Plots and Subplots
On a brilliant October afternoon at the future site of the Parade of Homes at the former Lowry Air Force Base, the only new structure standing is a tent set up for a press conference. Construction workers from the site take a break to join the small crowd waiting for Mayor Wellington Webb to arrive. Scuffing their workboots on the freshly laid asphalt, the workers eye a five-sectioned cake that spells out "Lowry."
The first person to shake the mayor's hand as he steps out of his Lincoln is the Lowry Redevelopment Authority's executive director, Jim Meadows.
A private developer for 25 years, Meadows has been paid $128,000 annually by the cities of Denver and Aurora to convert the 1,866-acre defunct base into a residential and commercial nirvana. Now he's about to leave Denver to move up to a more prestigious project: redevelopment of the Presidio in San Francisco. He's leaving behind some bad blood.
The LRA's public mantra is "Live, Learn, Work and Play," and the quasi-public agency has laid out a dream for Lowry. Plans include an Auraria-type community-college campus, more than 3,000 homes ranging from entry-level to $600,000 custom jobs, a business center boasting bioscience and financial firms, and almost 800 acres of parks and recreational facilities. Little of it has happened, although projects such as the Big Bear Ice Arena and the Bonfils Blood Center are up and running. Promoters pump up the fact that Lowry, which stretches roughly from Monaco Parkway to Havana Street and from Alameda Avenue to 11th Avenue, is close to downtown Denver. The press conference is designed to promote development at the ex-base.
"This is an historic moment for Denver," Webb says to the crowd. "Our city has a long tradition of strong, well-designed neighborhoods, and Lowry is a welcome addition."
Some neighbors would disagree. In truth, Lowry's attempted transformation so far has been turbulent. The 39 neighborhoods encircling the base mobilized from the very moment the base's closing was announced in 1991, each of them scrapping and clawing over details of redevelopment that could adversely affect them. Packed public meetings have been filled with arguments about everything from housing for the homeless to the kind of building mate-rials that will be used. One neighborhood activist, Debbie James, began by looking at Lowry's redevelopment through rose-colored glasses and wound up being called an incendiary bigot. Others, like Anne Callison, yelled and screamed from the beginning of the process and generally got what they wanted.
But political bickering at Lowry runs deeper than just the LRA versus the neighbors. Some say that where certain areas of the huge plot of land are concerned, the LRA is more interested in maintaining rental properties to fill its own coffers than it is in developing owner-occupied homes.
The LRA trumpets the rental properties as a shining example of housing the homeless. But some people say that the subsidized housing has opened the doors for some troublesome tenants.
"The LRA wants everyone to believe that they're creating a Shangri-La out there," says a Denver cop who regularly patrols the 38-acre Sunset Village. "Well, it's not."
And as is the case with many ex-military bases, Lowry is contaminated by more than just politics: Literally underlying the base are three pools of cancer-causing pollution.
Before developers can begin construction, they have to wait for the Air Force to clean up the sluggish underground streams of TCE (a degreaser believed to cause cancer) found under much of the base. Air Force officials say they won't hand over title to any of Lowry's 41 separate parcels of land until they believe the parcel is clean. Today's event is being held on three and a half parcels in the southwest corner of Lowry, the only tracts that the Air Force has approved for transfer so far (no TCE was found in them).
According to Air Force contractors overseeing the base's environmental cleanup, which has barely started, construction on some parts of the base is many years away.
Snags such as these have become a major irritant to Meadows, who penned a letter last month to Air Force honchos in Washington, D.C., imploring them to expedite the cleanup. Although Meadows has stated publicly that Lowry is a prototype of base-redevelopment projects because some development has actually occurred, the October 22 letter to the assistant secretary of the Air Force paints a different picture. In the letter, Meadows writes that "Lowry is rapidly changing from the positive 'Poster Child' for base redevelopment to a problem child of the base redevelopment process" because of the lack of "creativity for unique solutions" to environmental problems.
But at today's press conference, it's all smiles and optimism. After the mayor's statement the crowd shifts over to the refreshment table, and LRA staffers start cutting up the cake, knifing through the "Y," the "R" and part of the "W."
Despite the holdups, Lowry's progress has made it the envy of other closed bases around the nation, says Ken Nevling, a local environmental engineer with the Air Force Base Conversion Agency. One reason, some say, is that the city made a conscious decision to hire an experienced developer--Meadows--to ramrod the process. Most other base conversions, Nevling says, haven't been as aggressive.
There are visible signs of progress at Lowry: A hangar has been converted into the Big Bear Ice Arena, a two-rink skating complex. Officers' quarters have been converted into the private Stanley British Primary School. The Bonfils Blood Center, a massive blood bank, now operates in a new building on the ex-base. Stapleton Airport, just a few blocks north of Lowry, is a ghost town in comparison. Meadows's work at Lowry may have been the reason he was picked to head up redevelopment of the Presidio Army base in San Francisco. Others, however, say Meadows was bored and wanted a new challenge. "I wouldn't be leaving Lowry to go to Wichita, Kansas," says Meadows. "The Presidio's a quality project."
Some neighbors won't be sad to see him go, especially those in Mayfair Park. Residents there are upset about the LRA's use of Sunset Village, a 38-acre parcel of land at 2nd Avenue and Quebec that makes up the southeast quarter of their neighborhood. At a recent LRA meeting, Meadows said that the difficulties encountered in dealing with Sunset Village are a microcosm of Lowry's problems.
Sunset Village is the only part of the ex-base that isn't confined to the area enclosed by Alameda, Monaco, 11th Avenue and Havana. Located on the west side of Quebec, it's home to several drab Air Force housing units. Many of these units, which are separated by a chain-link-and-barbed-wire fence from the 412 homes in Mayfair Park, are, thanks to the LRA, occupied by low- and no-income families. Residents of Mayfair Park, an area bounded by Monaco Parkway on the west and Sixth Avenue on the north, have complained about some residents of Sunset Village, who, according to Denver police officers, have included gang members who've slipped through the fence to wreak havoc in the adjoining neighborhood. Neighbors also decry the ugliness of the military housing, which they feel detracts from property values on their side of the fence.
Mayfair Park wants the barracks-like duplexes replaced with owner-occupied homes. The LRA wants the duplexes to stay, and the ensuing fight between that group and residents of Mayfair Park has turned ugly. People have been labeled bigots; promises have been broken and trust between the two sides has all but disappeared. Frustration is amplified by events such as last month's press conference, during which residents hear about grandiose projects across the street from them.
The most vocal resident of Mayfair Park is Debbie James. A resident since 1974 and onetime president of the Mayfair Park neighborhood association, she resigned her post last month. James began her involvement by attending all of the LRA meetings. In the summer of 1993 she was appointed to the Housing Work Group; in 1996 she became a member of the LRA's Community Advisory Committee (CAC). At the time, she was a firm believer in what she saw as a democratic process taking place at Lowry.
Paul Dougherty, a fellow CAC member, says that James was an integral part of CAC meetings. "Debbie had a lot of enthusiasm," says Dougherty. "When I first saw her at CAC meetings, I thought she was going to be running the committee by the time it was over."
But instead of assuming a leadership role, James became disenchanted. She no longer attends meetings, but the mention of her name makes LRA staffers wince, and during LRA meetings she's referred to as "that one resident." Jennifer Moulton, the director of Denver's Planning and Development office and a member of the LRA board, calls James "a neighborhood vigilante."
Dougherty, who has been acting as a negotiator between Mayfair Park and the LRA, says that at this point, the dispute isn't just about a few buildings and some troublesome tenants. He says the problem is psychological. "What you've got are sensitive people like Debbie James who've been insulted by people in power and lashed out," says Dougherty. "And on the other hand, you've got Jim Meadows and Jennifer Moulton, who feel like their professional pride has been insulted. I've never been involved in politics, but trying to deal with this process has been an education."
James says she has removed herself from Sunset Village negotiations with the LRA because she knows her clashes with Meadows and Moulton have become an obstacle to a settlement. However, she still asserts that her neighborhood isn't asking for anything unreasonable. "We're ordinary people who simply want the same wonderful treatment that the southwest neighborhood at Lowry got," says James. "We aren't asking for anything as fantastic as the Parade of Homes. Simply get rid of the obsolete military housing, install infrastructure, sell lots and let the housing market do the rest."
Debbie James remembers the times when she felt confident that the LRA was going to stay true to its word and build owner-occupied homes in Sunset Village that would complement existing housing in Mayfair Park. From the get-go, however, part of the deal was to include "transitional housing"--homes for the homeless.
In fact, the federal McKinney Act gives providers of housing for the homeless as much of surplus federal properties like Lowry as they want. Under the McKinney Act, organizations including Catholic Charities have taken possession of about 10 percent of the 867 existing Lowry units.
There was one thing that LRA officials and neighbors agreed upon: Having homeless housing spread around the base might adversely affect real estate sales. "It was going to be a tough sell for the LRA," says Mary Boland of Catholic Charities. "And it was going to put a lot of pressure on our families." (After the Lowry squabbles, the McKinney Act was modified to allow local redevelopment groups and communities more say as to how the homeless will be accommodated in the future.)
In order to reduce the number of homeless units on the base, the state Division of Housing, local government and homeless providers got together to work out what would later be called the "Denver Compromise." As part of the agreement, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development bought off some of the homeless providers with a $5 million grant (the LRA chipped in a $2 million pledge as well) to relocate 110 family units off Lowry and to help fund an additional 110 units in the Denver metro area. That left 86 units on the base, 30 of which were slated for Sunset Village.
And that's what ticked off Debbie James. "What was upsetting," says James, "was that the other 56 units were spread out over hundreds of acres while the 30 in Sunset Village were confined to 38 acres. In the southwest neighborhood, they had a density of 0.1 per acre. Ours was one per acre. It didn't make sense."
Things got worse when the Sabin Mental Health Corporation requested even more units in Sunset Village for recently released mental patients. "At this point I started to ask questions," says James. "Not only was all this housing just two blocks away from our neighborhood, but the Sabin group wanted units that had been outlined in the re-use plan not to be occupied. I mean, all these units are mobile. Why not move them somewhere else?
"Making matters worse was the fact that we'd really started to see some crime from people living in Sunset," James continues. "We'd had an arson and some broken windshields. One of my neighbors was even walking around with a gun in his pocket. So at one CAC meeting, I was telling Jennifer Moulton that those people in Sunset were causing too many problems, and she looked at me and said, 'Those people?' It was at this point where I got singled out as a bigot."
Moulton says she can't understand why Mayfair Park and Debbie James have had such a problem with the formerly homeless who now live in Sunset Village.
"The truth is that none of us are that far away from being homeless," says Moulton. "I'm not trying to say that some residents don't have drug and alcohol problems, but the main point is that there's some good, reusable housing in Sunset Village.
"We've had some very ugly discussions about the homeless out there. The bottom line is that at first the transitional units were all over the place. As a result, they were very hard to manage. It was a mess. We shit blood over this plan. Unfortunately, there are people in Mayfair Park who have decided not to trust anything that comes out of the LRA's mouth."
LRA boardmembers speak highly of Sunset Village, especially the 22 duplexes that Mayfair Park wants demolished. During a recent meeting, LRA chairman Bruce Heitler said that he "loves that area" and went on to describe the duplexes as "utopian housing."
The Sunset Village duplexes are nice, if a bit cramped. With hardwood floors, four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the units are functional--and cheap. Non-subsidized rents are about $900 a month. All of the units are spoken for through the end of the year.
However, Denver cops who are familiar with the area say that some of the residents pose a problem.
"Because the background checks out there are pretty cursory, we've found that there are a lot of gang members in Sunset," says one officer who asks not to be identified. "I went in there once because of a noise complaint, and when I knocked on the door, the place was full of miscreants. These guys were in full gang-member regalia, flying their colors and claiming their set [flashing gang signs]. We've also had a lot of stolen cars out there since they started renting."
The officers admit that things have settled down a bit in Sunset Village in the past year. However, the cops on the street still feel that Mayfair Park residents have legitimate gripes.
When asked if she would like to live next door to Sunset Village, Jennifer Moulton says no. "I don't like the suburban setting," she says. "But I've got nothing against Sunset Village personally."
She shouldn't. One aspect of Sunset Village that city officials like is the $2 million in rent it adds to the LRA's coffers annually. And since the LRA is supposed to be self-sufficient, aside from $11 million in public grants, every dollar counts. "Those are very valuable rentals," Moulton acknowledges. "They're keeping the LRA alive financially. And as a result, the sale of [those units] has been slowed down."
Since the base closed down, a few developers have looked at revamping Sunset Village, but only one, Trammel Crow Company, has ever moved beyond the prospecting stage. Garth Erdossy, the representative from Trammel Crow responsible for the Sunset Village project, says his attempt failed because the lines of communication between his company, the LRA and Mayfair Park were hopelessly tangled. "It was not a good experience," says Erdossy from his new office in Phoenix.
The Lowry Reuse Plan called for several of the four-bedroom duplexes in Sunset Village to be demolished and replaced by "for sale" housing. However, in its 1994 proposal, Trammel Crow indicated that it was committed to building housing strictly for rental purposes.
All the while, Debbie James says, Mayfair Park residents thought that any project in Sunset Village would be owner-occupied, as originally planned. "We were very specific about that in talks with the LRA," says James.
Erdossy, however, thought that everything was ready to go rental. "We were given the impression by Jim Meadows," he says, "that this was a rubber stamp." However, when some Mayfair Park residents got wind of Trammel Crow's plan to build rental properties, they joined forces to put a halt to it.
"The LRA never told us about their agreement with the neighborhood to build for-sale housing," says Erdossy. "The LRA asked us to consider it down the line once the project was stabilized. But when Mayfair Park told him they were going to challenge the zoning before the city council, Meadows decided to punt the ball instead of fight it out that early in the Lowry redevelopment."
Trammel Crow subsequently had to give up the project. "I don't think it was malicious," says Erdossy, "but Meadows got us in an unwinnable situation. Plus the cash flow [from existing rental units] was so significant that I don't think Meadows wanted [the properties] improved. It was a free and clear property that was funding the LRA."
It still is.
Meadows admits that rents from Sunset Village and other pre-existing Air Force units provide "a piece" of LRA's annual funding. How big a piece, he won't say. Though the agency is quasi-public and its boardmembers are appointed by the mayors of Denver and Aurora, it often closes its meetings and its business to the public. However, Meadows points out that Mayfair should have known what the Trammel Crow plan was. "The president of the Mayfair Park neighborhood board at the time, Sally Wantz, okayed the Trammel Crow plan," says Meadows. "We presume that there was communication between her and the rest of the neighborhood."
Wantz doesn't recall exactly what happened. "I thought [the neighborhood] was aware that Trammel Crow wanted to create rentals," she says. "But at that time, there were a lot of issues between me and my neighbors, and that's why I stepped down as president. I just got burned out. The whole thing was just too mind-boggling."
It proved to be too much for James as well. Two years after taking over for Wantz, James quit. "First it was the Trammel Crow deal, and then I got called a bigot," says James. "Our neighborhood was never against having our fair share of homeless units, and that's why the bigot stuff was so embarrassing. Up to that point, I had kept my mouth shut and was being a good soldier. But it didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't winning any battles, and people I thought were allies could really care less about what was going on in Mayfair Park.
"Now I just have to step down and step back and hope that we can come to a resolution. Then we can all pick each other up and dust each other off. I guess I would have been better off screaming my lungs out from the get-go."
One person who did start hollering early in the redevelopment process was Anne Callison, at the time the president of the George Washington neighborhood association. "I grew up on a naval base, so I knew what was going to happen," says Callison. She knew that closing the base was just a prelude to opening it up to intensive development. "I was screaming from the start."
Callison's primary concern is traffic. But in the past few years she's made plenty of noise about any development plan at Lowry. "When I moved out here, the base was self-contained," she says. "There were bars on base, and by that time the Air Force was integrated with women. The people on the base didn't have to go anywhere to get anything.
"But now they're proposing a community-college system with between ten and twenty thousand students, a business center with 7,500 jobs, thousands of houses and a parks system. It's going to be nothing but traffic, and traffic destroys neighborhoods. I've got to invest in triple-pane windows because the noise on Alameda is already so loud."
Callison admits that her neighborhood's problems aren't as bad as Mayfair Park's. "It's all relative," she says. "Part of the reason we got what we got was because we screamed louder and brought more people to meetings. And we got lucky. Across the street from us is the first clean property on Lowry, and that's where the Parade of Homes is going."
If Callison's fellow neighbors are thankful for her vocal leadership, they don't express it. Jim Ritzdorf, the new honcho of the George Washington neighborhood association, makes it clear that his neighborhood--which is south of Lowry, around Alameda and Monaco--is in good shape, and he doesn't want Callison endangering that. "Anne is very inflammatory," says Ritzdorf, "and there were a lot of personal issues in the [leadership] changeover. I think things are going pretty well right now, and I don't know if Anne's actions are in the best interest of our neighborhood anymore. Anne has a tendency to start yelling, 'The sky is falling!' and I don't want our neighborhood to be looked at as insane by the city of Denver."
However, Ritzdorf doesn't completely discount Callison's efforts. "If Mayfair would've raised a ruckus like Anne did about equitable housing across the street from them," he says, "is it possible that it might not have gone there? I don't know."
But the fact that her neighborhood is sitting in the catbird seat hasn't stopped Callison from continuing to scrutinize the LRA, especially with regard to the base's environmental problems.
Lowry's environmental snags have slowed down the base's redevelopment more than the neighborhood protests. The group overseeing the base's cleanup is the Air Force Base Conversion Agency, and according to Meadows, it's moving too slow. So slow that Meadows himself not only penned the letter urging the Air Force to intensify its efforts but has also flown East to meet with Air Force brass on several occasions.
As a result of Meadows's visits to D.C., the heat has come down on the Air Force contractors working on Lowry. "The biggest problem for us is that the LRA's position changes on a monthly basis," says Ken Nevling, the base's environmental coordinator. "Meadows's frustration comes from the fact that he can make deals today but he's got to wait for the Air Force. We just can't react that quickly. We're always playing catchup with the LRA."
Meadows says that his most recent trip to D.C. was on behalf of the Bonfils Blood Center, which consolidated five different operations into one new building at Lowry. Sounds nice, but the deal's not done yet. "I still don't have a date when I will receive my deed," says Tom Puckett, Bonfils's chief operating officer. "And without deed to the building or the land, I have been unsuccessful in getting long-term financing. This creates a serious cash-flow problem."
Bonfils is actually sitting on part of a TCE plume that has sidetracked home-building in the northwest corner of the base indefinitely. That makes Puckett all the more eager to get a clean bill of health from the Air Force. "All this should be done by now," says Puckett. "It's what I call 'paralysis by analysis' on the part of the Air Force. It's a bureaucratic nightmare. TCE isn't that dangerous. It's in the groundwater, and we don't drink that. So from the ground on up, they should give us our deed."
Other potential developers, including Evan Oliff of Preferred Lifestyles in Chicago, have backed off from pursuing Lowry projects because of the deed problem. Oliff says he made monthly trips to Denver over a two-year period to schmooze the LRA and neighborhood groups; he wanted to convert Building 397, the newest Air Force-built facility on the base, into senior housing. But Oliff, who has done other projects on closed bases, couldn't get the LRA to deliver a deed to the property, and the deal fell through.
"The bottom line with Jim [Meadows] is that he lives in his own little world out there at Lowry," Oliff says. "The LRA is orchestrating what's happening out there, and the frustrating part is that you really don't know what's happening behind the scenes. So as a private developer, you have to ask yourself if the frustration is worth it. Some of the brightest and best developers have skipped on Lowry because of this. There's a laundry list of them."
Meadows blames the environmental problems for the redevelopment delays. He says he's trying to hurry things along because of a federal law that says that all cleanup at Lowry must be funded by the year 2000. "If not, we'll be in direct competition with other [bases] for [cleanup funds]," he says.
According to Nevling, now that the southwest parcels have been deemed clean, the part of Lowry that Meadows has been pushing for hardest is a landfill site in the southeast corner of the base. Nevling says Meadows wants to use it as part of a golf course along Alameda. But because of yet another underground TCE plume, the Air Force is hesitant to give the project the go-ahead. The Air Force worries that the intensive irrigation necessary for the project would dilute the plume, which is now stagnant, making it harder to clean up. "A golf course would be tricky," says Nevling. "And since the Air Force is responsible, the simpler the remedy, the easier it would be to maintain. What we'd prefer to do is close the landfill off and make it open space."
Meadows doesn't agree. In the October 22 letter to the Air Force, Meadows writes: "The AFBCA is contemplating several alternative solutions as caps to the landfill. All but one of these 10 alternatives will leave the landfill area as a non-irrigated brown field. Such a brown field will quickly become an eyesore along a major Denver arterial road."
Meadows contends that since 1994, the LRA's re-use plan has called for the landfill site to be used as irrigated recreational open space, and he's planning on holding the Air Force to the agreement even though both sides seem to have different views of what "recreational open space" means. "The re-use plan is like the Bible," says Meadows. "It can be interpreted in different ways. But the Air Force has never countered our position about the recreational open space. We believe there's an agreement there."
The cost of converting the landfill into something pretty has also been a point of contention between the LRA and the Base Conversion Agency. Air Force consultants have put the price tag of "capping" the landfill for recreational use at somewhere between $10 million and $16 million. In his letter to the Air Force, Meadows says the LRA has brought forth proven technology that can develop a cap to withstand irrigation for $7 million to $8 million.
Air Force personnel working at Lowry say that they're just doing their job, however long that might take. "Our mission is to look out for the public's health and safety," says Nevling, "and that very often doesn't go along with the efforts of the redevelopers."
Jeff Edson of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is also overseeing the cleanup at Lowry, agrees with Nevling. "The [redevelopers'] idea is to sell the property quickly to get money," says Edson. "In order to do that, there's got to be teamwork between the sellers and the cleaners, and because there's not, it's caused a lot of tension.
"It's like if you were moving out of your apartment and you wanted to get your security deposit back. But the new renters are moving in while you're still cleaning up and tracking mud all over the place. We're not going to let anyone occupy Lowry until the cleanup is complete."
Estimates as to when the Air Force will actually clean up any of the contaminated Lowry land vary, but the most optimistic date for any parcel of polluted land is two years from now. Pollution isn't an issue when it comes to Sunset Village, so the residents of Mayfair Park hope to have a resolution to their neighborhood's dilemma sooner than that. And they're willing to concede on some sticky points to make it happen.
In a recent LRA meeting, Paul Dougherty and two other members of the CAC subcommittee working as negotiators on the Sunset Village deal laid out Mayfair Park's treaty offer. In the meeting, Dougherty described Mayfair Park as being "like an enemy that is surrendering. There's a lot of face involved."
In the plan laid out by the subcommittee, Mayfair residents agreed to three major points: They would keep thirty homeless units as well as thirty entry-level homes. They also agreed to the re-use of seven duplexes as long as the rest were torn down. However, Dr. David Franklin, a member of Dougherty's group, said that in return the LRA had to agree that the homes to be built in Sunset Village would all be privately owned and occupied by families (preferably with children), using a mix of developers, and that all units must have garages so the streets would be clear of cars.
Although Jennifer Moulton stated that she was encouraged by the peace offering from Mayfair Park, she and Meadows both felt that razing the duplexes was unreasonable.
"I like the movement," Meadows said. "I like the attitude. There's positive direction. But it's still one step at a time. This is not going to happen quickly. We feel strongly about the duplexes and their value."
Dougherty says that the LRA has to give up something. "Allowing that number of [homeless] units was a major concession on the part of Mayfair Park," he says. "The duplexes are going to be the thing that needs to be truly negotiated. The neighborhood's main concern is aesthetics. They don't want military, right-angle housing in their neighborhood. But there's many ways to skin a cat. The LRA is really going to have to sell them on keeping more of the duplexes."
Dougherty says that what's really hampering an agreement between Mayfair Park and the LRA is history. "Meadows would like to see a plaque out at Lowry that reads 'Jim Meadows Built This,'" says Dougherty. "That's being threatened by people like Debbie James, who's been waging a guerrilla war in public against the LRA. On the other hand, you have a neighborhood which feels like it's been pushed around and painted as unreasonable bigots, which they most certainly are not. This is not about facts. This is a visceral thing."
However, with Meadows resigning from the LRA in a little more than a month to take over the Presidio redevelopment, some people think the door could be opened for an agreement based on facts, not feelings.
At a meeting earlier this week, the two sides reached what Dougherty terms a "tentative understanding" about the re-use plan for Sunset Village. The fact that Meadows is leaving certainly didn't hurt the negotiations.
"This leadership change could really be beneficial," says an LRA boardmember. "Especially in regard to relationships with certain neighborhoods that have clashed repeatedly with Jim."
Some say they'll miss Meadows's aggressiveness. Bonfils's Tom Puckett worries that without Meadows hounding the Air Force, he may have to wait even longer for the deed to his building. "I haven't seen [Meadows's replacement] Tom Markham in the political arena," he says. "Can he stand up to the Undersecretary of Defense and talk to him like Jim does? I don't know. Jim was very good at lighting fires under people.