlson presses on with his efforts to defeat the new stadium proposal--and push his lower-priced alternative. By remodeling Mile High, he says, Denver would not only save McNichols Arena and "salvage a very valuable asset," but it would cut $100 million off the estimated $350 million cost of a new stadium, "and we could spend the money for other good things."

Like more perks for city officials. Last week, seven days before Denver City Council was slated to vote on releasing the Broncos from their long-term commitment at Mile High, the team's annual gift of freebie tickets arrived at City Hall. After Mayor Wellington Webb kept his standard four per game--his office says he gives them away--the rest went to city council. While some members had the good sense to pass--Susan Barnes-Gelt never accepts the ducats; Ted Hackworth rejected this year's by certified mail--others hurried to make the catch.

Timing is everything. On Monday the council voted 8 to 2 to release the Broncos from their Mile High lease.

Trickle-down economics: Last fall the massive Animas-La Plata water project--billed as a dam that honors our commitment to Indians but labeled a boondoggle by renegade members of the two Ute tribes that will allegedly benefit from it--seemed ready to dry up and blow away. But now it's back, albeit in a scaled-down, $300 million A-LP Lite version pushed by Governor Roy Romer in D.C. last month and touted here last week by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

But don't credit the politicos with reviving the dam thing.
Hill & Knowlton, the giant PR firm, has been flacking for the project on behalf of the two Ute tribes and two southwestern Colorado water-conservancy districts--and billing its clients $40,000 a month for its efforts. Which, according to a leaked Hill & Knowlton memo outlining its "three-phase strategy," include the standard "using the media to influence people" via op-ed pieces, letter-writing campaigns and schmoozing with reporters and editorial boards to "educate" them. For tougher nuts, though, "a related tactic that has been used successfully in the past is to draw our opponents' weaker spokespeople into debates with our stronger spokespeople," the memo advises. "We will work to silence our opponents by identifying and publicizing the splits in the environmental and deficit-reduction coalitions and seek to build alliances in both of those quarters."

And if all else fails, they can always "re-educate" the media--Westword included--that has run critical coverage of A-LP.

All wet: Speaking of critical coverage, on Monday the Denver Post introduced "The Scene," its new entertainment section, complete with an allegedly hip corner dubbed "The Spot." The first Spot, devoted to Monica Lewinsky-inspired cocktail parties, left us shaken but not stirred. Make that a wet Spot.


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