Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Freda Poundstone dies at 84: Republican power changed the shape of Denver's future

The passing of Republican powerhouse Freda Poundstone has us thinking about how this city might look if she'd never had her considerable career as a legislator/lobbyist.

For starters, Denver might sprawl the way that Phoenix and other Western cities do -- but instead, the Poundstone Amendment, passed by Colorado voters in 1974, prevented the big city from gobbling up its little neighbors.

It also prevented the spread of court-ordered busing from the colorful core city into the then lily-white suburbs. It didn't stop sprawl, of course, but it stopped Denver itself from sprawling.

As conceived by Poundstone, the measure prohibited governments (read: Denver) from annexing property without the approval of voters in the areas being annexed. That's why Denver is a relatively compact city, surrounded by dozens of other municipalities in a handful of counties, instead of one super-county and super-city. And that's why the concept of building a new Denver airport out on the plains had to get the approval of Adams County voters back in 1989.

As a lobbyist, Poundstone successfully pushed for another constitutional amendment: the one voters passed in 1990 that allowed "limited stakes gaming" in the three historic mining towns of Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk. And she made her influence felt in numerous other political fights.

But the peculiar capper on Poundstone's career came last year, when Poundstone went public with her complaints that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes had borrowed money from her and failed to pay her back. "Dan Maes not only conned me out of my money, he lied to me about his background, and he deceived my friends and myself about his conservative principles," Poundstone said in an anti-Maes ad. "I've had so many people call me and ask, 'What kind of a man would do that to an 83-year-old lady?' and I don't want that to happen to the voters of this state."

Poundstone didn't need to use her influence on that campaign, though: Maes lost it all on his own.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archives: "DIA Art Master Plan calls for performances' return... and what about Blue Mustang's eyes?"

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun