Off Limits

On November 19, Junior Seau and the rest of the listless San Diego Chargers will file their way onto a chartered airplane and fly to Denver for their yearly faceoff against the Denver Broncos. The owners of the team, 76-year-old Alex Spanos and his son, Dean Spanos, will probably join the beach-town bums either by squeezing between beefy shoulders aboard the players' jet or between stinky strangers on a commercial airplane.The Spanoses will most certainly not be flying in the comfort of their once-luxurious Gulfstream III. That's because Stevens Aviation, a local babysitter of such luxury aircraft, allegedly damaged the G3 on May 13, 1999, to the tune of $3 million while at least one of the Spanoses was here on non-football-related business, according to a lawsuit filed in Denver's U.S. District Court last month. Since the Chargers have already wasted about four times that much on failed quarterback prospect Ryan "Cryin" Leaf, they are no doubt watching every nickel.

Joseph Adams Cope, the Spanos's Boulder lawyer, dismisses the idea that a Broncos-crazed fan at Jefferson County Airport could have been out to sabotage the plane. "There's really not much to it at all," he chuckles. "They were towing it. It got away from them and rode up and onto the back of the tractor, causing severe damage, loss of usage. It's kind of like taking your car into the auto shop and then they drop the roof in. It's not a very sexy or exciting lawsuit."

Stevens Aviation employees wouldn't comment, and the company's lawyer didn't return phone calls from Westword, so its response to the lawsuit will have to suffice: "Defendant Stevens is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to truth of the averments regarding the alleged physical damage sustained by the Aircraft on or about May 13, 1999 and therefore denies the same."

As for Spanos, he was probably used to leaving Denver with a sick feeling in his stomach. The Broncos had beaten his Chargers in Denver the last three times they'd faced each other. He got his revenge on January 2, 2000, though, when the Chargers crushed the lowly Broncos in the final game of the season.

The Broncos' performance was indeed quite poor last year, but on-field disasters aren't the only reason people are scrutinizing the team. According to recent news reports, George W. Bush's appearance at the Broncos training facility in early March is being investigated by the Federal Elections Commission. The rally included several hundred Bush supporters, a grinning Mike Shanahan (who gave Bush an official team jersey), several former players and a group of cheerleaders who chanted "No More Gore" (Off Limits, March 16). It seems that there are pesky rules about corporations endorsing clearly identified candidates.

Not a problem. Dubya has other well-known Colorado supporters (aside from fellow Texas good ol' boy Governor Bill Owens), including former state attorney general Gale Norton, who has been advising the Bush campaign on environmental-policy issues. In fact, The Kiplinger Letter, a weekly newsletter that grew out of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, reports that Norton is being considered as a candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency if Bush is elected president -- a rumor that she downplays. "I'm very complimented to be on someone's list for a high-ranking position, but I'm not holding my breath," says Norton, who now works for the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt and Farber. "I've talked with him about environmental issues and volunteered for the campaign, but I'm very much enjoying being in private practice. I'm not auditioning for anything."

Town without pity: Denver's $1.5 million plan to spy on city workers -- via global-positioning system-tracking units! -- isn't the only evidence that Big Brother is watching . . .and not liking what he's seeing (even if he doesn't see it until Paula Woodward reveals all on Channel 9). Earlier this month, Mayor Wellington Webb made it clear that loafers weren't the town's only no-goodniks. For starters, those pesky, aggressive panhandlers must go, and ditto for the drunks, with Denver Cares soon to patrol downtown 24-7. (What do you want to bet they're not after drunken fans leaving LoDo sports bars?) "It is imperative," Hizzoner pronounced, "that the City take a proactive stand to aggressively enforce laws designed to enhance the public safety and the public health of downtown Denver."In other words, to make our city safe for tourists and developers. Because also getting caught in the crackdown are LoDo businesses that dare to advertise -- gasp! -- valet services, a necessary evil in the construction-clogged area. On May 12, says Lee Goodfriend of Dixons, her restaurant got a warning ticket that ordered the removal of a sandwich board on the sidewalk advertising valet service and threatening that any signs on the valet podium itself would be a further violation. "Of course I complied," she says, "but I was pissed. I did a drive through LoDo on Friday night, and everyone else was doing it. I feel like we should all follow the same rules."

Those rules could soon change, thanks to some work by Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega's office to try to clarify laws regarding sandwich boards. That's not Goodfriend's only problem, though: A different city department is now after Dixons' banners, claiming they break sign codes. It's enough to drive you to drink -- and might we suggest one of Dixons' margaritas, touted on that same beleaguered banner as the Best of Denver?


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