Off Limits

The rest is history: Central City residents have been having a good laugh over all the bad press that Black Hawk, their affluent neighbor downstream, has collected with its proposal to move the truly historic Lace House to a fake "historic village" in order to expand casino parking.

But the yuk stopped there last week, when Central City's town council held a special meeting to consider the Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino's request for an expansion that would require moving the historic Frederick Kruse House, which has stood at the entrance to the town since the 1860s. (Frederick Kruse moved into the brick structure in the 1880s, giving it his name.) Unlike the 1863 Lace House, the Kruse mansion is not an official national landmark--but like Black Hawk, the entire town of Central City is on the national Historic Register, which makes such a move problematic. Unless, of course, you hear the ka-ching of cash registers in the background.

Central City officials have already agreed that the Lucky Penny's planned project, a "family resort" (ka-ching!), "would overwhelm that house"--an opinion that apparently justifies moving the structure rather than restructuring the project. (In a recent op-ed piece, Central City alderwoman Betty Mahaffey criticized "the irrational attempt to block development in Gregory Gulch, the polluted eyesore at the entrance to the town.") The fate of the structure is now in the hands of the town's Historic Preservation Council, which, if it follows Black Hawk's lead, will take about a second to snub history--and the Colorado Constitution, amended in 1990 to allow gambling in three old mining towns, so long as new structures conform to pre-World War I style. And huge casinos are so historic.

Meanwhile, they're making more history in Cripple Creek, Colorado's third casino-crammed town, where two would-be candidates for municipal office went to the Teller County Courthouse September 9 seeking an emergency injunction that would allow them onto the November ballot. Bob Dierking, who wants to run for mayor, just happens to publish the Cripple Creek & Victor Eagle, which ran a front-page story in its September 12 issue on his blocked candidacy. Dierking and Terry Wahrer, who served on the Cripple Creek council from 1989 to 1993 and says friends urged him to run again, both turned in their petitions by the August 27 deadline set by Cripple Creek city clerk Cathy Conley, who accepted those petitions--and then later told the men that the actual deadline was August 25 and that their candidacies were invalid. "Cathy didn't count right," city administrator Kip Petersen says.

The explanation didn't add up for Wahrer and Dierking, who longs to challenge incumbent Chip Page because "there's a perceived need among the citizens to bring new life into city government"--and their motion certainly has breathed some new life into the courthouse. In the meantime, certain people are already guaranteed spots on the November ballot. Cathy Conley, for one, who's running unopposed.

Politics makes strange bedfellows: Although the election that will determine Colorado's next governor is more than a year away, that race is heating up, too. In a tidy circumvention of long-observed etiquette, which says that elected officials don't endorse candidates in their party until after a primary contest, a slew of prominent Democrats recently signed a letter addressed to "Democratic Activists," supporting Lieutenant Governor Gail Schoettler's bid for Roy Romer's seat--even though she'll be opposed by state Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley.

"We know it's unusual for so many of us to join together so early in support of a candidate," the letter-signers acknowledged, "but Gail Schoettler is truly special." So is the loophole they slid through. Only a couple, including Representative Bob Bacon, currently hold an elected office; others, like Bea Romer, are spouses of elected officials; others, like Wren Wirth, are spouses of former elected officials; still others are former elected officials (Regis Groff, Ray Kogovsek, Peggy Kerns) or former would-be elected officials (Tom Strickland). And then there are the truly prominent Democrats, for whom an elected office would represent a loss of power: consultant/developer Mike Stratton and lawyer/fundraiser Steve Farber.

The personal is political: Patsy Ramsey's name doesn't appear on Schoettler's list, but it does pop up in an even less likely place: George. The magazine edited by John F. Kennedy Jr. just named Ramsey one of the top twenty women in politics, an honor she shares with the more predictable Susan Molinari and Madeleine Albright. But then, the Ramsey public-relations blitz has always resembled a political campaign more than anything else.