Denver's State of the City address came early this year -- but not because Mayor Wellington Webb wanted to get it out of the way before he announces whether he's running for U.S. Senate. No, Webb had determined months ago that June 18 was the perfect date to deliver his address on the "Denver Decade" (a phrase he also used in his 1999 inauguration speech), which began with Webb's come-from-behind victory over longtime Denver district attorney Norm Early on June 18, 1991.
Anyone who wonders whether Webb can beat incumbent Republican senator Wayne Allard would do well to read up on the 1991 mayoral race, in which Early was the frontrunner in both name recognition and donations. But Webb walked his way to a win, pounding the pavement in his size-fourteen sneakers -- and getting an inadvertent assist from actor Yaphet Kotto, a local resident at the time who became Early's unexpected, and unsuccessful, campaign strategist toward the end of the run.
Webb, of course, went on to be re-elected twice -- and Early moved into private life as a legal pundit, children's-book author, would-be TV star (although his variation on Judge Judy was not picked up) and southeast Denver resident whose back yard is about to be chewed up by T-Rex.
And anyone who wonders whether Webb will actually run need only ask Donna Good, deputy manager of the Denver Department of Human Services and the finance director for Webb's previous campaigns, who spoke about a Webb-Allard match-up during a June 19 taping of the Channel 12 roundtable show Spontaneous Combustion. The show won't air until sometime in July -- well after Webb is scheduled to make his announcement -- so she must know something we don't.
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Monday's speech held other ironies, especially for the Denver Botanic Gardens, which plans to seek $40 million from voters in November and had invited Webb to use its grounds for his speech -- only to find out during the speech that the mayor won't be backing the Gardens' plans officially. Instead, he said he'd use his influence to push for one, and only one, bond initiative: a new jail. This despite the fact that, back in 1998, Webb had thrown his weight behind bond proposals favoring the Denver Zoo, the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Art Museum, and skipped a proposal for a new jail. "I may have to pass that responsibility to a new mayor," he said at the time.
Gardens officials, who are now facing an internal investigation regarding hiring and firing practices ("The Secret Garden," June 14), would probably have liked to exchange Webb on the spot for that new mayor (or at least thrown the current one into Denver's very overcrowded existing jail). Instead, they apparently used their flower power to summon the winds, which blew a tent pole onto Wilma Webb's head shortly after her husband finished speaking. The First Lady was taken to Denver Health Medical Center and released shortly thereafter; the mayor's office reports that she's doing fine.
Denver Health, by the way, is also hoping to place a bond initiative -- this one for $100 million -- before the voters in November. But like the Gardens, it will have to get its bond on the ballot without the mayor's backing.
It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.